“You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”
– Charles Buxton
It’s almost mid-May. Once again, I find myself wondering where this year has gone. Wasn’t it just yesterday I was lugging Christmas totes downstairs to be stored in anticipation of next Christmas? And yet, here we are – in the midst of Kansas spring rains.
When we were children, we had no true concept of time – marking our calendars by the days until the end of school or the days leading to Christmas or our birthdays. I recall daily time being gauged by the ringing of the school bell and the sound of Cudahy meat packing plant’s whistle announcing my father was on his way home. On weekends the sound of the church bells before Saturday evening mass reminded me the weekend was half over. Summer strolled lazily behind the tinny music of the ice cream truck and those summers seemed endless.
Now, I am amazed how time rushes past. There is an old proverb, “Time and tide waits for no man.” The true essence of our days moves in and out with the tide as we scramble to pack our days to the brim with somewhat useless activities and meaningless lists of things to do. As we put off more important and meaningful endeavors – those vacations to the mountains or a visit with an old friend – time moves on.
But there are days I stop and look around and can’t help but wonder, is it us rushing past time? Heads down, briskly walking or aggressively driving to reach some destination, ignoring others around us. It seems we are only seeing that in front us which has been honed down, captured by the blinders we have inadvertently created. Sometimes I stop and watch people walk past, and I’m reminded of horses in a race, bumping against one another, urged onward by the sounds of other hooves beating the track, but never seeing those we believe we are racing against.
It’s no wonder we fall into our beds exhausted, but too unfulfilled to sleep. We are filling our days up with stuff. I am guilty of the latter. There are days, especially the weekends, where I find myself rushing around, frantically cursing the clock as I check off the “things to do” from a list I carefully created on an always-nearby legal or notepad. Those who know me, know I am an obsessive list girl. Truly, Thomas Holley is my hero. Lists keep me on track at work, help remind me of important tasks I need to accomplish by a specific date, streamline my grocery buying, and even nudge me into doing things I never seem to find the time to do (#8. Write!).
My lists also give me anxiety. Not always, but there are times when I review my list and the items unchecked cause my heart to race, keep me up at night with thoughts of what I didn’t get done, and find me creating a new and improved list mid-week. Maybe one I can better manage, one better structured and compatible with my calendar of appointments and events. And in the time I spent creating this new list, I’ve wasted the time I’d hoped to gain by making this list in the first place. Humans, we are a strange lot.
I know my intent of listing was to ensure I spent more days being productive, being less wasteful. Those days I spend being productive, getting tasks accomplished, spending time with others, enjoying the small moments of the day whether these include a good meal, conversation, or simply slowing down to watch the young deer grazing in the field near our home – my head rests much easier on my pillow. And, when I think about it, those days I spend snuggled on the couch reading or writing, or sitting lakeside with my husband, or enjoying local music with friends, it is then time slows. When we recognize and enjoy those moments meant to be truly lived, time will pause to meet us.
I’ve been purposefully trying to spend my days recognizing these moments. Unfortunately, it was my husband’s catastrophic health scare in February that made me realize I’d been taking time for granted. He spent five long days in the ICU, the first 24 hours the most critical. Looking back, in those first few hours of his being admitted to the Kansas Heart Hospital and the rushing in and out of nurses, techs, radiologists, cardiologists, and physically pushing his bed to the ICU (he was not allowed to move), time became like sludge. My feet and legs felt like they were sinking into the tile floor and I lost all track of time. As I sent off a flurry of text messages and phone calls in what seemed slow motion, all I kept thinking was “please don’t let this be it – we didn’t have enough time.”
Other times in my life I’ve had this similar thought. After losing my niece, my first thought was about not spending enough time with her. When a good friend took her own life, I thought I should’ve taken the time to reach out to her in the days prior. Even when an older aunt or uncle has passed, my first thoughts are about time – time past, time unused, not enough. Time.
Recently, I watched Brene Brown’s Netflix special “A Call to Courage” and she immediately thanks her audience for spending this time with her, “Honestly, the older I get the more I realize, that time is the big, precious, unrenewable resource, so thank you for spending it with me tonight.”
Time is big. Time is truly precious and sadly, it is unrenewable. You can’t get it back. So, take time to call your mother this weekend, better yet, go see her. Take time to share stories with your dad while sitting on the porch or deck. Take time to have that extra cup of coffee and watch the birds in the yard. Take time to smile at a stranger. Take time to say I love you to those who fill your heart and are the mosaic of your being. Stop looking down, stop rushing forward and slowly remove the blinders. Life is all around us, not just in front of us.
I confess, I probably won’t be tossing my stack of unused legal pads any time soon, but I am going to be more mindful, more aware of my time. We cannot waste another moment letting time rush past us or worse, rushing past time.