Time after time. If I could turn back time. I wish I had more time. I can’t wait for the time to pass. I’m counting down until I can graduate, until I can retire, until the weekend. I need more time. How much longer? You’re late. You’re early. I can’t wait for this year to be over. Is it time yet?
It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post so given that we’re looking back on 2019 and dreaming of 2020, I thought it fitting to write about time. I’ve been musing over the idea of time quite a bit these days. This is a common reflection as we near a new year, particularly a new decade (wishing you perfect vision and clarity for 2020! That one’s for you Dad 😉 ). More personally, this past year, a tumor was found in someone very dear to me. She’s well on the road to recovery, thankfully, but it’s been the classic lesson learned (time and time again) that life is short and can change in a moment, so I need to make the most if it, and prioritize joy. Then on Christmas Eve, as I was writing a letter to Santa (yes, I still do this ;)), I noticed that the only thing I really wanted this year was time.
As I’ve been digging deeper into the idea of time, I’ve come to realize that life is actually changing every moment. A friendship may have been fading and I’ve become a passive participant. I’m building towards burn out yet have refused to change my habits. I’ve normalized my back pain. I actually slept well last night, yet continue to tell myself I can’t sleep. Yet we wait for the pain to be irreversible, or the friend to stop texting before we take the time. We can’t make more time, but we do choose every second how we priority and spend it.
Instead of waiting for the big changes (sickness, death, retirement, lottery winning) what if we try to see the little changes and adapt, engage, and appreciate. To experience time by the second, and not wish any of it away. To find love for Mondays as much as Saturdays. To stop should-ing on yourself. It’s a deliberate decision to use these moments instead of letting them tick tock past.
What if we spend less time on the problems, and more time on solutions? Less time on worrying, and more time on what we can control? What happens if we let go of how much time we have, and more focus on how we spend it?
Anticipation is an interesting use of time. It’s counting down to that dream trip, or that there’s only (!) 27 years left until retirement. Anticipation is a useful distraction from a difficult situation, and an effective tool for stretching out an upcoming moment (after all your wedding day is just a day). Sometimes we need that distraction. It’s when we wish away time that tends to lead to the regret of wanting it back. If you are simply counting down the years to your retirement, may I suggest a change in career, and a different mindset. Time is both our most valued resource, and our most disregarded. If you’re lost solely in your future, spend time finding your present.
Like breathing, time is a system that happens automatically. When we slow our breathing, oxygen reaches deeper into our lungs, and spreads more fully into our blood stream. Our heartbeat and minds slow, and we start to notice what our feet are standing on, the smell from last night’s pizza lingering, the weight of the clothes we’re wearing. We can actually control an automatic system to energize or downshift. So while we can’t stop time (or breathing), we can make moments (and those breaths) more or less meaningful.
Time is ultimately a personal construct. This sense of time is often dictated by how we use our time, how present we are, and how intentional we are with it. It’s incredible how different an experience can be when we find the opportunity. Traffic is a great opportunity to ask the deeper questions to the people you are with. Line ups are a chance to take in the colourful characters around you. Find the power of your time in the scenarios you can’t control.
There is this urge to fill up our time regardless of meaning. We spend more time gazing down than looking around. I’ve been working on this idea when I’m out at a restaurant: When the person I’m with goes to the bathroom, I take the time to look around and notice who else is eating near me, the decor of the space, and the last bits of sauce that I can (and will) swipe up with my finger. When I dine alone, I work on finding this curiosity throughout the entire meal. To absorb where I am, what I’m doing, and how I’m feeling in that moment.
As we enter a new decade, I invite you to notice those changes happening around you and find the opportunity in time. I don’t think I’ve offered any magically new insight in this post that you likely haven’t already had on your own. Yet I’m hoping this is still a gift: an everyday, non-tragedy based reminder, to use your time wisely. To find play in the boredom, growth when you’re stuck, and the meaning in your moments. To say I love you openly and often, not only when someone is gone. Stop saying “I don’t have time” and own that you actually don’t want to do what they’re asking, or it’s not your priority right now. It’s putting in rules to bring back the present. Don’t wait for a major life event to change your priorities. Don’t wait until you lose something before you let yourself win.
Song of the Day: If I Could Turn Back Time (Cher)
ps: Here is my letter to Santa that inspired this post: