Although I wax poetic about the years of raising my children, I often think about what it would be like now, having them home in the midst of this pandemic and how challenging it would be to be the source of their primary caretaker without the support and distraction of school and sports. I can’t really imagine it. Honestly more often than not, even with school and activities, I remember well the chaos and constant string of unmet needs that often overwhelmed me. Back then I made myself practice what I came to call the “last time” exercise which would almost without fail shake me up so completely that I was able to see my kids, my husband, and my life for the true amazing miracle it was.
To be fair, it is close to impossible to live in the state of pure presence that this “last time” exercise invokes. Often we only come to the depth of this kind of pure love and connection at moments of deep loss and loneliness, the times when we know that our emotions are not thoughts in our head, but rather physical forces that fill our bodies and alter our senses. This explains how falling in or out of love is an entirely visceral, full-body experience that impacts how we feel everything as well as impacting our ability to eat, sleep, and think.
I remember well, and still now with some regret, how easy it was for me to get lost in the daily grind of getting through the day, and completely lose sight of the fragility and brevity of love in our lives. The cliché of parenting that “days last forever as the years fly by” reflects how time is altered in the mirroring love of making love work in a marriage partnership and most certainly with our children.
At the moments when I would entirely lose sight of how precious my children were to me (which happened more than I would care to admit), I would take up my “last time” exercise. As I would watch them walk away from me at their elementary door or now as I part from them anywhere I let myself deeply feel the brief but intense pain of what life would be if I was never to see them again, walking away or toward me. It always brought me to tears.
I used to think of this “last time” practice as a preparation for the moment when it will be true. On a certain level we know that we will eventually lose those we love and that grief is the reward for a life well loved. But we resist this experience as though imagining it will make it so. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know that coming face-to-face with all we have to lose awakens our gratitude for the moments we are in like nothing else.
I wish I could say that all of this practicing helped me when I did lose my son two years ago. In fact, there is no way that we can imagine the heartbreak of losing one we cannot imagine life without. And yet, life is demanding this of us in 2020, with pandemics and rogue politics that make the world seem increasingly unfamiliar and unsafe.
I still speak out loud to my boy, trying to imagine how I could have let him get so far away. Thinking back to the many times when I danced around that loss in his early years helps me to remember too how profoundly grateful I was for the time we had together.
So, the next time it is all too much – before you utter an angry word or slam a door – imagine that it could be gone. It will awaken your better self and show you how much more love there is inside of you. Love is the only lesson we came to Earth to master. Everything else is just what we get to do every day. Holding the challenge of what is entirely lovable with what is entirely annoying about those we love together is how we grow up in love.
View my latest video on IGTV below related to this topic.