Yesterday, my kids finished up school for the year. (Painfully early, I might add.) I’m surprised how much this ending affects me, how much it feels like yet another year zoomed past our eyes, how quickly the moments of childhood pass.
The same feeling overtook me when I went to a Mother’s Day party last month and realized that my younger cousin, who was a flower girl in my wedding, is graduating high school this year and going off to college in the fall. How can this be? Yesterday, I was the one in college, and the memories of that time in my life are with me almost every day.
Soon enough, my seven and four year old will be graduating high school too, going off to college or other, more independent stages of their lives.
When my husband and I talked about this yesterday, he told me something he heard at a funeral a while back. The priest explained that he was giving last rites to a woman in her 90s, and when he asked her what it was like to live so long, she said, “It was like opening and closing a window.”
That’s one of the most poetic images I’ve ever heard.
Watching my children grow, I realize how much our culture enforces the idea that each stage of our lives prepares us for the next, and the next, and the next, until we’re all grown up and assume everything in our lives is set, or static. We’re always so busy looking ahead that we miss the moments as they pass. Even falling into the trap of asking very young children what they want to “be” when they grow up is a symptom of this. We treat adulthood as the destination, the finished product of our physical growing and education. But we’re humans, not machines. We’re constantly in flux, constantly in motion, constantly being challenged to grow.
While there is no way to stop time and prevent change from constantly occurring, there is a way to practice being in the moment. For me, it’s breathing calmly and deeply. It’s a daily ritual of meditation, yoga, and prayer—sitting in silence and feeling the energy that I am, allowing myself to be subject to a greater force working through and around me. This is how I attempt to cultivate inner peace, keep my mind from rambling in a thousand directions, and become more in tune with the rocking of the universe. When I started practicing meditation last summer, I noticed that the sun shone brighter, I smiled more, and I didn’t feel pulled by every new idea or thought that popped up. Not only that, but each moment with my kids felt like a new treasure I was constantly able to rediscover.
My practice doesn’t keep time from passing, but it does, in certain moments, make time feel more still. It helps me fill more of my days with awe rather than worry, with calm and peace and mindfulness rather than feeling trapped in the middle of a whirlwind.
As my kids continue to grow, I hope to continually make this practice a priority. It won’t mean that I never experience pain or sadness, but it will at least help me feel alive in these moments, aware of them as they pass, and experience the depth and richness of my life.
Jana Llewellyn has written essays, short fiction, reviews and cultural commentary for a range of online and print publications. Before starting The First Day, she taught writing and literature to teenagers and adults and worked as a writer and editor at the Quaker magazine, Friends Journal. She also teaches yoga and blogs at AnAttitudeAdjustment.com.
See all of Jana’s posts at http://firstdaypress.org/tag/jana-llewellyn/.
Image: “Zoom” by Crystal via Flickr.