This September has offered simply spectacular sunsets
September is almost over. The world spins on. Aidan and I are coming to the end of this month of the Here Year, whose theme has been time. Time is perhaps the central preoccupation of my life. How quickly it moves, how evanescent it is, the confounding nature of memory, the inexorable, unavoidable forward movement of our days: these are the themes around which my thinking and feeling and and writing and living circles.
I hear certain quotes and passages and lines from poems in my head all the time. I’ve written about that ad nauseum. It’s hard to say which I think about the most often, but it might be Annie Dillard’s famous sentence:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.
I literally could not believe this more fiercely. Yes, time is a zero sum game. It is the only one this life actually has. That’s bracing and often difficult to accept. At least for me. But I also have some good news: you can choose what to do with the time you have. YES, I know: there are many things we HAVE to do that we might not choose. Work is a big one. I know. I work full time. There are many things I love about my job but it definitely contributes to the fact that on a near-daily basis I wish I had more time for my family, for my writing, for sleep, for myself.
When I look at a map of a week I see a lot of hours dedicated to work, and you might challenge my assertion here, saying “is that something you really value?” The answer would be yes. I value contributing to my family economically, I like my work and colleagues, and it’s important to me to show Grace and Whit that I have something I enjoy doing to which my training and education contributed. And the other hours? They are mine. Are there things I have to do in there? Yes. Do I spend more time driving to and from practices than I want? Sure. But that reflects a value that I want to do that with Grace and Whit. Do I spend more time doing laundry and packing lunches than I want? Sure. But that is a way for me to stay intimately involved in the details of my family’s life, and for me, that’s worth it.
How I spend my time tells me what I value.
Anne Lamott says that “it is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day,” and this is true, too. How do we spend this wealth? Let’s be deliberate and thoughtful about that. Honestly, that is all I want.
Let’s all decide to no longer hide behind the excuse that we “don’t have time.” The truer response would be “I don’t care enough to really protect the time.” This may be harsh, but I think it’s also true. Let’s take ownership of our choices rather than bemoaning their results. Do you want time to meditate? Time to go to yoga? Time to spend reading with your children? Well, something else has to go. As I keep saying, time is zero-sum.
Think long and hard about how you spend your precious hours, the only currency in this life that I personally think is actually worth anything. A lot of these decisions are made instinctively, without deliberate thought or analysis. But that’s how life is, isn’t it? We know what we care most deeply about, and we run towards it, chins ducked. We protect fiercely time for those things and people and events we truly value. And those things, people, events we never seem to have time for? Well, that tell us something important too.
We each populate our hours differently, and our days, weeks, months, and years, are maps of what matters to us. Look closely at yours. Do you like what you see?
Parts of this post were written several years ago. Every word is still true.
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