Chapter 1: Time Keeps On Ticking
I grew up in the eighties. My kids think it’s epic how I lived during the generation they now deem retro. In fact, several years ago I flew cross-country to Seattle to visit my oldest daughter, Hannah, who was a sophomore in college. We hung out in her trendy local bakery, and as we ate crumbly gluten-free pastries topped with dollops of fresh whipped cream and sipped our overpriced espressos, she asked, “Hey, Mom, do you want to go to this cool vintage shop with me? I know you’ll love it.”
I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I pushed my chair back and grabbed my coffee, and together we walked across the leaf-covered street to Hannah’s favorite store, while she rapidly talked about how much I would adore this place and all the amazing objects inside.
As we wandered around the dusty shop, I observed something unexpected. In fact, I started to laugh as the reality became clearer. You see, her “vintage” store with collectible items that withstood time was not filled with the antiques I was expecting but was, in fact, filled with relics from my own childhood.
I was now vintage.
I spotted orange and lime-green Tupperware, the same as my mother once sold. Fisher-Price toys, the same ones I used to play with, now fetched a premium price. Cabbage Patch Kids, Atari game consoles, and other games I thought had disappeared lined the shelves. A wall of posters of artists I loved hung by bins of vinyl records, cassette tapes, and CDs. I flipped through them, past Huey Lewis and the News and Tears for Fears, and then saw one of my favorite tapes by the Steve Miller Band tucked in a stack. As I looked at the cover, the now poignant lyrics filled my mind:
“Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking into the future.”
While I hummed the melody, I looked up at Hannah meandering through rows of my childhood now for sale. She was looking at neon shirts, and as she thumbed through the rack, her face scrunched up just a bit. I’d seen that face before. It was long, long ago, on the hot summer night when she was born. Her tiny six-pound-thirteen-ounce self came into this world with that same scrunchy face. She was a feisty newborn, completely dependent on me, her rookie mom.
I sighed heavily—the type of sigh reserved just for moms—and as she decided which eighties shirt was the best I wondered, Where in the world did the time go?
She didn’t know I stared at her, but there she was just a couple of years younger than I was when I’d first held her.
I remember that me. I was feisty, full of dreams, full of hopes.
Now there I stood, twenty years later, a divorced mom of seven kids, watching her and, in a way, watching myself. That sigh wasn’t just about how quickly she grew up, but it was also because of the clear image of my own passage of time.
There is an unspoken tension in life. When we are young, we’re oblivious to it, unaware of the movement of time. But the older we get, the more we become aware of its constant ticking.
Then one day in the middle of our life’s moving timeline, we become mothers, and that timeline that was once ours alone we now share.
As moms, our time is fragmented, and we focus on our children. We stop documenting our own accomplishments and instead document theirs: a week old, a month old, a birthday, the start of school, the move to middle school, prom, graduation.
With each new milestone, we have more to do, more to keep up with, more expectations to manage. And time keeps moving, keeps ticking by. It doesn’t slow down for hard times or for blissful moments or for times when we just need a break. Yet I cried when my Hannah turned one, because I felt as though I’d already lost a year of her childhood due to time’s tick.
“Slow down, time, slow down,” I’d pleaded.
But life gets busy, so busy that the appreciation of time’s movement gradually shifts to those days when we quietly chant under our breath, “I just want to make it through.” There are times when we can’t wait for the day to end, when the burdens and expectations keep piling up and there doesn’t seem to be enough of us to go around. There are days of slammed doors, cranky kids, and “I hate you! You’re the worst mom ever!” when we’re just trying to be the “good” mom. Next thing we know we’re another mom in a march of moms who are going through the motions of motherhood, joking about the moments of peace we might get at the end of the day, cursing the homework our kids whine about, and telling one another we’ll join that kickboxing class when our schedules get less busy.
We become so focused on getting through motherhood and doing for our kids that somehow we lose sight of all the mothering our mothers did during our own childhoods. Think of all the piano lessons, recitals, and orchestra concerts our moms went to for us. The soccer practices and cheerleading competitions. The constant shuttling to and from our high school jobs. They spent their precious time helping us grow and achieve our goals and skills and loves.
The world was at our feet, and our moms helped and encouraged us to discover our passions. Yet when we become mothers, the focus of priorities shifts. Instead of continuing to pursue our dreams, we abandon them and copy what our moms did before us. We put ourselves on the back burner to help our children achieve their dreams, knowing the whole time that we’re only helping them achieve the dreams they have before they, too, become parents.
What if you broke that cycle in your family? What if you decided to teach your children that those skills and dreams you fostered as a child are just as important for improving your entire life, and in so doing, you take moments out of your schedule to focus on you? I’m not suggesting that you no longer help your kids achieve their dreams; I’m suggesting that you do it alongside continuing to pursue yours. What if seeing you do that means that they, too, will pursue their dreams their entire lives?
Just as Steve Miller sang, “Time keeps on ticking,” we don’t have unending amounts of time to someday get back to doing what we dreamed of. Every tick of the clock is a minute further in our lives. When I first held Hannah in my arms, I felt as if I had an infinite number of ticks. Twenty-one years of the clock flipping over and over have since happened. And when I stood in that Seattle vintage store, I realized that the art of life, of motherhood, happens when we exhale and cherish today while we also seize the moment, the inch of time today, and move ourselves forward to reclaim who we are meant to be.
For so many years I went through the motions. I got busy with motherhood, learned to accept reality as unchangeable, and existed. I didn’t have a fire to appreciate that inch of today. Instead I took it for granted. You probably do that too.
At a certain point, the inches will run out. Time will pass and the urgency to change will either shrink or disappear into lives where we settle. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my college-aged kids to be sitting in their hip coffee shop, chatting with their friends about their mom, and saying, “Yeah, my mom, she was a good mom, but she settled.” Nor do I want to sit with my friends when my home is an empty nest and say, “I just don’t know who I am anymore.”
You are worth not settling.
But you have to decide not to assume that you always have tomorrow to do what you need to do today. I know you didn’t intend to forget yourself. I know you want to be happy. I know you want to fight for your heart. I know you want to rightly order your life. I know you want to have that deep bravery and sense of purpose. I know you want to rediscover your passions from your childhood.
It’s not that we’re trying to forget ourselves. We just get busy.
And it’s so easy to lose track of time in motherhood. It’s even easier to overlook the importance of our own hearts.
I know I did.
Stop saying, “I’ll get to that tomorrow.” That’s our first task for ourselves.
You owe it to yourself, your family, your friends to live without fear and with wild abandon. You owe it to yourself to get to everything on your tomorrow list today.
I am passionate about helping you ignite the fire of urgency in your life. I believe in you, I really do, and know that whether you have one child or fifteen, are married or divorced, are wealthy or poor, have direction or none, you can recapture time’s inches in life.
You are worth fighting for each inch today.