Taking the pressure off “once in a lifetime”

In preparation for last week’s eclipse, I got NASA-approved glasses for my family a month in advance (including extras to share). I congratulated myself for being prepared.

For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse would cross the entire country and Charleston was in the path of totality. Oh my goodness! How exciting!

But as the big day approached, we still hadn’t figured out what we were going to do. Where should we go? The beach? Can we watch it from our front lawn? Is that lame? Phrases like once in a lifetime added to the pressure.

In the end, we decided to go to the neighborhood pool and order lunch from the clubhouse. I also drank a space-themed beer.

I couldn't resist. #bluemoon #solareclipse #fiveoclocksomewhere

A post shared by Angie Mizzell (@angiemizzell) on

Then, people started putting on their glasses and taking quick peeks at the sun. “It’s happening!” someone declared. Christmas morning excitement. I felt butterflies in my stomach.

A little while later, when the moon was minutes away from completely covering the sun, my husband, kids, and I got in the pool and hopped on rafts. Are we committing to this spot for the total eclipse? We decided yes.

Then, people started leaving the pool. The darkness would trigger the pool lights so everyone was headed out to the lawn, trying to get away from the lights. We decided to get out of the pool, too. Hurry, hurry! 

We felt the mild panic of the last-minute scramble, but there comes a point when you just have to be where you are. We stopped moving and looked up.

In those rare, brief moments we were fully present. There was something amazing about the nowness of it all. The sky was cloudy, and a storm inched closer. Thunder rumbled. But we got to see the eclipse. It made me catch my breath. And then it was over.

What struck me was the pure, unfabricated joy we experienced in that moment. “This is amazing!” my kids declared. In this quick video clip, listen to the laughter as my children ran around in circles in the darkness.

They said in those brief moments when day becomes night, the animals would come out.

Posted by Angie Mizzell on Monday, August 21, 2017

It’s great that we got to have that experience. Because of the clouds and the thunderstorm, some people didn’t. 

I thought about the pressure I felt in the days leading up to that moment, the pressure to make the moment meaningful. But I don’t have the power to make a moment meaningful. I can only choose to be present in it. Then somehow, sometimes, meaning shows up.

When I think about it, I realize that I’ve experienced many total eclipse moments in my life. (Raise your hand if that 80s song just popped into your head. You know the one.)  It’s possible that you’ve had a few total eclipse moments too. It can happen during the big events, yes, but even during the most ordinary of days. 

Angie Mizzell
Angie Mizzell is a writer, Charleston native and mom of three. She spent the first ten years of her career as a television journalist before...

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