The View from the Top

When I asked my children what this week’s Mindful Monday post should be about, they excitedly shouted, “Las Vegas!”  We just returned today from two quick days in Las Vegas.  This year, for the first time, my daughter asked to take a weekend trip as a family, as opposed to having a birthday party, so we had chosen Las Vegas as our destination.

I pondered what exactly I should write about Las Vegas…in those two days, we packed in so many activities, a show, dinner out, room service, wandering around the hotels, dessert at a chocolate fountain, a trip to Hoover Dam, watching the endless views of the strip from the top of a ferris wheel.

I am amazed at how time is manipulated in Las Vegas.  The lack of clocks, windows, the black out blinds in hotel rooms, and the shops and restaurants that never close, all serve to suspend time.  You can indulge in breakfast at midnight, or sleep until noon.  You can shop at 1 am or walk on the Las Vegas strip at 3 am bathed in the flashing neon lights and screens.  Some older hotels, modeled upon themes, hold their place in tradition, and sleek, futuristic hotels pop up as well.

Somehow time all merges into the moment that is being lived.

This morning, as we got ready to leave and return to Southern California, I got a phone call that an elderly member of my family had passed away last night.  This weekend also marked the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, who happened to pass away on my daughter’s birthday several years ago.  And about two months ago, yet another elderly member of our family had passed away.  And yet, here we were, also celebrating my daughter turning one year older.

When I received the news this morning, I felt, just like Las Vegas, the past and the future merging into one, or rather, the gradual pulling from young to old, from birth to death, this trajectory that we are all on.  I felt all of a sudden aware that I am suspended at one point in time along that trajectory–acutely aware of the beauty of children growing, acutely aware of the loss of the generations before me–and uncertain of where along that timeline I belong.

This is I suppose the unique beauty and challenge of approaching midlife, where we find ourselves able to look behind and ahead simultaneously, and feel it all.  Unlike my children and the elderly in my life, if all goes as I hope, I have just as much time behind me as I do ahead of me, for now.  Gone are the days of endless days of studying and endless nights with friends, all in the service of my own goals and desires.  I now have the honor, pleasure, and responsibility of raising my children. And I how have the honor, pleasure, and responsibility of eventually caring for my parents.

I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.  But sometimes I worry about how I will handle all of this responsibility, in addition to the responsibility I feel for my patients.  Whether I am ready for it all.  Whether I can handle it all.  I worry about whether I am equipped, emotionally, spiritually, cognitively.   But I suppose we all learn what we need to know as we go, out of necessity and experience.  I have to trust that life will, for better or worse, give me the skills I need.

Perhaps my worry is what I need to manage most, because worry is what robs these days of their precious and unique qualities.  Worry inhibits my ability to be conscious and present for what is unfolding now, kidnapping me into unknown realms of the future and past regret.  Worry only presses its hands over my eyes and ears and mouth, keeping me blind, deaf, and dumb to the particular beauty that exists now.

On the ferris wheel, high above the cars and people and lights, we moved so slowly that we could barely feel our movement as we circled around.  And yet at the beginning and end, the ferris wheel seemed to move much more quickly.  The pace was the same all the way around.  “Oh,” my kids said, perceptive in the ways kids are, “That’s because at the beginning and the end, we can feel the movement of our cabin against the ground.  One thing against the other.”

Yes, it does somehow seem faster at the beginning and end, when we notice ourselves relative to everything else.  For the moment, I feel suspended at the top, in the middle, watching it all.  A little amazed, a little frightened, at all that I can see.

So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in being mindful of the passing of time.  Where are you on your particular trajectory?  What does it feel like to be present in that particular point in time?

With gratitude, Monisha