Though the weather here in the Midwest indicates otherwise, we are firmly entrenched in Spring. It is now mid-May. Or maybe even late-May depending on your definition.
How is that possible? Wasn’t I just writing 2014 on my checks? Wasn’t there just snow on the ground? And weren’t we all just shuffling about, grumbling about the cold weather and wondering when this god forsaken winter would end?
Yesterday morning Teddy went to his kindergarten screening and this week he will say goodbye to preschool. How in the world is that possible? Wasn’t he just a wrinkly newborn? Wasn’t I just feeding him Goldfish crackers in his stroller while we watched Jackson pick dandelions at soccer practice? And wasn’t it just yesterday that I dropped him off at preschool for the first time, holding back tears and clinging to my leg for one more hug?
How did all of this happen? How is it possible? Where did the time go?
These are rhetorical questions, of course. I know how it happens. One day slips into the next and the next and the next. Weeks go by and calendar pages are flipped. And, before I know it, it’s mid-May (or late-May) and my baby is getting ready for kindergarten. Kindergarten!
As they say, the days are long but the years are short. And, believe me, the long days are long. Unbearably long. There are long days when I am counting down the minutes until Matt comes home from work. Long days when my first thought in the morning is to calculate the hours until bedtime. Long days when the question of “when will this end?” only gives way to the questions of “what the hell am I doing wrong?” and “how does everyone else do it?”
But now that my kids are getting older, the long days seem fewer and farther between lately. I feel myself melting deeper into the Sweet Spot of this parenting gig, and there is a strange dichotomy to my life these days. Given that I am naturally predisposed to movement and progress, I still want to run headlong into my life, find the answers and figure things out, surging forward with action items and to-do lists and The Plan. And yet in the same breath, I can hear myself whispering slow down, you’re moving too fast – and I don’t just mean me, but life and time in general.
It’s all moving too fast.
There are days when I find myself feeling wistful for this Sweet Spot before it has even passed. I can feel myself missing these days, longing for them like a fading memory, even while I am living them. I want to press pause and linger here for a little while. And even though some days still feel interminably long and life is just as messy as always, I am trying to savor the sweet moments as much as I can. But always there is the awareness that this too shall pass – the bad and the good, the bitter and the sweet, the long days and the short years.
And so the question remains: How? How can I slow things down?
Of course, I can’t press pause or freeze time. Not really. But I can do what I can to slow it down a little, I suppose. So I write and take pictures and share stories on Facebook. I keep my to-do list a little emptier now and then, and try to feel a little less guilty about “low productivity” days than before. I try to be patient and gentle – most of all with myself. I try to get out of my head and stop thinking so damn much. I look for beauty wherever I can find it. I practice vulnerability and take tiny risks here and there, like publishing a blog post that might not mean anything to anyone but me. I try to stay open to possibility and manage expectations. I remind myself that it is relationships, not results, that matter; that this wild life feels more precious when I show up and bear witness to it – to all of it.
And with any luck I might be able to move a little more gracefully through the long days and slow down the rest of them, stretching the sweet days out like a piece of sticky taffy until they look like cirrus clouds reaching across the sky.
This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. The premise is simple: Angie sends me a couple of photos and I write a blog post based on one of the photos. It is always fascinating to see what words her images bring out of me.
Not only have Angie’s photos served as inspiration for several blog posts over the past three years, but they have also inspired certain chapters in Open Boxes and I am grateful that her photos will also be used as creative inspiration for various online writing & creativity workshops.
The In Your Mind’s Eye is a one-week writing workshop designed with novice writers and getting-back-into-it-writers in mind. Participants get daily photo prompts courtesy of Angie McMonigal, short and specific writing exercises, and the support of a small online community.
The Coming Together creativity workshop provides a wide range of diverse daily prompts and suggested exercises, along with a supportive online community in which participants can choose to share their work – whether it is writing, photography, art, poetry, illustration, or other medium.
You can find more information about the writing & creativity workshops here.