Can We Cool It With the Countdowns?

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We’re all guilty of it. Well, most of us are, anyway. We use apps, calendars and clocks to help us keep track of how much time must pass until we finally reach the next best thing. Our watches tick away the minutes until the end of the work day; we check our phones to see how many hours are left until we can put the kids to bed and binge on the newest series on Netflix. We reassure our coworkers, “It’s hump-day, we’re halfway there!” in anticipation of the weekend. We cross off days on our monthly planners, itching for the next long weekend or holiday. We check apps on our devices to remind us of how many months until our baby is born or until our next vacation arrives. We make 5 year plans for when we will finally reach our personal and financial goals. We are so focused on what’s to come that we forget to take notice of what’s right in front of us.

I hate thinking about the passage of time. Songs like 7 Years, Books like Love You Forever and movies like About Time cause me to openly weep. They are short, to-the-point reminders that life goes by quickly and we need to make what we can of each passing moment. As I listen, read, and watch, it seems so obvious to me, but before I know it, I’m back to my old habits, wishing time away in the pursuit of something more exciting.

I was thinking about this today, when I was feeling tired after waking up constantly last night due to what looks like the beginning of a cold. I got off work early, which is always wonderful, but I found myself wondering what on earth I was going to do to entertain Beckett for the next 4 hours while I was feeling so gross. I thought a little longingly about curling up on the couch and turning on Paw Patrol in attempt to split the childcare duties and prevent him from running around the basement like a crazy person, but eventually decided against it. Instead, we went for a walk. I watched him practice pushing around on his skateboard and, upon returning home, smashing our TV remote onto the floor. I laughed as I took a video of him with a face completely covered in blueberries and later cringed/tried not to vomit as I cleaned up poop out of the bathtub and off of my bare foot after inadvertently stepping on a piece while frantically trying to evacuate Beckett from the tub.

Was every moment of my evening awesome? No. Definitely not. Would I much rather be eating popcorn and writing a long overdue blog post than scraping a turd off of the bottom of my foot? You bet. But does that mean that those four hours could have been better spent? I don’t think that it does.

There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to a moment to yourself or eagerly anticipating a well-deserved vacation. There’s actually a study that shows that the simple act of planning a trip can increase a person’s overall happiness for up to eight weeks. But what happens after the vacation is over is maybe not surprising. For someone who has totally experienced the Post-Vacation Blues, the return to the routines and responsibilities of home can feel a bit depressing. Many of the websites that I checked out on this topic suggested that one of the “cures” for this ailment was to get to work booking your next trip. It seems like this is the case with many of the things we create countdowns for.

Long weekends are lovely, but pass by quickly. What’s the remedy for the disappointment of returning to work after a wonderful weekend away? Find something new to count down to!  Still tired after staying up too late last night when you swore that you were going to call it in early? Keep checking your watch until bedtime rolls around and try again! Winter getting you down? Don’t worry, there’s only 3 more months till summer (10 if you live in Canada)! Already spent your paycheque 14 minutes after it was deposited into your bank account? Start planning for next month! Having a bad day because you spilled your coffee/forgot your lunch/ripped your pants/smashed your phone again/lost your wallet? Surely there is nothing to be salvaged – start wishing for tomorrow!

I do it all the time. Maybe you do too.

I forget to see the beauty in the moment right in front of me. I convince myself that I have so much time that it’s okay to wish it away. I close my eyes to dream about the future and when I open them back up, my son has gone from being a newborn to a little boy. I couldn’t wait until he would start sleeping through the night. I dreamed of the day he would crawl, and then walk, and then run. All of these milestones are amazing and exciting and wonderful, but once he’s reached them, there’s no turning back. I’m trying to focus more on what he’s doing now than what he’ll do someday.

I mentioned the film, About Time earlier. It’s such a beautiful movie, and if you haven’t seen it before, I highly recommend it. Without giving too much away, the plot is about a man who discovers that he has the ability to go back to any point on the timeline of his life to live it over again. As in most movies about time travel, he learns that there are implications on his future self from changing things that he has done in the past, but eventually he comes to learn the best way to use this gift. He lives each day, the first time around, as many of us do – caught up in the ups and downs of life, unable to pause to be thankful and enjoy it fully. When the day is done, he goes back and lives it again, this time stopping to acknowledge all of the things he missed the first time around. Eventually, he stops going back the second time, instead, endeavouring to always live life intentionally and thankfully – making the second trip back unnecessary.

Wouldn’t it be so amazing to live life this way? Looking forward to what’s coming, but also stopping to really be deliberate about the way we live each day we’re given? It’s something I need to work on and will have to continue striving for constantly, but it’s something to look forward to. I’ll try not to start a countdown for it.

xox k

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