Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

It also reminded me of how much I tend to retreat to work when things are uncomfortable.

Why sit with pain when you can keep yourself busy with work?

—  Katie Hawkins-Gaar, from “The Distraction of Work” (My Sweet Dumb Brain, August 23, 2022) (A newsletter about facing life’s ups and downs, all while being kind to yourself. Katie Hawkins-Gaar was 31 when her husband, Jamie, collapsed while running a half-marathon and died in 2017. A year-and-a-half after Jamie’s death, Katie launched her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, all about the ups and downs of grief.)

 

this is a moment to remember

The older we get, the more rapidly time seems to move. This phenomenon has been well documented by psychologists and average humans alike, but it was only a couple of years ago that we had a physical explanation for our changing perception of time. In 2019, mechanical engineering professor Adrian Bejan presented a peer-reviewed argument based on the physics of neural signal processing. Bejan hypothesized that, over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, which makes time seem to speed up as we age.

This tracks. Time feels especially slippery for me lately. Days with a toddler are simultaneously long and short. And the weeks, months, and years of pandemic life have been increasingly hard to wrap my head around. As writer Christine Speer Lejune described it, “Some memories from these pandemic years are sharply vivid; others feel as hazy as an old film reel, more like impressions of having done things than memories of actually doing them. Almost all of them are untethered from anything like chronology, just bobbing around together in a two-year-old pandemic stew.”

Time passes. Things happen. Days drag on and weeks zoom past. Before I know it, six weeks have gone by, and I’m left wondering what I did with all that time.

Thankfully, I have photos to rely on. Even if no one else sees them but me, my family, and a few random friends. My phone is full of big and small moments, captured so I don’t forget them.

The vast majority of the photos I take these days are of my daughter. I document her dutifully for a multitude of reasons: because she’s cute, because she grows so quickly, and because I know she’ll have few, if any, memories from this time.

I also take photos of her because she loves seeing them. “Pick-urs?” she asks, pointing to my phone. “Yes, we can look at pictures,” I reply.

She snuggles up in the crook of my arm as we scroll through the same old set of images. “Paint!” she shouts, seeing herself trying out watercolors for the first time. “Mama!” she says, pointing to a photo of me posing for the camera. “Beep beep!” she cheers, pushing her hand against an imaginary wheel, as she spots an image of herself in the grocery cart that’s shaped like a car.

She’s seen these photos a hundred times, and still, they bring joy.

These photos bring me joy, too. As counterintuitive as it may seem, taking photos helps me to stay in the present—signaling that this is a moment to remember. (Turns out, science backs this up.) Afterwards, looking through those photographs reminds me how beautiful everyday life can be…

Katie Hawkins-Gaar, from “I Want to Remember” (My Sweet Dumb Brain, August 16, 2022.) A newsletter about facing life’s ups and downs, all while being kind to yourself. Katie Hawkins-Gaar was 31 when her husband, Jamie, collapsed while running a half-marathon and died in 2017. A year-and-a-half after Jamie’s death, Katie launched her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, all about the ups and downs of grief.)

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