The sky was pure blue and so bright that I could hardly make out the shapes of my children dancing along the water’s edge as sun beams bounced off the bobbing lake, sparkling like diamonds against their shadows. As I nursed my baby in the field of tall grasses, I thought about what a gift it was to be alive on this day – my thirtieth birthday.
There have been so many times along my journey where I was certain I wouldn’t make it this far. Moments of earth-shattering devastation where life rendered me to my knees, crumbling under the weight of heart-wrenching pain. Through cancer and treatment; remission and death; divorce and decay; things too dark to mention — stains and scars that have faded with time and forgiveness. Yet somehow, I discovered, as Maya Angelou proclaimed, “still I rise.”
I contemplated it all — the wonderful, the ugly, the profound — under the cloudless sky, as I listened to sounds of my children laughing. Why do some of us make it this far, when others do not have the chance? It feels bittersweet, at times, this business of living.
White hot sun beginning to set in the sky; time to go. I called them away from their games of splashing and fishing and shrieking. We had places to be! Dirt to wash away and fancy clothes to squirm into and dinner dates to attend. Of course, none of this matters when you are a child running free, chasing daylight. I surrendered to their slow departure from the lake; accepted that we would likely be late. (Aren’t we, usually?) I decided to stop trying to hurry them away. I had made it thirty years in spite of my nervous need to arrive. For once, I could take my time.
I walked up the trail to our vehicle at the pace my little one set, my older son racing ahead for one last dizzying spin on the merry-go-round. Though my arms ached as I carried my baby and all of our things, walking as slow as a dandelion seed drifting with the breeze, I did not mind. For once, I did not mind the slowness.
Stopping to sit in the rocks, my little boy began scooping up “treasures” for me; shiny and dusty birthday stones. Immersed in his task he hummed a little song; his sweet baby-voice lifted and was carried away with the wind. Could I remember a moment in my life where time did not exist? I tried hard to recall. Was there a time when all that I had to do didn’t shout at me from the sidelines of my mind with such glaring urgency? When sitting in the dirt was enough? When singing a song that no one else knew was enough?
Time does not seem to matter until the moment we realize that it is slipping by.
And then, time is all we can think of.
How much time do I have left in the day to finish this list of impossible things?
And if I press on to finish them all, how many hours will I get for sleep?
How much time do I have before this deadline/timeline/alarm catches me?
How much time will I waste on trivial things: stuck in traffic, folding laundry, brushing teeth?
How much longer must I wait for my order to arrive, for this screen to load, for the light to turn green?
How long must I nod and pretend to be engaged in this presentation/conversation/interaction?
How much longer before I GET what I NEED?
This is not how it is meant to be. This is not who I want to be.
I want afternoons lost to using my hands digging up dirt; I want hours spent spinning into the sunset.
I want slow walks where the noise in my head is overcome by the songs of the birds and lapping of water on the shore.
I want my life to be measured not by the breaths that I’ve taken or things I’ve acquired but the care that I’ve given. The love that I’ve shared. The moments where I stood still and noticed fully. The days where I walked as slow as a three-year-old and paid attention.
Thirty years seems much like the dandelion seeds floating away in the wind; upon them I have made my wish, yet all too quickly, they have been carried away. But the little seeds, they have to land somewhere. As surely as they faded from my grasp, they will grow anew — somewhere. This I must trust and believe in.
I hope they find a place that transcends time.
14 thoughts on “On Birthdays and Time”
I love this! I have been thinking about time here recently because my son is going to be two this month. It’s kind of depressing to think that all the phases that he went through or over, and I feel like I didn’t really get the chance to appreciate them enough.
Happy second birthday to your little man! But yes, I know what you mean. All we can do is stop and take note of where we are and try to breathe it all in!
This is so beautiful and wonderfully written that I got a few tear drops to well up in my eyes! I’m turning 25 this year and while that is young I feel like each year that passes is going by faster and faster. Facing 25 and the thought of possibly not having more children of my own, I try to have more time to sit in the sun with my daughter. To sing silly songs with her and to see the world through her little three year old eyes. I love this post and hope you don’t mind me sharing it on my Facebook 🙂 I think a lot of people would benefit from reading this.
Oh, Jessica – thank you so much for sharing!! I am absolutely touched that this piece resonated with you. Enjoy the sunshine and your daughter, mama!
I am 34 and it really feels like it’s all been a blur until this point and I fear that in another 30 years I’ll be looking back wondering where it all went. You captured the feelings about time so perfectly.
Thank you, Shaunacey! That blur is exactly what prompted this writing.
This is so beautiful. I need to work on this so much – I feel like I spend a lot of time with kids without being fully present. These days are fleeting.
Thank you for reading. Yes, it is something I am constantly working on. It is hard when life calls us to be so much – mothers, wives, entrepreneurs, friends, sisters….it is hard to keep up!
yes…and it goes so fast…it’s like I blinked and I”m 42! Life goes SOOO fast!
It really does, Gretchen! I am working on slowing down and noticing, since I cannot stop the time.
Oh girl. The way you describe the everydayness of it all and the feeling of frustration. Never stop writing.
Thank you, Abbie. Truly, I feel so blessed to have your support!
Thanks so much for your post and making us realize that the mundane things in life is not what is important…..but our moments each day with our loved ones.
Thank you for reading, Theresa! Focusing on those moments is my heart’s greatest work, in this season in my life.