It is 10:05 pm on Wednesday night. Within these four walls, my children sleep. I write and dream and read and eat chocolate chip cookies, and soon, I will sleep. Outside of these four walls, it feels like chaos is erupting.
The days are spent trying to understand what type of impact I can have. I am grateful for the concrete, specific things I can do that make me feel productive and useful. I can write words that perhaps touch someone. I can make phone calls and write letters. I can sit with a patient and help them through their challenges. I can teach my kids to seize opportunities for compassion.
I am trying to discover a for-now balance between paying attention to what is critical in the world, while living out the routines of ordinary life. I know it is all important, but somehow I feel like I have to choose between protesting human rights violations and figuring out what to cook for dinner. And yet, the clock ticks, the sun rises and sets, and we live.
Tomorrow, my son turns nine. I can’t believe that nine years have passed in an instant, a blur of his thick overgrown hair that hangs over his eyes, and oh, those eyes, luminous brown eyes with a hint of mischief and thick dark eyelashes. A blur of shorts and t-shirts, the only clothes he will wear no matter the weather, wrestling on the floor with his sister, and the way he doesn’t hug but comes up close and allows himself to be hugged. A blur of late night reading and chess matches and minecraft and the way he feeds the dogs under the table, and pets them, each of them, gently and deliberately, before heading out the door to school in the morning.
A blur of moments, of minutes that somehow turned into nine years, a blur of an infant boy somehow now almost as tall as me, and yet still crawls into our bed at night to stay close. My heart hurts somehow for how quickly moments are no longer moments and are simply stretches of time that we look back upon, wondering what exactly happened. Where do the in between memories go to rest when we can no longer grasp them? How do the hopes and dreams for the future so quickly become present and past, only to be replaced by new plans?
This is the mystery of how time passes, a mystery I will never understand. As I myself get older, and feel time sometimes stretching minutes into days, and sometimes decades collapsing into the blink of an eye, I feel a sense of panic. A sense of knowing that, even as daily life feels hard sometimes, I will look back one day and wish for these years, full of the chaotic and spirited voice of growing children discovering themselves. I will try and wish to hear the voices again, and won’t quite remember what they sound like, just like I no longer remember the sound of my babies’ cries.
And it is with this knowing that I try to pause and sink into time just a little more. Notice just a little longer. Look just a little more carefully. Even writing these words as a way to expand eight years longer than the next ninety minutes, both for myself, and for my son. Noticing tomorrow morning as he wakes up in our bed to a new year, full of the way we love birthdays when we are young. I tear up as I think about it, for I know how quickly it will all change; how, unpredictably, imperceptibly, the children grow, we age, our parents age, and we become a part of a cycle far greater than any of us can comprehend.
It is fragile and heart breaking, beautiful and breath taking, all at once. Like the aching glory of a sunset reminding us that all things end, always. Somehow my childrens’ birthdays are both endings and beginnings that remind me that life is now. Remind me that all of what we need and desire in life happens in the tiniest, most ordinary moments that unfold on all of the non-birthday days of our lives. Eating chocolate chip cookies and writing while children sleep, all of life is embodied in the smallness of this moment.
Whether or not we remember these times someday, at least let them be important now. Let the moments absorb into our skin, let us become a part of the experience unfolding, no matter how insignificant it may all seem for now. It is the only opportunity to cross this particular intersection of time and space, forever.
So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in noticing. What feels small? What feels big? What feels insignificant? What feels important? How do we decide and how do we remember?
With gratitude, Monisha