A riddle: What is more precious than gold, but cannot be bought, earned or saved?
I’ll give you a hint. It’s something we often say we don’t have enough of, particularly when we are busy. Yet when we stop and take a breath, we wonder where it went.
Time is a funny thing.
A minute of sprinting (when you’re not very good at it), can seem like an hour.
A 30-minute filling at the dentist can feel like years.
Waiting several weeks for a special celebration can seem like an eternity.
Yet 10 years can go in an instant.
We have just celebrated our daughter’s 10th birthday.
To celebrate her ‘double-figures’, she had a special party with nine of her friends. We spent months planning it, organising invitations and lolly bags.
The day of her birthday I spent hours making her cake, and organising her special birthday dinner.
The following weekend, we hosted an extended family celebration, and spent days preparing food and getting the house ready.
By the time we took a breath, it was all over, and our little girl — the baby of our family — had turned 10.
We wondered aloud: “Where did the last 10 years go?”
After all the presents had been unwrapped and the leftover cake put away, I looked through the countless photos of birthdays past, including the plethora of cakes that I had made over the years — 12 years in fact.
There were cupcakes and fairy cakes, lolly cakes and monster cakes, flowers and butterflies, a tennis court, a house, a piano and even an artist’s palette.
I remember making every one of them, each time thinking, “this is taking a forever”, or something along those lines. Yet the only thing remaining of those cakes is photographic evidence that they ever existed.
I am sure all of us are caught in this time warp of sorts — impatient for a moment to pass, yet reminisce about time gone by, because it happened all too quickly.
Mindfulness experts often bang on about being ‘present in the moment’. They believe it is a way to improve happiness and deal with difficult times. However mindfulness is not always possible, or desirable. I for one like to think about something else while the dentist drills my tooth for a filling. Furthermore, finding a quiet coffee shop is much preferable to wandering around a shopping centre focusing on the screams of a 2 year-old having a tantrum.
But I understand the point. We should be ‘present in the moment’, and filing it in our memory bank, rather than focusing on rushing to the next moment.
One of my favourite movies is About Time. It’s the story of a young man called Tim, who is told shortly after his 21st birthday that every male in his family has the ability to travel back in time — but only to a point in time that they have already been in.
All they have to do is enter a dark place (like a cupboard), close their eyes, think of where they’d like to go, squeeze their fists and there they are. Once they are in that moment, they have the opportunity to correct any ‘wrong’. Some of these ‘wrongs’ are small, embarrassing moments that happen to most of us. Some have wider-reaching consequences.
Towards the end of the movie, Tim’s father shares of how he used the gift of time travel. He used to live his day with all the anxiety, stress, frustration and busyness that it brought. Then he would go back and do it again, knowing that things would work out, and therefore able to enjoy the moment, enjoy his life and the interactions he had with people throughout the day. To experience the pure joy of living and making the most of the time he had.
Tim follows his advice for a while and lives each day twice. Eventually he stops travelling in time.
“The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day. I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary life.”
We all have the opportunity to live an extraordinary life. We just need to show up, and notice it. We need to look for the enjoyment of it and actively participate in it.
It may be noticing the scenery when you travel in the car.
It may be watching your child’s soccer game, instead of playing on your phone.
It might be holding your partner’s hand while you watch TV.
Perhaps it’s making eye contact with the person you are having coffee with, instead of looking at everyone else in the coffee shop.
It may even be focusing on the simple task of icing and decorating a birthday cake.
As I look back over the last 12 years’ worth of birthday cakes, I am blessed to remember making each one of them. They were not just cakes and icing. They represent joyful celebrations of my kids’ lives. They represent their interests and passion at differing stages of their life. They represent joy and happiness and blessings — two blessings in the shape of my children.
They also serve as reminders, that I have indeed been blessed with an extraordinary life.
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