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Art- it’s exciting when a piece of art surprises you by impacting you in a way you never thought it would.

My husband and I took a half vacation day to explore the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). We had wanted to do this on Leap Day (Feb. 29, 2016) but it fell on a Monday and the Gallery is not open on Mondays.

So, we decided to do it yesterday.

We took the elevator to the top floor and found a volunteer leading a tour who invited us to join. Usually, I would want to just explore these things on my own, but today I was feeling like I could use a little extra input into what it was we were going to be seeing, so we joined in.

I’m so glad we did.

The very first installation we saw was one created by Micah Lexier. It was “a work of art in the form of a quantity of coins equal to the number of months of the statistical life expectancy of a child born January 6, 1995.”

Normally, I would look at something like this and think: “Huh…ok. Kind of interesting, I guess.” And not give it very much thought beyond that.

But, as we looked at it our volunteer tour guide said:

“Notice how the coins in the first box are neatly ordered and purposefully placed. This is the expectation of what life will bring-the hopes. This is how we all start out. Now look at the coins in the second box. It always reminds me of a line of a famous John Lennon song: ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’.”

And then the tears came.

First of all, the installation reflected things I’ve been having about my own life for some time. For years now I have been trying to teach myself how to be present in the moment and realize that this is life.

There was a period of time when I felt I was constantly waiting for my life to begin. And then, all of a sudden, I looked and I saw a box, much like this chaotic box of coins, and I realized that this was my life. Life was here in all this mess, disorganisation and the many unplanned events and bends in the road.

I had been expecting to look at my life and see it as the first box: Ordered, dreams fulfilled, everything in its place, looking exactly as I had imagined it would. But, I have recently come to realize and accept my life as being beautiful, despite the fact that it looks so different to what I had originally envisioned.

Just as the neatly organized coins have their beauty, so do the scattered. And, as I looked at the 2 boxes the one thing remained the same, despite how the coins were placed, they were all in “my box”. And, that’s really what is important. Whether the coins are neat, or scattered, they are mine. They are my memories, experiences, struggles, victories, joys, sorrow – my life. And that’s beautiful.

Secondly, I sing that song to my son all the time. And, as I looked at these coins, I saw my neatly organized hopes and dreams for what his life will be in the first box and the reality of what it will actually be in the 2nd. I realized that his life, just like mine, is going to be what it’s going to be. I can’t control it and I won’t be able to keep it neatly organized for him. He’s going to experience pain, sorrow, frustration, disappointment, confusion and chaos. But, there will also be joy, love, freedom, hope, comfort and adventure.

There will come a time when the 2 coins that are currently in his box will be at the bottom of this heap of messy coins, almost forgotten. Except, the image of how they are now in their near perfection, will always remain in my heart. At some point, there will have to be a letting-go.

As I stood there contemplating all of this I made a promise to myself to help teach my son how to not miss life because he’s trying to keep his coins in order. I want to teach him to embrace the chaos that is life and to see the beauty in it while it is happening.

Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we’ll bot just have to be patient
‘Cause it’s a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes, it’s a long way to go
But in the meantime

-John Lennon-