Do You Have the Time?
Discombobulated has always been a favorite word of mine. Partially because of the way it sounds, and partially because I feel this way frequently.
I can count on being discombobulated with certainty twice a year: daylight savings time always throws me for a loop. I feel unsettled and unbalanced. A little like Alice in Wonderland - where nothing is as it seems. The clock says it’s 7:00 pm, but it doesn’t feel like it. It’s still bright outside, but I’m ready to jump into pajamas.
This unsettled feeling always gets me thinking about time and how it changes. Back at the end of December I was singing Winter Wonderland, and it was 70 degrees out. As I was raking the leaves (again in December), the daffodils were starting to appear, and we had an azalea blooming. The timing was all off.
But time is relative. We say “time flies when you’re having fun,” but time also creeps by when you can’t sleep, and you’re lying in bed thinking crazy thoughts and worrying about improbable things.
I once heard an explanation of relativity, and in it the person said imagine the difference between spending 30 minutes sitting on a bench beside a very attractive person and 30 minutes sitting in a very boring lecture. Two completely different experiences of time.
Last year I read a book titled The Daily Stoic. During the year, the authors covered the stoic philosophy about various topics: clarity, passions and emotions, awareness, unbiased thought, right action, duty, pragmatism, fortitude and resilience, and so on. And then for December the book covered meditations on mortality.
It took me by surprise, and I had a less than stoic reaction. I was expecting joy, light, love, celebration. Why would they make my favorite month of the year about death? But that’s what December is all about, isn't it? If we get down to it, it’s the death of the old year, and the birth of the new one. Although we don’t typically look at it like that.
As it turned out, the meditations were not “We’re all going to die.” They were “How do you spend your time?” There was one passage that stopped me cold. Following a simple formula I figured out that I have had more than 473,040 hours in my life. The question they posed was What do I have to show for it?
They weren’t pushing for answers of money, fame, status, possessions; they were asking have you used your time to gain wisdom, insight, to show compassion and empathy?
Theoretically we can ponder these rhetorical questions and then go grab a snack or something equally mundane. But recently I attended a funeral, and the combination of coming out of a pandemic, a death - not abstract but real- and the uncertainty of the world as we seem to be possibly hovering on the brink of WWIII made more of an impact on me than it ever would have in the past.
Am I treasuring my loved ones? Am I savoring the moments? Am I soaking it all in? These are really good questions that we all need to ask ourselves when we're thinking about our time.