Monday, February 13, 2012

Strapping On Time

Lately I've been giving a lot of thought to time.  What do I spend my time doing?  What things would I like to carve out more time for so that my activities match my priorities?  What things take up my time but don't make my life or the lives of others richer?  Who do I know that seems to spend time well, and how can I emulate those practices to bring about more balance in my own life?

I'm always annoyed when I hear people say things like, "Everyone has 24 hours in a day" or "We all have the same amount of time available to us."  I partly hate that statement because it's not totally true.  Depending on what choices we have made and what roads we find ourselves on, we have varying demands on our time.  The single mom working two jobs to put food on the table doesn't have the same amount of time as the stay-at-home wife of a CEO.  [Of course, time isn't the only variable in this example, but you see what I'm getting at.]

And I partly hate that statement because it is a little bit true and I don't want it to be.  While I choose to use some of my expendable time plopped on the couch watching television with a big bowl of popcorn on my lap (this has become a nightly ritual lately, and I must admit that I am loving it!), somewhere someone is doing something more productive with her time.  Somewhere someone is writing a letter, reading a book, composing a song, serving at a soup kitchen, making a meal for someone in pain.  And I am not.  In those moments, I am not a producer - I am a consumer.  And for some of the time, I think that's okay.

I struggle with finding a healthy balance between self-care and self-sacrifice.  Maybe it's a uniquely American phenomenon, but I find myself caught up in the quest to do more, more, more - at the expense of peace of mind.  I guess, like so many things, a lot of it comes down to motives.  The things we do with our time, no matter how noble, must be done with love if they are to be a valuable use of our time.  They can't be done to "keep up with the Joneses" or to try to live up to some standard of perfection we have set forth in our minds.  Of course, I'm preaching to myself here.  I often find myself checking my motives to be sure I am doing things out of love and not out of guilt or a feeling of duty.  Usually I find great joy in doing things for others - the guilt comes in when I choose to spend time doing something for myself.

When it comes down to it, I think time is ultimately a gift, and how I choose to spend my time can be a way to pass that gift along to others.  We are so bound by time.  Each day as I'm getting ready, I invariably have that moment when I put on my watch.  Sometimes this is done as an afterthought as I'm running out the door, other times I put on my watch even before I dress.  More often than not, the phrase that runs through my mind as I put on my watch is "strapping on time."  I feel as though I am binding myself to a schedule, shackling myself to the confines of the 24 hour day with all of its demands, choices, and possibilities.  [I realize this sounds dramatic, but I have never claimed to be otherwise!]

At my grandmother's funeral, my brother got up to speak, and he said something that has really stuck with me.  He said, "Being with Cici was like taking your watch off."  He went on to explain how Cici lived so fully in the moment and so excelled at sucking the marrow out of life that you never felt like she had anywhere else to be or anything else to do than what she was doing.  Yes!  This is what I want for myself.  This is what I want to be said at my funeral someday.

As Sarah Groves says of friendship in one of her songs, "You have taught me to slow down and to prop up my feet.  It's the fine art of being who I am."  What a wonderful gift to give someone.

I want to give the gift of time so well that I make each person I'm with feel like the most special person in the world at that moment.  I want to cherish the moments, to spend them well and wisely.  Sometimes that might look like curling up on the couch with a bowl of popcorn.  Other times it will look like baking, cleaning, singing, running, hugging, crying, laughing, dancing.  It will look like service and sacrifice, love and friendship.  Whatever it looks like, I want it to feel authentic and true.  As cliched as it sounds, I really do want to suck the marrow out of life.  And, though I must "strap on time" each day, I hope that I will also practice taking my watch off and teaching others to do the same.

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