Lately I have been thinking about the unceasing movement of time. Annie Dillard compared this burdensome realization to the relentless flow and crushing weight of a waterfall. Since I have become a mom, the movement of time has become a tangible reality for me; sometimes when I stop to think about it (usually before I go to sleep), this realization takes weight and becomes a heavy burden that causes a squeezing pressure in my chest.
I think about my own childhood, and how once detailed and vivid minute-by-minute experiences have now only become single-frame snapshots. The house I was born in is now only a faded image of our round, wooden kitchen table (the room is covered in the warm glow of a light that is only created just after dusk.) The entirety of the eight years I spent at my small, Catholic grade school is now only a series of sketches: building a fort out of fallen leaves on the hill behind the swings at recess, chasing yellow butterflies amidst a field of dandelion snow, or singing our rewritten lines to Alanis Morrisette’s “Ironic” in the girl’s lockeroom before a basketball game I surely didn’t want to play. If you would have told me at seventeen that the whole of my four years in high school could be captured by the simple, musty smell of an auditorium and the chorus of Blink 182’s”All the Small Things”, I wouldn’t have believed you.
At twenty-seven, I still picture myself as a college-student—that is until I realize that my time at Augustana, too, has simply become a series of cerebral photographs—these memories, strangely, are less visual and rather reveal themselves as bursts of intangible emotion. The euphoria of a first kiss, the vulnerability of an intimate, new relationship, the surrealism of discovering that the person you love loves you too. These sentiments bring with them a kind of aching fondness, a burdensome joy. If I would have realized the fleeting nature of this time—indeed, of all time—how would I have not been crushed by the weight of gratitude?
Certainly, that is the question: how do I live with an authentic awareness of the sacredness around me and still be a functioning participant in ordinary life?
This is the question I ask when I realize my son doesn’t have cute baby feet any more, but rather the awkward, wide, toes of a kid—not a toddler, a kid. This is the question I ask when I desperately want to get my daughter to go to sleep—that is until I catch a glimpse of the beautiful curiosity and innocence in her eyes. Indeed, this is the essential question I ask when I realize late at night that this day, today—with all of its laughter and its tears, with all of its poopy diapers, bottles, and books—it too will soon only be a sketch or a snapshot, perhaps even only a smell or a melody.
I must choose to live in the small space between crushing awareness and carefree unconsciousness. I know I do not desire the latter state of existence, and I cannot survive the former. Until I figure out how to live this balance, in this small space, I will continue to pray the only prayer that makes sense to me: Thank You.