Last week, while in the car, I caught sight of myself in a shop window while stopped at a red light. I obviously look at myself in the mirror every day before I leave the house (to check my skirt isn’t tucked into my knickers, there’s no lipstick on my teeth etc) but it was strange seeing myself from an outside perspective, in the way others see me. And I thought to myself, WHAT? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN? How did I come to be driving the family wagon replete with sports gear, socks and biscuit crumbs when five minutes ago I was musing on whether to go to the theatre or an art gallery at the weekend while sipping a coffee in solitude? Or better still, planning what to wear to a party while enjoying a sneaky lunchtime wine or two.
Life is what happens when we’re not watching, isn’t that what some people say? I feel like that a lot, often when I look at my children and wonder where their babyhoods went. I look at first-time mums proudly pushing their prams, stressing about routines, teething, weaning and I want to say, for goodness sake, if you do nothing else, try to remember the details, enjoy the details, make the most of this time because you are on a ride that gets faster and faster it seems and unless you are careful it will have you hurtling along at such a speed you’ll barely have time to lift your head, let alone enjoy the view.
A dear friend’s one year old daughter has been gravely ill this week. She was hospitalised for five days, including 36 hours in the ICU. They came home today, a beautiful sunny spring day with birdsong and jasmine in the air. My friend said she was going to sit in the sun as her skin feels withered and dry after being in a bubble of worry and fear as time stood still in the artificial environment of the ward. I suggested she lay on the grass and looked at the sky; nature is so restorative. She has a new appreciation for life and for her lovely family she said. The last dreadful week has forced a new perspective on that family, a dreadful time which, thank god, is drawing to an end. I am so very happy and relieved for them.
None of us know what the future holds of course, but we spend so much time nervously picking at plans, theorising ‘what if’ scenarios. We also pine for the past, replaying decisions or situations that didn’t go our way, holding on to the great things that did. We need to remember that we are living the future all the time and creating the past as we go. I am going to join my friend in using their horrible scare to be more mindful. To shout a little less, play a little more with my boys, making memories with them, trying to create the future for which I have hoped.