I have a picture of my son after he’s just finished eating strawberries and beets. I know, what a combination. It’s all over his face. In his nose, on his chin, smeared across his cheeks, staining his bib, in his ear. That last location baffles me. The point is he is covered with strawberries and beets. He’s a complete mess. Yet, he’s smiling. And it’s not just a regular smile, it’s a “I love life” or maybe “I love beets”, eyes shining, face lit up smile.

This picture reminds me of several things. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously. It reminds me life is messy. It reminds me few things actually turn out as I planned them. It reminds me messes are fun. Mostly it reminds me interruptions are life. Interruptions aren’t distractions from my work and life, they are my work and life. 

This is a shift from my normal, automatic mode of operating. In the moments when I’m not paying attention to the now I become more concerned with check lists, completion of goals, and the pursuit of my own accomplishments. I miss out on so much of life happening in front of me. Interruptions are viewed negatively. When I shift, though, interruptions become opportunities to encounter others. To connect, be known, empathize, and stay curious about the world and the people in it. The shift encourages me to live more congruently and authentically. Which in turn produces more excitement about goals and meaning.

The food spread across my son’s face and hands is quite the interruption to my idealized schedule, and it would be so easy to feel annoyed and try to push through the meal and clean him up as quickly as possible. I know this because I’ve had that reaction before. The interruption is also an invitation to play, though. To wonder at the finger painting art he’s created on his food tray. To empathize with his excitement about experiencing a new food for the first time. To get wrapped up in how fun it is to be with another person and to enjoy inefficiency together. Those other tasks will be there still when the moment passes, but this moment will soon be gone.

What would you pay more attention to if you viewed interruptions this way? Which interruptions give your life deeper meaning? What would you notice more often if you looked for it?