Today I went to a synagogue I used to frequent when I was religious, excited to celebrated my friend’s son’s bar mitzvah. I hadn’t been there in years, and so it was wonderful to say hello and give warm hugs to lovely people I used to call friends.
I know my children are growing older. It seems like yesterday that they were babies and now I see tall people with their own minds standing before me, their own goals and desires and senses of humor, social lives and friends that exist in the world far beyond me.
So I know intellectually time is passing. But it feels like I am still 25.
And yet, when you go back to a place you haven’t been in a while, those familiar faces seem etched with the lines of time. Some people I see in the neighborhood, so we all look the same to each other. But others…much heavier or much thinner, more wrinkles, more gray.
Telling me, time is passing and there is nothing we can do to stop it.
There are really only two perspectives on the matter, of course: accept it as the process of life and embrace aging as our due, or fight it and lament it.
When my father and I have our weekly lunches, he looks the same to me. But when I stand back and remember how he looked at his 40th birthday party, when I was 7, I see how time has passed, how he has changed, how we’ve all changed.
No judgment there, just a noticing. And today I saw it.
What does it mean? Does it have to mean anything?
Because really it doesn’t.
It’s just a reckoning that we get one chance at this life and we’d better make the most of it. One pass-through in this incarnation, this lifetime, these circumstances, this geography.
Who knows what the next time round will be, or if it will, and so today, we have to realize that it is the very best we’re gonna get, and cherish that little prize called life.
I ran into a dear friend whose children are younger than mine. She’s tired by the very hands-on nature of raising young children.
I no longer feel that physical pull because my children bathe and clothe themselves. They stay up later than I do. But they need more emotional support, more presence. It’s a different kind of tired.
My friend needed a break, she said. She needed to not be constantly needed. And I found myself reassuring her but also cautioning that, before we know it, these kids will be grown and flown the coop and living on their own and we’ll miss those very tiring days of holding crying babies and cleaning up play-doh.
There are songs and poems, rants and raves, about time passing. It happens whether we mark it or not, and a bar mitzvah is as good an occasion as any to stop time and notice how wonderful it is to grow older.
Our religions and communities give us these opportunities built right in. But we can make our own, too.
A friend mentioned to me that a bar mitzvah should be a big deal; it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, he said.
And he’s right. We only get to be right here, like this, in this moment, once. One singular time. That’s all. Blink and it’s gone.
So let’s stop and notice, celebrate the little things, and be glad we’re given the chances we have. Otherwise, what’s it all for, anyway?