My oldest child recently graduated from college. While collecting my thoughts on paper to share at the celebratory dinner, I thought a lot about time. Part of my toast included these words:
I somehow understood at a young age that there was something deeply profound about this thing we call time. Time marches on, whether we like it or not. It does not slow down and it does not speed up, but rather keeps a steady beat that can often feel monotonous. We are lulled into passivity until suddenly jolted awake when we realize that time has not been our friend. As a parent, this lesson is all the more profound. While I see this adult before me making decisions about career, love, and future, I wonder where my little boy went. I picture my towheaded companion who made me laugh often, impressed me with his questions, and trusted deeply. Memories flood my mind making it hard to breathe. Tears come easily. I feel as if I am trying to hold something so precious, essentially your childhood, and yet it slips through my fingers but doesn’t disappear. Is this a game and I am simply its pawn? Or is what I am trying to hold too sacred to be contained?
Time has stayed on my mind. In addition to looking back, I have looked ahead at some changes coming my way. Time will soon become significantly more structured. I will lose much of my flexibility and free time. Time is becoming an enemy as I anticipate the battle to get everything done while somehow managing to not lose myself in the process.
I love time when it merely marks the hour of the day, letting me know when I should wake or when to have a glass of wine. But I hate time when it acts as a stopwatch, forcing me into a race. Even as I type, my heart rate speeds up anticipating the effort it will take to defeat time. And I know I will lose. Time always wins. Always. Yet my mind keeps trying to come up with a new battle plan.
I wonder what the days would be like if I thought of time as a musical beat. I wonder what would happen to my stress if instead of seeing time as an enemy, I instead saw time as something with which to keep in step. I’ve learned this lesson regarding the seasons. While the end of winters can be difficult, I know to give the earth time to complete the cycle of death, dormancy, and cold so that spring might be all the more filled with new life. Equally the end of summers can be long. That last stretch of heat and humidity in late September is tedious after having tasted fall and its cool, crisp days. While I still might complain, I have learned that soon enough I will miss the heat and the strength of the sun in the winter days, just as I miss the cold and freshly fallen snow in the summer days.
Days will be long and things I want to do will not all get done. Yet time will bring another day. Maybe the question isn’t, “Did I get everything done?” but rather “Did I stay present and focused throughout my day?” If I can remain calm and breathe deeply, I have the ability to prioritize and decide. I have practiced this already as a mom. I was dedicated to being present and enjoying my kids. That is not to say they did not drive me crazy (they did) but I learned how to take care of myself so that I could also take care of them. I learned how to step back when I needed a break and when to step in so as to not miss something important. I need to not feel the compulsion to be superhuman but rather to be a good human. Time is not my judge and jury. My compulsion will still be to battle time. But I think it is time to stop fighting and simply to dance with it.