I could hear a newborn baby wailing through the front door, short bursts of noise in rapid succession. I pushed open the door without knocking and yelled out a hello, heading straight for that sweet baby.
My friend, who recently welcomed home twins girls, was bathing the other baby in the sink. She had just shuffled her four older children (yes, four older children!) upstairs to brush their teeth and settle into bed for the night.
I scooped up the crying baby and sat down on the sofa to feed her a bottle.
There’s nothing like a newborn to make you realize how fast time goes by. Her eyes locked onto mine as she lazily sucked her bottle, not a trace of her previous demeanor in her body now that she was being held and fed.
I looked around at my friend’s family room: the sofa strewn with burp cloths and swaddling blankets, the kitchen counter lined with bottles waiting to be cleaned, the pacifier hidden almost out of sight under a baby swing (because as a rule, pacifiers are never within sight when you need one).
As I think any parent would, I remembered the years when my own home was strewn with baby paraphernalia and my eyes puffy from happy exhaustion. But we’ve since donated the baby gear and retired the crib that carried our three children through babyhood.
I realized with a start that a handful of years from now, I’ll no longer find princess tiaras in the bathtub and Pokemon cards on the front porch. Our walls might not be lined with gray smudges and our morning walks to school punctuated with math facts.
Locking eyes with that baby was just the lightbulb moment I needed—to remind me not to hurry through each phase but instead to savor where we’re at.
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” — Thorton Wilder
Since that night, I’ve been thinking about other lightbulb moments that we experience—and how helpful they are in keeping us tethered to the present.
The Lightbulb Moments That Teach Us to Slow Down
Some of the seven lightbulb moments I’m sharing today are positive. Others are wakeup calls that (while not nearly as fun to experience as holding your friend’s darling baby) play the same important roll: jolting us with the realization that moving at too fast of a pace takes a hefty toll.
1. Spending time with a newborn.
Or any child in a stage that your child has outgrown.
2. Sunsets or other natural wonders.
Nature has such a powerful way of grounding us. For all the times I’ve sat and watched a sinking sun, I don’t think it’s ever failed to put my life back into perspective.
3. Tight shoulders, a kinked neck, a never-ending cold.
Isn’t it so often our bodies that alert us to the need to slow down? (Related: 6 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Stressed)
4. A short temper, especially with the people we love most.
The irony here, right?
5. A desire to withdraw into yourself.
I was recently discussing the topic of slowing down with a group of women of various ages. As we talked about our own lightbulb moments, one woman said she notices that when she’s overwhelmed with life, she avoids social interaction. If she takes her kids to the park, she keeps her eyes down and hopes no one talks to her.
When our souls feel strapped, there’s just nothing left to give.
6. Saying no to something that would normally be a clear yes.
You know that feeling when you’re asked to do something (maybe it’s volunteering in your son’s scouting program or speaking at a local women’s group) and you physically shrink because you absolutely can’t fit one more thing into your life?
I think the real lightbulb moments come when it’s something that actually aligns with your personal values and priorities—when it’s something that would normally light you up and prompt a quick and eager “YES!” from your lips.
When a no comes instead, you know some things in your life need shifted.
7. The story of another’s tragedy or loss.
How often have you read about someone losing their home in a fire or losing a close family member to a disease? Those losses strike us, helping us see how valuable time really is.
I love the 17th century poem by Robert Herrick that reads, in part:
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.”
Here’s to watching for the lightbulb moments that remind us to “tarry” while we still can.