When Time Stands Still
By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
Take pleasure in the small wonders while you can.
When my oldest son was accepted early decision to college in December, my first thought (after pure exhilaration and relief) was that I wished time would stand still. Friends told me time and time again that life flies by in the blink of an eye as your kids reach high school, and they were right. It feels like the last four years happened in a fraction of the time – partially because I always seemed to be looking ahead for the next hurdle.
Whether it was the unchartered waters of SAT exams, summer jobs, the first driver’s license, or college visits, each time my son checked off one of the boxes, it wouldn’t be long before I started focusing on the next one. I have always been a planner, so instead of relishing each accomplishment and staying in the present, I would inevitably start looking forward. “I’ll be better prepared for what comes next,” I would mutter to myself, knowing deep down that I had very little control over any of these milestones or how they would eventually play out.
And then, just like that, time came to a screeching halt. Enter the era of the novel corona virus, where hours feel like days, days feel like weeks, and my sweatpants are working overtime. It seems as though we are living in some kind of an eerie, twisted time warp. The movie “Groundhog Day” takes on a whole new meaning in 2020. Clearly, the universe is trying to send us a not so subtle message — slow down, live in the present, and stop rushing to look ahead for what comes next. Easier said than done for a planner like me. But hang on, I say — we were supposed to go to Colgate for Accepted Students Day over April break, my younger son is supposed to get his driver’s permit in May, I’m supposed to go to my (insert large number here) college reunion, and my first-born is supposed to graduate from Rye High in the same stadium I did all those years ago.
What do we do now?
The answer, I think, is to try and live in the moment and take pleasure in the smallest details of our daily lives. These drawn-out, monotonous days that seem to last forever are filled with little wonders that might otherwise go unnoticed: A walk past glistening Long Island Sound with my chocolate lab in tow, a virtual yoga class with the sun streaming in, reflecting tiny rainbows on my living room rug, hearing my teen-aged boys cackle with laughter downstairs, knowing I don’t need to be in on the joke to share in their lightened mood.
Living in the moment when time stands still is not always easy or pretty, but I think it can still be achieved if we stop worrying about how things were supposed to be and try to enjoy the here and now. One minute, my family and I are at each other’s throats and feeling the walls closing in, the next minute we are having a fascinating discussion at the dinner table about major pandemics throughout history, gory details included (not necessarily the ideal topic to discuss while eating – but beggars can’t be choosers). Before this all started, family dinners lasting more than five minutes came once a week, if we were lucky. Now, with our lives in a strange holding pattern, we’ve got nothing but time on our hands.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the harried, frenetic pace I was trying to maintain, and I find myself humming the lyrics to an old Simon and Garfunkel favorite: “Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last, just kicking down the cobblestones, looking for fun and feeling groovy”.
I’m trying my best to take advantage of this crazy time warp we are living in (some days I’m more successful than others) and relish in stolen family time before our nest as we have known it for 18 years gets a bit smaller. After all, with the exception of the pandemic part, isn’t this exactly what I wished for?