Snapshots

My pup is about to turn 2. Having adopted her when she was a mere 6 weeks old and no more than 5 pounds, it’s hard to believe. She still has the same wide-eyed curiosity, which I hope she never loses, and the same perky ears, which she still hasn’t grown into, and I expect never will. I like it that way. If I could keep her young forever, I probably would.

Have you ever reached an age, and wished you could stop the hands of time, and celebrate life as a perennial year after year, without adding any extra candles to your cake?

Like with so many of life’s significant moments, we try to remember what things were like before: before we met the person we’d settle down with, before diaper changes and school dances, before we lost someone close to us, before we landed the job we always wanted.

As we get older, it becomes harder to view events of our lives in isolation. We create categories: graduated, moved cross-country, started a new job; got married, bought a new house, had our first child; ran my first 5k, ran my first half-marathon, ran my first marathon. The early, most formative years of our life simply become summed up as “childhood”.

I encountered an article recently that found part of the reason time seems to move so much faster as we get older is because we begin grouping the separate pieces of our experience into a concrete whole. Our minds no longer distinguish a trip to the park as walking around the pond, feeding the ducks, and picnicking in the grass. For a child, each of these components can feel new and different each time. For an adult, they simply become compressed into a familiar outing.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact age at which this starts to happen. For some of us, it might be quite early; for others, not until much later. Or perhaps, if we become better at differentiating the unique parts of our experience, and welcoming how they vary from one time to the next, we can delay this feeling for some time.

I sometimes struggle to remember what it was like before I adopted Lyla. In my mind, she had already been a long time coming. Once I got her, my days were separated into “before” and “after”.

Like with so many of life’s significant moments, we try to remember what things were like before: before we met the person we’d settle down with, before diaper changes and school dances, before we lost someone close to us, before we landed the job we always wanted.

If you ask a child what he did yesterday, he might tell you about something that happened 3 weeks ago. If you ask what he’s doing this weekend, he might look at you as if you’ve asked him to solve a complex math problem. Young children have such a simplistic notion of time, with dozens of moments making up the before and after of each of their days.

They don’t define their lives by the order of its occurrences, but merely by the occurrences themselves. What upset them before naptime may be forgotten by the time they wake up, and what happens this week loses much of its significance by the time the next rolls around.

If you’re longing to remember what life was like before, focus on today. Take a mental snapshot of this moment and hold on to it for now. Before is only the present as defined by the future. So slow down, and savor it.