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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tick Tock- Click: Persistence Of Memory - Insistence Of Time

     "Where does the time go?" That's what a colleague said the other day when looking at a recent photo of my now 7 year old "Angel baby." (Funny how we watch our own kids grow, but are always surprised to that other people's kids have grown at the same time.) This comment, so cliche that it almost means nothing when we say it caused me to pause. While I jokingly said that I wouldn't mind time speeding up a bit so can get my little one out of the terrible twos and past the torturous threes (which are actually worse than two), in my head I was having a conversation with myself that I need to take more mental pictures.
    What are mental pictures? They are memories, of course, but somehow they are more. It's something I started doing when I was studying abroad in Costa Rica. In the rainforest, everything is beautiful. Breath-takingly beautiful. There's an energy that can't be described that emanates from the abundant life around you. There's an awareness of how small you are, how insignificant your life is, and how interconnected the world around us is. You want to take pictures of everything......but your pictures just pale in comparison. I remember hiking with my friends through this secret trail that led to the most magnificent waterfall and thinking, "How could I possibly capture this on film. There is no way that anyone could appreciate this from a photograph. I am just going to have to remember this moment perfectly in my mind." So I took a deep breath. I inhaled the unique smell of life and death that permeates the tropical air. I focused my attention on the cool mist that blew off the waterfall leaving tiny drops of water on my cheeks. I remember the air pressure changing abruptly and the wind getting cooler as a sudden thunderstorm muddied the trail such that I had to grip deep rooted blades of grass to pull me up the steep incline. I stopped,  focusing all my senses on that moment. I was determined to capture it in my mind forever. That's what I call a mental picture. Being totally present in the moment and savoring every sensation so that I have a perfect memory...
 Salvador Dali  "Persistence of Memory"
      Since then, I have remembered to do this at key moments in my life. For example, I can recall almost every minute of my wedding day from my morning yoga practice in my backyard, to the MTV special that happened to be on about the shortest marriages ever, to the moment I became Mrs. Jones, to Viennese hour during which I was determined to taste EVERY single dessert. And I remember exactly how it felt to give birth to each of my children....the unique sensation of my body doing everything it was designed to do. These were important milestones of my life, memories I was determined to capture. But what about all the moments in between: the bedtime stories, the walks in the park, the days at the beach or on the playground, the gymnastics practices, the games of Uno, the stolen kisses, the 100 second hugs, the ice cream sundaes. Are these moments spent with my family not equally important?
       No one was happier that I was at 11:59:59 on December 31, 2011. I don't know what it is, but 2012 seems to have so much promise. I bubble up with excitement when I think about all of the things I am determined to do in the days and months ahead. I feel like a phoenix that has risen up to reclaim life. I want to push my boundaries. I want to open my mind and heart,  and really live this life I have been given. And yet some days I find myself furious at the pile of dishes in the sink, at my wits end with my clingy kid who really just wants some attention, and positively irate that there's a pile of papers that need grading. I waste so much energy sometimes thinking about what I'd rather be doing instead of appreciating the moment I am currently in. The next big moment, that next great milestone is down the road. It's not going to get any closer or farther away whether I think about it or not. But my daughters are getting bigger by the second. Eventually my clingy toddler will be rolling her eyes when I tell her I love her. The pile of dishes will be smaller because I won't have to feed a full table and the pile of papers to grade will be a distant memory of some of the best years of my life.
     The truth is that time doesn't go anywhere. We move through time. And if we spend all of our time thinking about the next great moment in our lives, we will miss all of the precious wonderful moments in between. Living in the the moment- remembering to capture those mental pictures- is not always as easy as it seems. It's a discipline. It takes practice. We have to slow our minds down and take inventory of each of our senses and breath in the love and light around us. I may never achieve that perfect zen where I live authentically in each moment, but I can try. And in 2075, when I look back on my life, I can only hope that I have accumulated more mental pictures than vague memories.
     So now, if you will excuse me, I have some kisses to collect, some bedtime stories to read, a cup of green tea to savour and some love to soak up. Hopefully, I won't yell at my iron and when my head hits that pillow, and I'll remember to count all of the blessings in my life, for they are far more than I could possible ever deserve.