Thursday, April 26, 2012

(7) Time

My son and his request
frog mask for future
greetings of "em ehh!"
In one of those strange out of body experiences, I found myself standing awestruck the other day while playing with my son.  His cherubic face peering out from under my old yellow ball cap and a heartfelt squeal of unadulterated glee was erupting from his little frame at the sight of a slimy frog.  Of course the frog didn't share the same sentiment about my son and promptly sought toddler-free swimming elsewhere, but the situation caught my breath and in that instant I wished to dissolve into the simplicity of the moment. 

Since that day, I've been thinking a lot about time in a physical sense and how fleeting snapshots of joyful existence and individual manifestations of heaven on earth evaporate far too easily into the grey drudgery of the “everyday.”  Amid the stresses of toddler tantrums, seemingly perpetual doctor appointments, ambitious running goals and extended family tension, it is hard to conceptually recognize the passing of time as more than accomplishments and to do lists.  I find I rarely live my day to day life in measurements of Kairos time and, as a result, I am irrationally shocked to find years of Chronos time have slipped past in a matter of what feels like a few months… my son is somehow two years old instead of new born, my marriage is comfortably aging rather than still honeymooning and the umbilical cord of my childhood identity is long since cut away leaving woman – not child – permanently in its place. 

Weird, when did that happen?

Anecdotally, I remember a road trip my husband, Mother and I did at one point several years ago from New Mexico to Colorado.  It was not a particularly memorable trip and honestly I couldn’t even guess what year this happened let alone why we were driving in the first place, but just south of Raton Pass something unexpected happened that will forever lock that specific ride in my memory.  With relatively little warning, the bright desert morning randomly disappeared from sight as the vehicle descended into a valley and was completely enveloped into dense fog.  The car slowed and we inched along as if the world literally stopped and nothing existed beyond the frame of the vehicle.  We could no more see the road ahead of us as we could predict the future or relive the past and for those short minutes we were 100% in the moment.  Of course we ascended out of the valley and the world came back into focus again, but I have to wonder how much sight was lost in the fog and how much perspective was really gained coming out of it?

I am all too aware that someday I will wake up and my life will no longer be laid out before me as I-25 had been prior to the fog and that I’ll have fewer miles to look forward to ahead of me than I have to reflect upon in the rear view mirror.  Truthfully, that part doesn’t scare me.  What scares me is the realization that it is far too easy to sleep walk through existence and miss out on the special Kairos moments of life by purely failing to recognize them as such. 

Months ago my husband told me of an article he’d read about a study that explains why time seemingly speeds up for adults after the conclusion of childhood.  You know what I mean, how the school year never ended in fifth grade, but now the past three Thanksgivings are interchangeable in memory and more or less a few weeks apart?  Apparently, the study says that this is because children have more to look forward to in life that is new and enjoyably unfamiliar than adults.  As young children, we more enthusiastically appreciate things like going to school for the first time, the transition to double digit ages, experiencing a first kiss and many more Kairos events than we do later in life.  Unfortunately this makes sense since as adults we generally dread adding another candle to our birthday cakes, find holidays more of a chore than a celebration and - with the exception of momentous occasions like our own weddings and the birth of our own children - years seemingly run together like repeat sentences missing appropriately placed comas and periods.

My take away from that study is that if adults find ways to break away from their routine just often enough to experience new pleasures and those individual manifestations of heaven on earth I mentioned earlier, time may slow down just long enough to catch a breath taking moment worth holding on to.   I used to think that the only novelty remaining in my life came at the end of a long plane ride to some exotic destination where my anonymity and inimitability allowed for expatriate identification outside of myself.  But as the last time I left the United States was four years ago (yet again, shocking), I’ve come to realization that my life in isolation is made of endless Chronos time… however, when the lives of my husband and son are mixed in, my existence becomes fresh and each day is unlike the last because we each have an opportunity to imprint the other’s lives in ways we wouldn’t on our own.

At the end of the day, when I lay down at night I find myself thanking my lucky stars for the chance to learn from my son and the frog. It made me realize that the more memorable moments we create for one another, rather than for ourselves, the more unexpectedly joyful existence becomes.  Such Kairos experiences are sweet reminders that quality of life, not quantity of years is what ultimately matters.  

In honor of Benjamin Breedlove and in loving memory of Benton Brubaker.

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully stated, Jaime. Just got home from a weekend competition with my chorus. Before we left, I was dreading having to take the time away to go, but I realized afterward that this break from Chronos was exactly what I needed. What you said rings so very true!
    -Beej :)