Today is September 30th. Another good month has slipped on by. I've so enjoyed exploring and examining Time and this marks my final post on this fourth topic of my HERE Year. As with Home, Parenthood, and Marriage, the subject matter of Time has been rich and fertile, full of questions and observations, and has really gotten me - and many of us - thinking.
I wish I could say that over the past month, I've stumbled upon some foolproof answers. I wish I could rattle off a recipe list of instructions on how better to spend time and savor it, how to quiet the ruthless rumble of modern life such that we can all be fully present in the moments of our days. If only.
What I can do is share some things I've come to believe about Time. Some I've known for a long time and some I've come upon just recently as I made a point of pondering this topic.
1. We must be careful about how we spend our time.
Annie Dillard said it better than I ever could: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” A wonderful aside: My Here Year compatriot Lindsey published her Time, and a map of what matters yesterday and I smiled when I saw that she used this very same Dillard quote. Evidence that Lindsey and I are on the same page and a lovely omen for our next topic which I'll announce tomorrow!
2. We must also forgive ourselves for lost pockets of time - within reason.
We are human beings, not robots. No matter how industrious or ambitious we are, we will lose chunks of time doing "mindless" things. Read: Social media, not-so-good TV, online shopping, etc. As long as we do not spend too much time doing these things, it's all good. I would argue that a pinch of "mindless time" is probably good for us tightly-wound creatures.
3. We must not assume we will have time to do the things we want to do.
Life is short. Plain and simple. Whether or not we have personally experienced loss in our lives, we are bombarded with reminders of our own mortality. As cheesy as it sounds, each day is a gift.
4. Gratitude slows down the march of time.
I've come to believe this. I believe that stopping and marinating in our moments - a crisp fall day with our children, a delicious meal with friends, reminding ourselves that we are grateful for these moments makes them move a bit slower. This is one of the reasons I adore Instagram; I treat it as a Gratitude Journal. The moments I collect and write about help me punctuate time that might otherwise fly.
5. We must honor the Past and the Future, but not give them a disproportionate amount of existential real estate.
We all have pasts that tug at us, that inform on some indeterminate level who we are and will become. We all have futures, too, futures about which we daydream. But. It is the Present which deserves the bulk of our energy and emotion. If we do not diligently train our focus on the landscape of the present moment, we will miss it.
6. Wasting time is wasting life.
Another way of saying #1, but worth repeating because it's so so important.
7. We must figure out what times of day are our best times.
I have learned that I am my best self in the first part of the day. My best writing happens at the brutal hour of 4:30am and my best thinking/interacting/productivity happens before 4:30pm. Knowing this about myself is important and has influenced how I plan my schedule.
8. If something matters to us, we will find the time for it.
This can feel harsh (as Lindsey says), but if we claim that something is deeply important to us (our family, our friends, our work, our workouts, our creativity, etc) we will finagle time for it. Conversely, if we are consistently failing to cordon off time for these things, we must begin to question whether they are really that important to us.
9. There is a critical distinction between quantity and quality of time.
This might seem like an obvious one, but I think it bears mentioning. We can spend eight hours chained to our desk and produce not one good sentence or idea or we can spend 90 minutes and crank out something brilliant. We can tether ourselves to our children 24/7 and have little quality interaction with them or we can spend just a few hours with them a day and these hours can be rich and magical and rife with connection. You get the picture.
10. Before/After Moments can be heartbreaking and wonderful wake-up calls.
As I know firsthand and have learned again and again from many of you, Before/After moments in life can change the way we experience time and how we appreciate it. Before that October day when Mom called to tell me that Dad had (terminal) cancer, I experienced time in a wholly different way. I was floating a bit (or a lot), in no rush to accomplish things or evolve personally, but that phone call snapped me awake. Since then, I have felt a fire to live the best life I can and not to waste time.
11. NOW is the best time to do what we can to improve life. (Unless it's not.)
There are things we want to do. Steps we want to take. Changes we want to make. And so many of us tell ourselves that it is simply not the right time. This might be true. There might be circumstances in the present moment that would make it very difficult or inadvisable to shake things up too much. Or this might be an excuse. This time might be as good as any to take the steps we need to take to have the life we want.
12. Moments matter - and deeply.
Oh do I believe this. We must cling to our moments, mundane and magical. We must do what we can to feel the layers and colors of these moments, to memorize them. The days where I notice more moments and emblazon them in my mind are the days when I feel I was most present. Maybe this seems obvious, but it hasn't always been obvious to me. Below are some moments from the past month that I celebrate and want to remember: