How I Stopped Chasing Time (and slowed down enough to enjoy it)
“Time and tide wait for no man.” Geoffrey Chaucer
“Father Time Sucks”, a fan’s sign read at Kobe Bryant’s last game. I don’t follow the NBA or Kobe but in a thirty second news clip I caught sight of this message and felt it sink into my chest as I wondered if Father Time really does suck.
On Saturday mornings we like to pack up the double stroller, our two girls, and water and snacks for a breezy and beautiful four mile jog on the boardwalk at the beach. This has become our favorite family activity of the week.
It’s the first time since Monday that the four us are together and awake for longer than a couple hours, and when we stroll along the shores of the Pacific with the salty air filling our bursting lungs –what’s not to love?
The girls get bundled up and await the wonder. The oldest is eager to people watch and demands answers to her five year old interrogations on volleyball and what that guy is smoking; while the youngest is focused on guarding her snacks so they don’t end up in her sister’s hands and making sure everyone in a half mile radius knows THERE’S A PUPPY OVER THERE! A PUPPY!!!!
We put one foot in front of the other willing ourselves to finish – it’s all mental, mind over matter, we tell ourselves. We watch the waves crash and surfers rise and fall, disappear and reappear and the world seems to slow down. Time no longer matters. We run to the rhythm of the ocean music and our family adds one more link in the chain that binds us.
This is our escape from time.
We are free to act like the only four people on the Southern California shore and just be there, all in, with each other. But time, like the tide, doesn’t wait for us to catch up.
Soon we finish our jog, the girls anxious to escape the stroller and put their naked feet in the warm sand and cold sea, we release them and they run too – free in spirit and body. Their smiles surpass the magnitude of the ocean. And I feel time slipping away. The time that only minutes ago stilled and allowed me to breathe in the beauty of the morning salted air comes flooding back and crashes over me like a wave racing to the beach.
I wonder, how will I ever keep up with the time and tides of raising these girls? Why does time seem so cruel as it offers and steals away moments so quickly?
Before I know it, it’s time for acai bowls and chocolate ice cream in waffle cones to follow the sand angels and footprints. And then it’s over, we head back to our lives, the errands, and nap time.
One particular Saturday as we made our way back into our lives, I sat considering the memories we made and how simple it is to be happy. I started digging back in my own sea of memories – of the girls being born, our wedding day, the time I lived in Mexico City, high school graduation, witnessing my dad meet his birth mom for the first time, growing up on the goat farm in the damp Pacific Northwest, summer camping trips, riding my bike till dark – and it felt distant and disconnected from the life we are living now.
Maybe it was my hurried memory trek that caused me to glance at my husband in the driver’s seat. His eyes focused straight ahead, already exhausted by the to-do list at home and I start flipping through his history, as I know it. And it hit me – this year he’s lived exactly half of his life in the U.S.
His lifetime is equally divided by two hemispheres.
From this point on he enters a time where he has spent more of his life in the Northern Hemisphere than at home. More time speaking a second language, eating different food, adapting and acclimating, missing home more than resting there and in that moment time means more than numbers and ticking clocks or turning calendar pages.
Time means accepting that life is about change, growing into (and out of) our own choices, and taking every moment with gratitude and honor.
We get one life. We get chances and opportunities to become our truest selves, giving the world what we have to offer and receiving what’s given back.
When I mentioned this to my husband he was silent for a moment. He hadn’t thought of his life in equal parts, his identity parted down in the middle. He asked, “Does that make me less Ecuadorian?”
We both agreed the answer was no. With time tipping the scales on this side of the world he’s not less of who he is – he’s more. We all become more with enough time to live, to love, to lose, and to grow; to try and fail and try again. To be broken, restored, and fortified with wisdom and compassion.
I realized that time with my daughters getting sand between their toes and laughing their faces off while chasing sea foam is giving me more joy, more memories to love, and more love to give them. Time gives more life and more love.
Time is a gift.
Time is for us, even as it passes and “steals” our youth. And though it is not eternal (in this life, anyway) we choose how we use it, how it makes us who we are, and with whom we spend it.
Father Time doesn’t suck. He gave Kobe a longer career in the NBA than he was alive before he was drafted. That’s a gift. Father time gifts us with opportunities to transform and transition into the next phase of our lives.
As my husband enters the majority of his life on American soil he holds close to his essential self – his culture and language and food and family – while creating a life that is simple, slow, and intentional right here, right now.
And as the sand tickles little toes as I brush it away and puppies get yelled at and snacks are stolen, I laugh and breathe in the gifts of sea air and Saturday mornings. I’m no longing chasing more time because I don’t need to. This moment, in this place, with these people is all I need.