My son has been working on his senior page for his high school year book. Senior pages are a family effort—at least for our family. My son wanted old pictures to include on his page. When archives are needed, we typically e-mail the grandparents to get pictures sent. And so over the past few days, pictures have flowed in—David as a baby. My daughter as a baby with her older brother standing protectively next to her. In the pictures my hair went long, short, long again and in more recent pictures is showing my gray.
And I was forced to reflect on the passing of time. It still does not feel real that my son is going to be going away to college. It does not feel real that 17 years have passed since he was born. Where has the time gone?
I have also been listening to a book on tape. Towards the end of the story a woman who is dying of brain cancer reflects on her life. She notes that the important moments for her have been the moments spent with her family. She remembers the laughter and the hugs.
And looking back over the 17 years, I remember many of those moments in my life. The dinners when we shared jokes and someone would laugh so hard that drink would spurt out of their nose. (I am not going to identify whose nose.) On vacations we have explored castles, driven go-carts down a mountain, listened to books together in the car. Yes, the memories of my family are very important to me.
But during these 17 years, I have also published 2 children’s books. I have written articles and discovered the joy of blogging. I have worked to help people recover from eating disorders. I have taught medical students about professionalism and challenging ethical issues. I have developed a project, The Letter Connection, to try and capture patients’ stories about what works well in medicine and where challenges remain with communication.
Within our lives, we don’t need to be just one aspect of ourselves. During these 17 years, David has not just been my son, but he has been discovering his passions. Those interests have ranged from cars to sports to politics. He still loves trivia and Model UN. He has gone to camps and come back with great stories. He is excited about college, and I know he will bring back stories to share. Time is passing; I can’t keep it the same. I can’t keep him small and at home and the majority of me doesn’t want to. We can all have wistful moments, but in truth, I will be glad to have him go to college. No, not to get rid of him. But when he goes off to expand his own life, then I know that I have helped him find the strength to face new challenges. I know that he will tell me about his new adventures. I can live my life and continue to live his life vicariously. How cool is that?
But I have to keep living my own life, too.
- Start with Time Passes… Use that as your prompt and see where it takes you. When you run out of ideas, start again. Try to keep going for 5 minutes. I won’t bore you with my whole 5 minutes, but if I started with this prompt, I’d get….
- Time passes, so I must not pass up opportunities. I must not pass by a friend who is struggling and not offer to help. I must not pass through a day without telling my children that I love them. I must not pass up the chance to laugh or appreciate the world around me. Time passes and that is the way life goes—vampires are only truth in fiction and so I do not have an eternity to live, just this short time to live the best and fullest that I can. Does this affect how I live my life? Perhaps. It may mean that I don’t worry as much about small inconveniences because, yes, they affect my life, but if I think about them too much then I am giving over even more of my life to them. With time passing, I need to make certain that I follow my dreams. So starting tomorrow (or tonight, if we get our power back on), I will find a way to incorporate more fiction writing in my life. Time passes and if I don’t stay in touch with that fact, it will be gone before I finish my novel’s revisions. I don’t want to be left with if only, if only…I want to know that I owned it—I owned my life and my dreams.
- What are your dreams? Write down a list. Even if it doesn’t seem possible to achieve them all, you’ll have a starting place. In an Ethics course the other day, a film clip asked the question, “What if you had only 6 months to live?” Write about that so that you can clarify your priorities and make certain that you are including them in your life.
- Write about the people in your life and what you share together. If they are bringing more negatives than positives, consider how to protect yourself from their criticisms or toxic energy. Consider whether you are putting more energy into keeping everyone else happy than making sure that you are happy and following your dreams. Many times people put themselves into pretzel shapes to try and please everyone else. But if you are not also pleasing yourself, then you will probably come to resent it. I help my children pursue their dreams, but also work to pursue mine. Make certain you’re doing the same.
Your turn, now. Go, Write On!
Martha Peaslee Levine, MD