My mom has entered a new season in her life recently, one that isn’t especially comfortable.
She’s faced several stressful and anxiety-producing events over the past few months, mostly related to her health—a shot in her eye to stop the progression of macular degeneration, a tooth pulled, a colonoscopy, a bone density exam. My dad passed away several years ago, and many of her friends have died, too. She’s a private person anyway, so I imagine that the loneliness during this time runs deep.
“Most of life is waiting for events to pass,” she told me one afternoon as we talked about her appointments and procedures.
I felt sad when she said this, for many reasons. I’m sad because she’s my mom, and I don’t like seeing her in physical or emotional pain.
My sadness is also rooted in guilt because I, too, have found myself occasionally wishing time would just speed up. (I have toddlers, you know.) My husband recently acknowledged that he also feels this way—worried about jobs, expectations, performance, always just trying to make it to the next week.
But the more I sit with my mom, and the more she shares about her challenges and worries, the more I realize how precious and transient it all is. Deep down, I don’t want time to speed up. There’s too much in the here and now to appreciate, to remember.
So what do we do, then? How do we resist the urge to press fast-forward? Here are some steps I’m taking.
Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. Anxiety, anger, impatience—these emotions don’t serve us well in testing moments. We have to lean into the hard times, acknowledge that there’s no way around toddler tantrums and difficult coworkers and health challenges. Find a way to be OK with that—find a way, maybe, to laugh at it a little. I’m working hard at this right now with my girls, learning to find some humor in the gong show and appreciate them for what they are, and are not, capable of right now. It softens the edges and allows me to be more present.
Intentionally plan moments to look forward to. Is there a way to pepper in some good amidst the stress of your week? What are you looking forward to in the short-term? If you don’t have an answer, ask yourself what might put some pep in your step—and do it. Perhaps it’s 30 minutes alone with a book or a coffee date with a friend. During a recent stressful week, I booked an evening yoga class I normally don’t attend. I had plenty of work to do and going meant I’d miss putting my girls to bed. But wow, did I need it. I left feeling grounded, recharged. It gave me a renewed sense of calm during a hectic stretch.
Call upon lived experiences. I’m sure you can remember a time you were anxious about something, wishing it would just end, only to discover the outcome didn’t warrant the worry. Can you call upon that experience to prevent you from entering fight-or-flight mode again? “My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice,” J.K. Rowling wrote in her book, Fantastic Beasts. I’ve found it to be true. Think about a time when you did worry, and the result was as you feared—what did your anxiety get you? In my experience, the answer is almost always nothing.
I think we all know, logically, that our time is incredibly valuable. That it all goes by too quickly. So let’s know it emotionally, too—and get busy finding the good in our here and now.
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