Time Flies Whether You are Having Fun or Not

The thing about time is that it just keeps moving. It doesn’t pause for anyone to get caught up, make their way or catch their breath. Every once in a while we stop long enough to do the math, count the days, sing Happy Birthday, note the month, marvel at years that have gone by — but even as we do it, time flies flies right by with no regard to your particular goals or agendas.

For me, today, 14 years have gone by. It’s a day where I always pause and note the passage.

The pain of losing a parent doesn’t get better. People tell you (and genuinely hope for you, I believe) that time will heal all wounds but the truth is that time is ruthless and unfeeling. And the relationship between time and pain is nowhere near linear. When it comes to healing, time actually fails quite spectacularly, in my opinion. I try and re-focus the sentiment in order to assuage my grief: Time does not heal all wounds, but it does allow you to find a comfort level with the pain. Yes, this sounds better. And in a way this is slightly more accurate, but it still doesn’t get to the root of the experience.

This week, as the date has approached and I have paused to feel that passage. I have again sought out a way for my mind to make sense of this experience. Of this loss. It’s a continuous adventure actually, trying to figure it all out, and the event itself is a tiny scratch on the camera lens through which I view every single day of my life. This year it feels very present.

We are trying to plan a wedding. We are taking steps towards having a baby. There is no way to get through these types of moments without being acutely aware that my father is gone and will not be a part of any of it. They are happy and momentous occasions, and to go through them without focusing on what is missing will take discipline, because no matter how you dress it all up, there will be an empty space where he should be.

But emptiness is not the only experience. I mentioned discipline, and the thing about this entire situation — this event that has shaped who I am in how I live — is that I am no stranger to discipline as a coping mechanism. In the past few years I have felt more motivated than ever to get my health in check. People ask me all the time how I stay so disciplined and I always struggle with how to answer. I hear on a regular basis, “How do you do what you do?” “I don’t have that kind of time or energy.” “I can’t be so extreme, but I appreciate that you are so focused.” And I totally get all of that. I wish I could tell you my discipline comes from a pill or a beverage or an inspirational quote pinned on a pinboard near you. But the truth is my discipline comes from a place of self-preservation.

What motivates me to get out of bed in the morning, or to get into the gym, or to eat strictly for 30 days like a crazy person is that one morning I woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast and watched my father collapse on our living room floor. I watched his lips turn blue and his face get puffy and the life slip right out of him in a matter of seconds. It happened in an instant, and from that day forward he was gone. No trace of our times spent together except for what has lived on in my memory. On that day he became a story. He became past tense. He became a bookended period of time.

Things change faster than your brain can process it, and this event for me that has left, among other things, an indelible drive to take advantage of my own life. A drive to make sure I do all that I can to make sure the hole I leave in the lives of my friends and family as small as possible. I am motivated and I am disciplined because it helps me compartmentalize my pain. It helps the world around me make sense. And it is not something that I would want to advise another person on. I am not trying to win at life, or prove that I’m the best or be an inspiration. I am just a girl who is trying to make sense of it all, and more importantly trying to make the most of her time.

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22 Responses to Time Flies Whether You are Having Fun or Not

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This was beautiful Holly, even though I know it comes from a place of such sadness and loss. I will be thinking of you and your dad and your family all day.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Holly I have so much appreciation for what you write and respect for what you do. Wishing you peace.

  3. Ellen says:

    Oh Holly. What a great piece of writing this is ona terribly sad subject. Maybe your dad won’t be there for weddings, and grandchildren and parties, but you can just imagine how proud and amazed he would be with you. Think of it, how effing strong and well adapted and funny and talented and dedicated you are. Why, he’d be bursting at the seams with pride.

  4. LizScott says:

    Oh, Holly. Yes, this.

    I almost died when I was 21, and I spent a large part of my mid 20s too sick to do much of anything physical. “How do you make so much time for cooking and working out?” I hear. Well, it’s easy. I almost didn’t have that time at all.

    • Mariah B says:

      What a jam-packed comment… I don’t have the words to express how much I respect you!

      PS. Is it weird that I’m replying to a comment, and it’s not my blog? 😉

  5. Jennie says:

    This post was so powerful and beautiful, and I’m thinking of you through all this.

    Liz’s comment, too, was powerful.

    Thank you both.

  6. sizzle says:

    I wish neither of us knew this kind of pain or living with grief. I can relate to what you write.

    “I am just a girl who is trying to make sense of it all, and more importantly trying to make the most of her time.” Me too, my friend. xoxo

  7. K says:

    Grief is powerful in so many ways, but perhaps not as much as how it changes the people who have to heal through it.

    My heart is heavy for you.

  8. Mariah B says:

    Holly, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes feeling your pain. This is so beautifully written. You have such an eloquent way of sharing your life’s highs and lows, happiness and sorrow.

    It seems to me the people that I respect the most, the ones that I am drawn to, and those who have an inner core of strength… are the people who have fought some of the toughest battles. And they have come out alive. Maybe barely hanging on, but they get through.

    I appreciate you being able to write about this. Not a parent, so I cannot imagine the pain intensified even more, but I lost my 25-year brother to heart disease and a series of heart attacks. I seem to keep those things closest to my heart private, as if talking and sharing will make the pain re-surface.

    Because of that, I have yet to write a decent blog post, if nothing else, for my own memories’ sake. I was able to write a little something on his birthday earlier this June (http://jmbaseman.blogspot.com/2012/06/today-06162012.html), but it was misinterpreted by a few of my readers. (As in, NO, I do NOT believe in “everything in moderation” and I don’t eat weird food, I eat real food. Sigh.)

    Those landmines you spoke about in the earlier post… Sometimes they are downright nasty. It has only been 1.5 years since we lost him. Even though the memories have started fading and the landmines seem fewer and farther between, they’re still there.

    And losing my brother was what made me realize I was headed down the same path: overweight, eating crap food, despised physical activity in all forms, etc. I lost 50 pounds that first 13-months of training, and I too, wished I could just be dedicated, a step down from “obsessed,” as many people around me called it. I like how you worded that about discipline compartmentalizing your pain, helping the world around you make sense.

    When you realize how little time a person really has here on earth, you strive to make it last as long as possible!

    14-years. Wow. Hugs to you, Holly. I love that you have allowed the loss and suffering in your life to make you a fighter, more grounded, and deeper. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Oh, Holly. I just read your original post and this new one. I’m sorry you lost your dad far too soon. Thank you for being gutsy and open in sharing your story.

    I can’t wait to see you in person so I can hug you as hard as I want to hug you right now.

    This is beautiful writing, and you are one of a kind. I’m fortunate to have found you.

  10. Cami Sebern says:

    I have to second Melissa’s desire to hug you hard. When you get to Colorado, we can offer love to your dad on a birds wing and an elks voice. You are so good at reaching to the heart of any subject and that speaks volumes about your heart!

  11. A'Dell says:

    I’m not sure what to say, except this is a gorgeous piece of writing that moved me to tears all three times I read it today. You are just one of those people I am convinced will (and is) changing many around you for the better.


  12. Amelia says:

    Thank you for sharing this post. It brought me to tears and I also wish I could reach through and give you a big hug. Your words are powerful and never fail to touch me in some way, whether I’m laughing or crying.

  13. Jill says:

    Holly, this was beautiful and I will be thinking about you today. I lost my mom 6 years ago, so I relate very much to your posts about your dad. You write beautifully about your experience and your grief and I often think, “exactly!” when I read your posts, so thank you. It’s a gift I wish you didn’t have to have, but a gift nonetheless.

  14. Liz says:

    I love this. You articulate the loss of a parent so well, better than I think I’ve seen before. I lost my dad less than a year ago and even at 31 I felt like that was way too young, so I can’t imagine 19. I’ve yet to be able to express how the loss feels and the idea of not having my dad around for marriage, kids, etc. (hopefully), so your words honestly made me feel comforted for once.

    Thanks for sharing such personal thoughts…they truly made me feel better.

    Your dedication to health is super inspiring and I’m so glad I stumbled onto your blog!

  15. Amy says:

    I keep reading this because I don’t know what to say, other than this is beautiful and I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this loss. Thinking about you today.

  16. Mackenzie says:

    My father passed away in front of my brother this past Memorial day. I’m 23 and my brother is 29. It’s an incredibly awful experience & I’ve found that the confusion and sadness that follow come in waves. It’s difficult because you never know when it’s going to hit. Thank you for sharing & I’ve always hated the saying, “Time heals all.” It puts too much pressure on the barer of pain because it’s an unfair expectation. Heal on your own terms.

  17. Christy says:

    As a parent who faced the very real possibility of leaving this earth before my daughter I can’t begin to explain the complexities of how much a parent loves a child and how your posts about your dad affect me. I’m proud to call you a friend.

  18. Kathryn says:

    I have lost a parent too. And, I agree, the pain doesn’t go away or get “better”. It just gets different. Thinking of you. Be gentle with yourself today.

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  20. it would be so easy to just collapse and yet your strength shines through. i totally admire your discipline.

    hugs to you.

  21. Jesabes says:

    It seems to me you get stronger every year. (While I just cry harder at what you write every year!)