The first time I heard the words “The days are long, the years are short” was while I was dragging my screaming 4 year old son away from the train table at our local book store. There I was with my 2 year old son on my hip and my hand firmly clenched around my 4 year old’s wrist, literally dragging him out the door. I was determined to get out of there quickly, my mini-van was in sight.
I had made it past the other moms with their obedient children looking on in terror, no doubt. The poor, innocent customers drinking their $5.00 cups of coffee only to be annoyed by some screaming, unruly child. I could feel all eyes on me wondering how I was going to handle this tantrum. I was mad and embarrassed and thought to myself “If only he would not bite other kids when he was frustrated”. “Use your words”, I had said for what seemed the millionth time! “If only he were older, he would surely outgrow this phase”. That is when a kindhearted, experienced mom said those well, meant words to me “The days are long, the years are short”. I remember thinking, “Yeah right, lady!”
Well, that was over 10 years ago and I have to say those words have taken on a whole new meaning over the years. I actually hear them in my head all the time lately. I recently turned 50 and my kids are now well into their teens. No longer do I worry about them biting other kids. Now I worry that I am running out of time to spend with them. Today those words ran through my head and it made me think of how relevant they are in so many areas of our lives. Not just from one mother to another.
How quickly time does pass but I think how miserable we can be in a moment of time. How many “bad days” do we have? How many times have we wished for a day to end? “Tomorrow will be better”. “Tomorrow is a new day”. This made me think of how quickly we want time to speed up. Are we crazy? Think about it, time is flying by, we are just looking at it wrong. What is the one thing we all want more of?
What is the one thing we can’t stop or buy? Time? So why do we take it for granted?
I was going through my Facebook posts the other day. I saw a post from a friend of mine that is fighting breast cancer. She has started a new, daunting stage of treatment and remains hopeful that this will “buy her some time”. She mentioned her loving partner as being by her side and wishing they could spend time together traveling like they used to. They are a couple that is grateful time is on their side and hopeful that more time will be given for them to share many more days and years together.
This phrase made me think of my parents and in laws too. I watch the women in my life taking care of their aging husbands. No longer can they travel the world freely and explore remote corners with abandonment as they once did. Now they are becoming the caretakers to their long time spouses. These women do not complain because they adore these men. If the roles were reversed these men would do the same. This is what we do for the people we love. “55 years of marriage gone so quickly, I don’t know where the time has gone”.
I am a psychotherapist by trade. I have worked with numerous populations but I think working in long-term care has taught me the most about time. How truly precious it is. I counsel family members that are watching their loved ones slip away, lost to dementia. Time stops, and then starts again but distortions are present. Time does not follow a linear and predictable pattern now. Loved ones hope for more time and many are wishing time would pass and allow their loved ones to move on.
I can’t talk about this population, however, without mentioning the joy and contentment I have witnessed from many wise souls that truly lived their lives. These men and women seem to have learned a secret along the way. A common theme amongst these elders is that they found that accepting what had been dealt to them was easier than wishing time would change a situation. They also shared that making time to be with their loved ones, be it their children, grandchildren, spouse, friends, etc., always brought them joy and forced them to focus on the positive aspects of their lives, not their shortcomings.
One woman shared that for her, forgiveness had provided her with a peace of mind that allowed her the freedom to once again enjoy the moments in her life. No longer was her mind preoccupied with resentments while precious time moved forward.
Whether I am focused on my children growing up too quickly or my parents aging much too fast, I am reminded that I get to choose how I spend my time and how I perceive time. This makes me feel a little better for some reason; I can catch my breath a not feel time is slipping away. Now when my teenage son says to me “Why do you have to nag me all the time”? I do not “wish” this stage away, I actually appreciate the fact that he notices that I care.
When I am with my parents and they are walking a little more slowly, I slow down my pace and remember to savor this time. I often think of those wonderful “Old, Old” people (Naomi Feil’s, MSW, term for folks way into their 90’s) that have truly taught me what living in the moment looks like. Time will rush by if we try and out run it or wish it away.
This morning when I was at the grocery store I watched a frantic mom attempting to juggle her three kids under the age of 5. She looked stressed out as two of them tried to climb out of the cart while the smallest was crying over a dropped pacifier. I smiled at her and before I could stop myself said “The days are long, the years are short”. I didn’t wait for her reaction but I wondered if she heard me.
5 Tips for Slowing Down Time
- Be mindful of the moment, don’t wish it away.
- Forgive others because resentments take up precious time.
- Gratitude for what we have, not what we want.
- Make plans with the people you love and keep them.
- Acceptance of who you are and where you are in life.