Lately I've been thinking a lot about time; how we try to condense it, stretch it, pause it, fast-forward and erase it. I've been thinking about how we try to control it and make it ours, or fight it, or ignore it, or wrap it with a bow and bestow it as a gift that isn't ours to give. I've been thinking about how much energy we exert on trying to bend something so immalleable, and why we relentlessly toil in a task so futile. Time is both short and inexorable, coveted and dispelled, treasured and wasted, fleeting and tangible. Time is our most valued currency, but it can't be bartered, bought or sold. Time is quite an elusively peculiar creature, and the more I think about it, the more difficult it becomes to define and understand.
Harper had her first day of Preschool on Monday. On Sunday night, I packed her backpack with sunscreen, a change of clothes and a water bottle as her teacher had instructed. I laid out the grey leggings and blue unicorn T-shirt she had picked out at Target. I put Goldfish and dried mangos in her Ninja Turtles snackbox, then sat at the kitchen table and cried. For months I had been waiting for this time. I had been looking forward to the nine hours each week I could spend doing whatever I pleased. For so long, I had wanted time to speed up so that I could have a little to myself. But the night before sending my only daughter off to school, I was crying at the kitchen table, begging time to keep my child a baby forever.
The next day I picked Harper up from preschool and sat down with her for lunch. We ate grilled cheese sandwiches and made funny faces with each other. I listened to her guttural laugh and smiled sitting at the table I had cried on the night before. I looked at her laughing face and wondered if I had ever been happier. It was a moment of pure elation, one that I wanted to pause and repeat over and over like a scene from my favorite movie.
I've been thinking a lot about that simple lunch, wondering why it brought such deep joy. I dissected the events trying to isolate the happiness variable; grilled cheese, carrots, hummus, funny faces, laughter. No factor had any intrinsic connection to happiness. I finally realized that the joy came from being entirely immersed in that moment in time. I wasn't thinking about what to make for dinner, or how the bathroom needed to be cleaned, or when Rivers needed the car. My only concern was the sound of Harper's laughter, the way her eyes turned to slits when she smiled just like her dad, and how perfectly wild she was. I realized how seldom I find myself truly immersed in time. For all of the ways I try to change time, or spend it, or make it go away, I very rarely appreciate what time has brought me.
When Harper was a newborn, I couldn't wait for her to smile, babble and crawl. When she was mobile, I thought about how fun it would be when she could walk. When she ran, I was excited for her to talk. Now that she's talking (incessantly), I sometimes wish she was a newborn again so that I could cuddle her and bask in her innocence. I've enjoyed every stage of her existence, but like with most things in life, I've looked forward to the next phase or relished the past more than I've lived in the present.
It seems only when time is threatened to be taken away from me that I truly appreciate it. How much more enriched would my life be if I chose to live fully in every moment? I exert so much energy on trying to control, fix and trap time, but when it's finally in my hands, do I truly appreciate it?
I'm writing this blog to remember that grilled cheese lunch of laughter, the one when I wasn't looking at the clock or the dirty dishes or the unfolded laundry. The lunch that I wasn't carrying on a half-interested conversation with Harper while writing a grocery list, or To Do list, or planning the afternoon's activities in my head. I'm writing this blog to remember that all the planning, scheduling and organization means nothing if I don't make the most of my time when I'm in it. I don't want to have another Dr. Seussian moment of "How did it get so late so soon?" as I did crying on the kitchen table lamenting the loss of Harper's babyhood.
I want to live in the amber of the moment, and not ask why.