Before is a dividing line in our lives. It clearly separates our lives into two very distinct sections. We talk about before kids, before we had this job, before we knew each other, before we moved, before that was said, before Dad died.
Sometimes before is better. Sometimes it is worse. Sometimes we recognize when we are stepping across the line from before into after, but often we don’t notice we’ve made the journey until we look back and see that very clear line.
This past week I had a before moment. Little Benjamin, figured out his ‘gr’ sound. He now says Grampa and Grandma and Uncle Greg. Before, we were Mamma, Mampa and Uncle Legg. Ben was thrilled with his new consonant blend. He loves to talk and he is delighted that he can communicate his thoughts and ideas. We too were thrilled when he called to share his new little skill.
But then I realized I would never hear Mamma again. Mamma was before. The line had been crossed. And as we know, once we cross the before line, there is no turning back.
I love being witness to the new life stages of little Ben. Often one just morphs into the next and I don’t even realize we’ve stepped into a new phase. All parents will recognize this. Parents are so up close to the changes, it’s hard to see them. Like one of those collage pictures made up of hundreds and thousands of miniature pictures, you can’t see the big image until you get a bit of distance from the details.
Life is like this too. We are each in the mess of the details of our lives. It is so rare we get the chance to stand back and notice how those details are creating the story of our lives. Our ‘gr’ moment was one of those. Up close it was just another thing. Seen from a step or two back, it was a milestone, never to be returned to. It was such a perfect reminder to cherish each of those special mini pictures, each utterance of Mamma.
As I’ve pondered this before concept, I recognize that before is not always what has transpired in our past. I notice when I look at that line on the ground, the before line, I am facing backward. This is the line separating the before from where we are now. There is though, also a second line. This line separates where we are now from what is before us.
This new before line is different from the other. It too is permanent. But it is not a closed chapter or completed phase. It does not signify an ending, but rather a beginning. It gives us a glimpse of what is before us. It is expansive and open-ended and full of possibility. When we step across this line, we step into a place of creation. We have the opportunity to design our next mini picture, the one we will one day stand back from and say, ‘Oh, that was before…..’
I’m going to miss my before I was Grandma, when I was Mamma. I have many, many other befores I also miss. I remind myself how lucky I am to have had so many things in my life worth missing. I know that for every before I see when I look back, when I face forward there are an equal number of befores before me.
Covid has been awful. Awful. Yet, someday it will simply be a mini picture in my collage of life. I’m remembering this as I look before me, to all the ways I can create a rich and satisfying life in the midst of the awfulness of it.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is before me?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to recognize your opportunities at before.