The Gift of Time

“Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.” – Alice Walker

I’ve always been a “busy” person, fitting in as much as I possilby can in a day. My sleeping habits echo this trait; in the early hours of the day, while most humans are sound asleep, my mind begins racing and my body happily responds. Yes. I wrote “happily.”

Even in the evenings, or on the weekends or vacations, I fill the hours with work – good work: baking for others, reading, exploring topics which interest me, mentoring young people, writing notes, walking, cleaning, serving on a few executive boards, etc.

Perpetual motion has always defined me. Early, I learned the special look of a teacher urging a talkative child to stop interrupting. And I remember quite fondly, my grandmother saying firmly, but lovingly, “Heather Annie, be still. Just be still.” I struggled to sit quietly and just watch a movie or at least not jump up during commercials to throw in a load of laundry or start the dishwasher.

Upon the diagnosis of my daughter’s brain tumor, for the last six years, I have focused on living a joy-filled life – a life being present – a life keenly aware of the gifts I am given on a daily basis. Leading this type of life requires attention to time, and time to simply focus on the moment – not worry about the cookies to bake, the lessons to plan, the papers to grade, the leaves to rake. Honestly, my inabilty to be still posed a barrier to fully living authentically.

Like others, though, 2020 has taught me important lessons. Primarily, I have learned to be still – to really immerse myself in the moment. This lesson, though, began months before the global pandemic brought the world to a screeching hault.

In January of this year, stage four brain cancer swept through my daughter’s brain like a wildfire. My 27-year-old child spent weeks in the neuro-ICU, and once her medical team controlled the inflamation, she began six weeks of radiation to her head and spine. And then for the last nine months, her body has been pumped with drugs to control her headaches and chemotherapy to stave off the spread of cancer.

I credit her six year journey for giving me a passion for authentic, intentional living. This newest leg of her journey, though, has propelled me into a deeper space of intentionality. I begged for understanding, and the universe answered in its own way: TIME. Because my colleagues and friends picked up the pieces at work and home, I had the gift of time to sit by my child’s bed – to attend to her needs – to focus on her medical crisis.

In the dull glow of the hospital light, I expectantly searched for lessons. I needed to trust the universe had given our family these difficult moments for a reason. Otherwise, the darkness would be too much. In the midst of this new leg of the battle, a pandemic turned things upside down for rest of the world. And while COVID created new challenges like quaranting for two weeks before spending time with my child, I saw a huge silverlining: TIME.

COVID 19 forced the world to slow down – to turn inwards – to be still. At first, like many, I struggled with the quiet – with the aloneness – with the silence. I forced myself to see these moments as a gift – as a way to find meaning – as a way to understand myself – to set goals for myself. I found myself walking miles, often listening to podcasts, but mostly just music. As the year continued, I grew comfortable with solitude – with downtime – with opportunities to seek understanding.

At this point in my life, the propensity for perpetual motion is solidified, but I have learned to sit with the darkness, sadness, and fear the universe gives me. When I stand in the difficult times, I have an opportunity to truly appreciate the gifts – the lessons of life – the joy that comes in being present. #MakeRoomForJoy #GiftOfTime

I’m joining an open community of writers over at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog. If you write (or want to write) just for the magic of it, consider this your invitation to join us.