How I Learned To Slow Down And Wake Up to The Present

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I was reading Bing to my son the other night, when I asked him, “How come you still love the books but don’t watch it anymore?” 

He replied, “I’m too old for Bing now, mummy, I like to play my games more now.” 

I was shocked, but it wasn’t the first time he’d told me he’d outgrown something. Apparently, he’s also too old now for his Paw Patrol wallpaper and wants Spider-Man, instead. 

Why am I telling you this?

Because time is precious, and it passes by faster than a falling raindrop. 

Despite that fact, many of us fritter that time away behind phone screens, behind ‘busyness’ and working to accumulate bigger, better stuff. All the while, our children grow up under our noses, our friends and family age or move away, people pass away. But it happens so subtly that we don’t see these things until they’re suddenly upon us. 

I was chatting to a colleague the other day, and they said “At the end of the day, once you’ve retired, you’re just another person.” That stood out to me because so many people base their lives on having a particular status, or working all hours to afford stuff that bring them more status. 

Some people work so many hours, or place so much emphasis on acquiring more stuff and staying busy, that they’re shell-shocked when they finally stop and see the changes in their reality. Some even forget to look after their health in the process. 

Like with my son growing up in a few blinks, it’s the same with other milestones in life. They’re here before you know it. And if you’re not mindful of how you spend your time, you’ll look back wondering just where the hell it all went, like you’ve passed by on an out-of-control rocket. 

Photo by Kyle Myburgh on Unsplash

One of the most prominent incidents in my life that have shown me the importance of time was when I visited my uncle in the hospital. 

He was a popular and well-loved man, always laughing and making others laugh until their faces and sides hurt. We were close, but then the day came when he was an old man and ended up ill in the hospital. Even then, he was laughing and joking around. The nurses loved him. 

While I was visiting, I did talk to him and laugh at his jokes – but it felt forced because I wasn’t fully present. At the time, I was going through a terrible drama in my young adult life, my mind kept drifting, and I was texting on my phone every few seconds, trying to sort it all out. 

I didn’t see his time on Earth flickering like a dying candle. I didn’t see that our time together was shortening to a stub. 

Some naive, childish part of me thought he would be around forever because, to me, he was invincible. Nothing seemed to get him down. 

The next time me and my family visited him he was in an old people’s home. He was upset from losing his independence and it was the first time I’d ever saw him cry. 

My uncle with the spirit of an excitable child, who was the embodiment of joy itself, was having to come to terms with how frail he now was, while I stood there surveying the surroundings, feeling dumbstruck and helpless. 

I never got a word in during that visit. And that was the last time I saw him before he passed away.

That’s when I got my first taste of how precious time really is, and of how important it is to give people your all when you visit them. Show them how important they are and make memories because you never know how much time is left. 

Although I grieved for a long time, what tore me apart the most wasn’t his death itself, but the immense guilt from not being fully present with him in the hospital room that day; the last time we would laugh together.

When I got the news of his passing, suddenly, the life issues I’d had while I was visiting him seemed as important as whether or not I was out of teabags.  I would have thrown my phone into a pit of fire and never owned one again if it meant I could relive that day how I should have done. 

The thing is, you can’t change how you’ve spent your time and you can’t get a refund on it like with an impulse purchase. So don’t waste time worrying about how you’ve used it in the past. Instead, be mindful of how you spend it from this moment forth. 

The sad thing is, that all too often it takes a sad or shocking event, or a big slap in the face from the universe to wake us up to what’s in front of us. 

So, if you’re one of those people on that rocket,  just remember you can get off and walk at any time. You can stop and see the sights. 

My husband enjoying a beautiful sunset

Do it now. Enjoy the time you have. Do something you love. Share it with the people you care about before it’s too late. 

Time can’t ever be beaten, but it can be savoured and enjoyed.


Creation Over Accumulation

Once you make significant headway as a minimalist, you start to value having meaningful experiences over more stuff. As your mindset changes, creating memories will take far higher value than fixating on the latest styles or gadgets.

Think about it: do you remember everything you unwrapped several celebrations ago? Or do you remember who you spent it with? Do you remember what you purchased on that big shopping spree? Or do you remember the shared laughter of the people you were with at the time?

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Yesterday, I went on a school trip with my four-year-old son to a theme park for young children and families. He was so excited to be on a bus and see all the landmarks on the way. He was delighted to see his friends who had also come along on the trip, and he couldn’t wait to try out all the rides. But something stood out to me on this trip that will always stick in my mind. 

My son loves his toys and is frequently spoilt by the people close to him. Thinking he might want to check out the gift shop before we left, I told him about it. His reply was “But I don’t want to go to the gift shop, mummy, I want to go back on the rides!”. 

He was having such a good time, just me and him, spending time together and going on the rides, that buying a new, shiny souvenir didn’t matter at all to him. He just wanted to make the most of the time we had. And for that I was proud of him and wasted not another moment. 

My son smiled for far longer on that trip than any new plastic sword would have made him. What was even more memorable was when he gave me a big hug and said “I love you, mummy”. I didn’t need to buy him another toy to make him happy, and he was still talking about his day right up until he went to bed.

Photo by Natalya Zaritskaya on Unsplash

On a similar note, I don’t remember all the stuff my parents bought me over the years, and I was a spoilt child who always wanted more. What I do remember are family walks down by the canal, picking blackberries with my dad, having my crazy nan and uncle over on Christmas, playing board games with my parents, and playing video games with my mum. 

All of those memories involve interactions and experiences with others because spending time with the people you care about is far more valuable than what’s on a store shelf or in your bank. Sometimes, we don’t even realise how significant a moment or day was until months or even years later. 

Experiences will benefit anything and anybody in your life. Yourself, your family, your friends, your pets. The best thing is, you don’t even have to spend money if you don’t want.

 A beautiful walk seeing new sights can be just a memorable as a day out to a place you have to pay to visit.  A game in the garden with your child will stick in their minds far more than a new gadget. A visit to a family member you don’t see very often would cause a bigger smile than an object sent through the post. 

The next time you’re considering a gift for somebody or treating yourself, consider the gift of your time, for there is nothing more precious.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Time over money. Experience over expenditure. Memories over stuff.