As another year draws to a close my mind wanders into a place of reflection, looking back on the events of the past 12 months. There have of course been highs and lows. There has been deep felt joy, deep felt sadness, laughter, tears, frustration, excitement and everything in-between. There’s something about a year finishing that causes me to ponder about what has passed, but also to mull over my hopes, dreams and ambitions for the new year waiting just around the corner.
I like to ask myself about the lessons I’ve learned during the previous year and how I am going to make changes to better my life and my family’s life. Over the past week or so I’ve been thinking about how quickly time passes by. It seems that as my children get older the time whizzes by ever quicker. My oldest child will transfer from primary to secondary school in 2017. He’s a delightful young human to spend time with. He hugs me every day as soon as he arrives home from school and as I hold him near I can feel how tall he has grown. It’s an old cliché, but I feel as though I have blinked and the newborn baby in my arms has become this young man. My other two children have also grown and developed so much in the past year that I feel we are entering a new chapter as a family. They are now all fairly independent, all able to wash and dress themselves, they can buckle their own seatbelts, make their breakfast if downstairs before us, the older ones can walk home from school, run errands to the shop and all are capable of being more helpful around the house.
It would be easy to fall into a trap of nostalgia, longing for the days when I was needed by them constantly. Sure, those days were exhausting, busy, frustrating at times, but I knew my purpose. I was being mum. I could easily feel redundant now, spend my days yearning for days gone by. However, I don’t feel that way. I am excited for this next stage in our lives together, for interesting conversations, for the new things we will all be trying together and individually.
A lesson I have learned during the past months is that time is precious. How quickly it passes by, like grains of sand held in the palm of a hand, it slips between the fingers so gently it is barely noticed until it has gone. This has made me think about how I choose to spend my time. Am I savouring it, using it wisely, or am I squandering this limited gift on things that don’t truly matter?
I love to travel, to visit new places and explore. This brings me great satisfaction, yet how easy it is to while away an entire evening browsing online for accommodation, places to visit, must-see sights and comparing flight prices. I am not for one minute saying this is a waste of time, but sometimes, it is too simple to spend more time than is necessary doing these things.
I love a clean and tidy house, yet sometimes, I get so caught up in the busyness of washing clothes, putting stuff back where it belongs, doing dishes and vacuuming just in case someone pops by and thinks a bunch of slobs live here, that before I know it the day has vanished. I have lost many hours over the years, days where I haven’t had a meaningful conversation or read a book or watched my kids play or listened to music or connected with my own thoughts. There has been so much time spent on efficiency that I’ve forgotten to look for the joy in each day. That, my friend, is not living. That’s surviving! Yes, there are times when ‘survival’ is the best we can hope for, like when the children are small and sleep is interrupted, or when the kids are ill and the family routine goes out the window. Some days you are glad just to make it through, but they are seasons and will pass. For the most part though, I have a choice, and I often make the decision to get stuff done, rather than taking a step back and looking at what really matters.
As I write this it is mid-morning I am aware that all beds in my house are unmade, there are dishes in the sink, the washing machine has clicked to announce that its job is done and its now my turn to sort the clothes, I could do with a shower and there is nothing in the fridge for dinner. However, my 3 kids are all away to school happy and knowing they are loved. We had breakfast together, everyone washed and dressed for school, schoolbags were packed and there was a spare 20 minutes before the school run. I told myself I could make beds, wash dishes and generally stress trying to get the house in some sort of order. Instead I made a cup of tea, took it upstairs and asked if someone would read me a story because I have the cold and needed some tlc. So, while my hubby got himself ready for work, my youngest and I hopped back into my still unmade bed and he read to me. He would normally be the least enthusiastic about reading but the expression in his voice as he read Monkey Puzzle to me was evidence that he was enjoying himself. We shared 10 minutes together while the other 2 traded football cards. The house was calm! As any parent will admit, the mornings can be frantic, especially when trying to get two parents out to work and a horde of kids out to school on time! Ok, my house isn’t ready for a spontaneous photo shoot, but it is peaceful…for today anyhow. So, dear visitor, if you decide to call by today unannounced, please know you are welcome. You may need to move things to find a seat, or rinse a cup to have a coffee. Hopefully though you will experience something more than a show-home. Hopefully you will witness a family endeavouring to live richly, to give time to the things that really count.
I know after I finish this post that I need to do a few chores, but in taking the time to write I have found my place of contentment. I have used my time this morning doing something that brings me joy and a sense of purpose. Even if no-one ever reads this blog post, it has been time spent well in my opinion. I can feel the smile on my face and the warmth in my heart as my words remind me to fix my eyes on the things that are truly important. I am happy! Cleaning the loo never makes me feel like that! Of course, I will clean the bathroom at some point today, I wish to serve my family well, but it’s all about timing! I want to do my jobs with a happy heart not a begrudging one! How many times I have scrubbed the shower feeling cross that I was wasting my time, and no-one would notice anyhow! I don’t want that attitude to consume me, it’s horrible!
As 2016 edges ever nearer to its end I am grateful for the lesson in ‘TIME’. I don’t want to waste it, to regret someday the days and years thrown away on insignificant things. I want fullness of life for me, my family, my friends and everyone else. To pause, to look around, to be inspired, to be wowed, to hug, to love, to make love, to go places, see things, try new things, to grow, be challenged, to be kind, to taste, savour and enjoy every precious minute I have with the ones I hold dear.
I’m intending to look at my calendar over the next few weeks and simplify my life a little too. I’m learning that it’s sometimes ok to say no to things I don’t want to do. That it’s ok to decline offers that don’t fit in with my purposes. How often do we do things out of obligation or guilt? I reckon fairly often. But this is our precious time, we can’t get it back, let’s not squander it on things that don’t align with our core values. The things that matter to us as individuals will vary from person to person and that’s ok too – it’s all about finding your true priorities and fixing your gaze on those.
Friends, I hope that as you wave goodbye to 2016 you will find your joy. That you will identify the things on which you wish to invest your time and energy. Life is far too short to have regrets. Tomorrow might never come so let’s enjoy what matters today.