In recent months, I have become increasingly aware of the passage of time, and it is not a pleasant feeling. Whether this is due to my impending 'big' birthday next year, I'm unsure, but it is disturbing me that the face I see in the mirror, at times, I don’t fully recognise. Where did that wrinkle come from?! Why are my jowls sagging?
I've started leaving my glasses on my head then forgetting they're there. I read gardening books, and pull a pained expression when the kids play loud music. The only use my shot glasses get now is when I use them to measure out my liquid iron supplement. Newsflash: I'm getting old.
It is not just myself that I have noticed changes in. The kids are getting older, more independent. They don’t need me as much, and they don’t particularly want me around as much either. I could feel (and have at times felt) pretty bereft about this. But I know this is a natural and normal part of childhood, adolescence, and parenthood. Echoes of "God you’re so embarrassing!” are often heard now (and yes, it doesn’t seem five minutes ago I was saying those words to my own parents!)
Whilst looking at old baby pictures and reminiscing recently, I tearfully said to my husband:
“I wish I could turn back time!”
And my husband turned to me and said, as tactfully as he could, “Well, you can’t.”
The stubborn part of me wanted to inwardly stamp my feet and say, “If you want something enough, you can achieve anything!” But even I had to admit that this was one thing that no amount of yearning, manifesting and positive thinking can achieve. Time stops for no man. Time just keeps ticking by, no matter what, and no human can change that.
Similarly, we cannot fast forward time. We can change our actions, which can have an impact on our future. But ultimately, the future is unknown to us all.
So what do we do? Where does this leave me, in my flux of panic about my children growing up, about losing my identity of mum and about the network of wrinkles working their way across my face?
Of course, appreciating memories is not a negative thing. In the book ‘The Art Of Making Memories’, Meik Heking investigates what makes a good memory, and how we can make the most of our positive memories to help us in the future:
“I believe that looking back – revisiting our happy places and our happy times – enables us to plan for a better journey ahead. Plan for future happy memories. Plan for happier days. Plan for a happier future.”
We are allowed to reminisce, relive the good times, and feel all the emotions (I still often look at all the baby pics and have a good blub). And it is difficult to not feel trepidation about the future sometimes. But it is important to not let these feelings be at the expense of the present.
Being present and in the moment is not an easy task. Certainly not for myself. As a generally anxious person, I often find myself wasting time worrying about the past, and what the future may hold. But what does this achieve? I think you know the answer! (Note the word ‘wasting’).
What it does do is deflect from what is happening NOW, right in front of your eyes. So, while I’m feeling sad that my son isn’t a little chubby toddler anymore, giving me endless cuddles, I’m missing him playing the most amazing song on his guitar, and appreciating how hard he has worked on his music. While I’m down about my daughter not wanting to spend ‘mummy and daughter’ days with me anymore, I’m not appreciating how much she has grown in confidence in her friendships.
Whether we like it or not, the present is all we have. The past has been and gone. We cannot change that. And the future is yet to come. We can predict the future, but ultimately, we can never be certain. As the great Eckhart Tolle said:
“People don’t realise that now is all there ever is; there is no past or future except as memory or anticipation in your mind.”
So from now on, when I feel myself slipping into sadness when thinking about what has been and gone, I am going to try and bring myself back into the present, look around me, and take note of all the things I am grateful for right now. Mindfulness techniques and writing a gratitude journal are both helpful for this.
As well as this, I will use the emotions of reminiscing to help plan for future memories, reminding myself of what makes a happy memory for me. I have many more happy memories to come - the children growing up, falling in love, getting married, grandchildren, and hopefully a chance to travel. And I hope in time, I will learn to accept my wrinkles, grey hair and low noise tolerance. I have already embraced my new obsession with gardening, and that is definitely not a bad thing.
What makes a happy memory for you? How do you stay present in the moment?