Time will tell: how daydreaming about the past is bringing me peace in the present


June 4, 2020

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Photo credit: @tanyashatsillo

It was snack time and our two hangry daughters pulled at my pant legs. As I stood in the kitchen, watching the rain fall on the patio pavement outside our minimalist, Kansas City apartment, I pacified their pulling with a couple of fruit and chocolate muffins. We’ve been making muffins a lot lately because of the recent quarantine. And my days have been filled with homeschooling and meal planning, and well, daydreaming. 

As I kept watching the rain, I began to think about how I was once 21 and in Paris’ Montmartre district, ducking under street vendors’ awnings to stay dry. I browse the vendors’ collections, searching for the perfect print to hang in a home someday. We pass by the Moulin Rouge, but I’m thinking of my future home. Who will be in it? A husband? Kids? Would I really have a place to hang a Parisian print someday? Time would tell.

“Mom, tell us a story,” our six-year-old pleaded. It was evening and I was in the middle of our bedtime routine. I tucked our daughters in, told them a story about a curious mermaid, and sang until they fell asleep. My husband was already asleep. Not wanting to wake him, I decided to read a bit in the hallway. My back found the wall and I slid down, settling in on the floor.

But before I could read, sitting against the wall took me back to a Barcelona airport. I’ve always been an adventurer at heart. I’m spending the night there unplanned because my flight was pushed to the following day. I’m out of money and even my emergency credit card isn’t working. I sleep upright against a lobby pillar, backpack clutched tightly on my lap. I awake to the sound of a food stand opening. My hunger is intense. A boy working there recognizes me from the night before, and moved by kindness, hands me a free baguette. I’m eating it slowly, but my thoughts are money. How will I make a living? Is graduate school in my future? Is a job I love that makes decent money possible? Time would tell.

The next morning at breakfast, I stood in our kitchen making eggs. I dropped a turmeric bottle on the black and white granite countertop. Glass shattered and the pungent smell of spice overwhelmed me.

I stared down at the yellow mess, and I’m back in Egypt at age 24. The colorful spices are piled high under roadside tents as we pass into the city of Aswan. People walk by pulling heavy carts. A boy no older than seven stands waist high in a sugar cane field. The people are poor, very poor, but they are smiling. Their demeanor despite having so little impacts me more than the stunning pyramids of Giza. I board a bus, and the person sitting next to me begins a conversation, but I’m thinking about happiness. Are possessions and money really what bring contentment? Or could a simple life bring me more happiness? Time would tell.

The days at home in quarantine were beginning to blend together. I found myself in our kitchen, again, this time on a slow Sunday morning. “I’m making avocado toast for breakfast,” I announced. “You’re such a millennial,” my husband jokes from across the coffee bar. I laughed and looked down at the toaster; my wedding ring caught my eye.

Are possessions and money really what bring contentment? Or could a simple life bring me more happiness? Time would tell.

My mind drifted to a southern Spanish beach in Torremolinos, Malaga. It’s nighttime and my boyfriend walks with me, hand in hand. The city lights encircle the surrounding hills and the Mediterranean waves beat steadily against the shore. He stops, turns toward me, and pulls out a ring. I say yes. Soon I wonder about our future. Will we get married quickly and start our life together in Spain? Will we return to the states and have a traditional wedding? Time would tell.

“Mom, let’s go outside,” my daughter said later that afternoon. I stopped what I was doing and agreed. The sun shone brightly on my face. Our two-year-old knelt down, grabbing fistfuls of sand that edged the parking lot. I stepped closer and she happily sprinkled sand onto my Keen sandals.

I’m thinking back to when I was 27 and I was hiking the Way of St. James in northern Spain— a famous bucket-list item people use for self-discovery. My Spanish friend Maria takes out her phone, and, in documentary mode, asks everyone in our group their “why” for the “Camino.” “To live lighter,” I say. “To find out how little I actually need. I’ve got nothing but the pack on my back, and I’m happy.” My thoughts soon drown out other friends’ replies. What would life look like after graduate school finished in the fall? Would my husband and I relocate for work? And what about that word “infertile” my OB recently mentioned? Would kids ever be in our future? Time would tell.

The week went on and it was after lunch and time for naps. I layed down next to our two-year-old daughter. “When will coronavirus go away, Mama?” she asks me. I’m surprised by her question. She tells me she doesn’t like it.

I look down at my growing belly. Our third baby will be here in seven weeks. My mind shifts to the future. Will my husband be able to attend the birth? What will we do with our girls with no family nearby? Will life have returned to “normal” by then? What will “normal” look like anyway?

And then I caught myself. I thought back to my recent daydreams. At every stage of my life, I’ve asked big questions about the future. I’ve wanted to fast-forward time and know the answers. This season is no different.

And then I realized something. In all of my reminiscing about the past, I found the answer for my present-day questions: trust. Everything that seemed like a daunting unknown at one point in my life — marriage, kids, career, happiness — resolved itself in it’s own time.

At every stage of my life, I’ve asked big questions about the future. I’ve wanted to fast-forward time and know the answers. This season is no different.

I’ve realized that I don’t need to have everything figured out in the present. I can enjoy the here and now, deeply, because I can trust the future will work out.

And right now I don’t need to know the particulars of how my current questions will be answered. I just need to trust that they will be. The beautiful details are, as always, secrets only time will tell.

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