“Life, if well lived, is long enough.” – Seneca
They say time heals all. If you are hurting right now, just give it time. If you are lost or confused or unsure of what to do, the answer will become clear, with time. If you are struggling to forgive someone who hurt you, allow time to pass, because time is the great healer. If you are stressed, or anxious, or paralyzed by fear, hang in there. In time, those feelings will fade. These are all things I’ve heard or been told or have even said myself. But the truth is, for me, none of this actually rings true because what I’ve come to realize is that time is quite possibly my biggest enemy.
When we were younger, all we had was time. We had our entire lives ahead of us; time to live and time to learn, time to make mistakes, and time to rectify our actions. We had time to break and we had time to heal. We had time for love and we had time for loss. We didn’t question the certainty that the promise of time falsely held. We just accepted the illusion that time was a guarantee. And then, one day, my myth of time became just that- a myth. Because that was the day I realized that none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. And that realization introduced me to the paralyzing fear I still carry with me every single moment of every single day.
It wasn’t my first cancer diagnosis that shattered my shinny time illusion. It actually wasn’t my second either. It wasn’t until my third diagnosis that I felt the fear take root in every cell of my broken body. Because, that third diagnosis, I was a mom. I had two children needing me, counting on me, depending on me. And, for the first time ever, I not only wanted to live but I needed to live. I needed to live for my children.
Every smile and first word and lost tooth brought with it a sense of fear. “What if this is the last time I will get to see them smile or hear them laugh? What if this is the last tooth I will hold in my hand or the last step I will see them take?” I felt the joy of being with my babies was being taken from me by time. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop the clock. It just kept ticking. My babies continued to grow and change and with each candle blown out, I felt the loss of one less year I’d be able to spend alive, with them.
See, for me, the biggest challenge on the other side of My Cancer is that loss of innocence that I am okay. The day seventeen years ago when I thought I was okay was the day I was diagnosed with an incurable stage 4 cancer. So, clearly, I was not. Today, I think I’m okay. But, what if I’m not? And what if tomorrow reveals an ugly truth I’m not yet ready to reveal?
All these fears I have surrounding anything outside of this moment are valid and real and big. So, my question has become, how do I reconcile the fear I have attached so firmly to the passing of time? How can I make peace with this unstoppable element and accept its continual ticking? And, my answer to this would be, I have absolutely no idea.
In a few short days, this school year will be coming to a close and I’m starting to recognize the familiar feeling of the sadness I feel with each final school day. On one hand, we did it. We made it. I was here, alive, with my kids, for one more year of their lives. But, on the other hand, that’s one year closer to the end. With any endings, I feel I get stuck in what I’ve lost because I still don’t trust the promise of a new beginning.
It’s kinda a morbid way to think, right? I promise, these are not my intended thoughts, but more of my default. My loss of innocence is constantly mourning the loss of time. But the truth is, none of us know when our time will be up, so the real question becomes, what are we going to do with our lives while we are still on the clock? Because, one thing I do know is that when I do draw my last breath, I want to be able to say I lived it well.
My kids no longer have baby teeth to lose and place in my hand and their shaky first steps have turned into running races and athletic events. And as the number of candles on their birthday cakes grow each year, so does my fear. Because with each candle added, it’s one more year taken away from my borrowed time.
So, no. I do not believe time heals all. I don’t think every relationship can be repaired and I don’t subscribe to the idea that all broken hearts are able to be mended. Sometimes, we have to carry the lasting pain with us, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be used to serve us well. Maybe that pain helps us make better choices in the future, and maybe it is those choices that ultimately lead us to the life well-lived.
What I do believe, however, is that time is uncertain but, while we have it, it’s ours to hold. For many years, I’ve been guilty of holding time as if it were a fragile snowflake but now, I think I’m realizing that loosening my grip won’t mean my time will fly away. It’s actually quite the opposite. By allowing myself to fall into the fear of the unknown, I’ll be opening myself up to the joy that can be found in the moment.
Because, what I have learned to be absolutely true, is that life isn’t about unforgettable, monumental occasions or never-forgotten, significant milestones. Life is the collection of little, ordinary, everyday, completely forgettable moments that add up to create a life that is more than enough.
So, I think it’s time. It’s time to start enjoying the time we’ve got. It’s time to enjoy ourselves and make the most of the ordinary moments. It’s time to start living and it’s time to stop fearing.
And, above all else, it’s time to know that, if we do it right, at the end of the day, whatever time we were given was the exact amount of time we were needing to live our best lives and to also be present in the lives of those whom we love the most.
For the first time, I think I might be ready to look for that peace that exists amid the ticking hand.
It’s definitely time. And that time is now.
And that now, well, that now just might be worth the maybe that comes with our later.
In love and hope,