On Time

Hey, remember back in January when I promised to publish two posts a week in 2011?

Yeah, not so much.

It’s the same old story of lost bloggers everywhere. I got busier, school started to pick up, there aren’t enough hours in the day.

Hogwash.

If there were any more hours in the day, I’d probably spend them sleeping. Don’t lie, you probably would too. Or drinking.

Gandalf + Grim Reaper = Father Time

Time. That old, man-made system we use to let us know when class is over. Or how many minutes ’till we close. Or how many push-ups my late client has to do (yeah, that’s right).

Our daily lives are ruled by the tick-tock, tick-tock of minutes slipping away. We’re either running out of time or counting it down. You rush to get to work on time, change into your uniform and punch the clock….and spend the rest of your day dying a slow death because quitting time seems so far away. Death by impatience.

Ever have one of those lazy mornings, where you lounge around and suddenly realize it’s four o’clock and you’re not even dressed yet? You might say something like, “Where did the time go?” But that same exact amount of time spent at work, the day before you leave for vacation, will drag on for every. excruciating. minute.

So, time is relative. It changes based on our relationship to it at any given moment. But 60 seconds is 60 seconds, and it is true that the sun rises and sets at certain intervals, and all living things undergo a certain life cycle. So time is definitely real, and measurable at that. Only us humans seem to have such a complicated relationship with it.

I’m pretty sure my cat has never hunkered down for the night and thought, “Whew/meow! What a long ass day.” Or, “I have been lying here on this chair for FOUR HOURS, I’ve gotta get up and make something of this day!”  I often express how much I would love to know what she’s thinking, but I’m willing to bet it’s usually nothing. She’s not sitting on that cushion thinking about how cold it is, how long she must wait for lunch, or how she can thwart the humans from going about their daily business (okay, that part is debatable). She’s just sitting there, being a cat. She’s a Zen master. In the moment, every moment.

Humans have spent lifetimes working to achieve this level of simplicity in their lives. This moment-to-moment, complete connection between mind, body and Universe. It is often taught that at our core, we are already one with the Universe and each other, but that the obstacle course of earthly desires, intricate thought patterns and negative feelings make us forget. (Please excuse my paraphrasing of several ancient and intricate religious teachings). So….human nature makes us forget our true nature? Bummer. Many of us spend a great deal of Time trying to get back to that simple, harmonious core, where Time doesn’t matter. Whoa. I’m gonna stop while I’m ahead.

Here’s another, much more recent concept that seems a little funny (not funny ha-ha, funny weird). Time management. Oh, we ALL know about this one. Anyone who’s ever been to college has probably heard about it. Certainly anyone starting a business knows about it. Everyone thinks about it. How to get the most done in the least amount of Time. How to use your Time effectively. You could hit snooze a couple times, goof off for a while with coffee and Vanity Fair, and get to work when you get there. Or you could get up promptly, take your coffee with you, and arrive at work an hour early. “Good” time management versus “bad.” But let me ask you – which one of those mornings would you rather have? Call me Slow-mantha, but I’ll take the former. I will never forsake the unique beauty of morning stillness in the name of “time management.”

Here’s my point: time doesn’t change no matter how you spend it. Unlike money, every day we wake up with a fresh supply. And at least you have to be awake to spend money. Time just marches on, day and night, with no regard for us. As I said before, 60 seconds is 60 seconds. Isn’t it so human to want to manage that? It’s not an unruly child, or the six Great Danes on your dog-walking route. You would never try to manage a chair, right? It’s an inanimate object, it’s just there. But at least you can see it and touch it. Time isn’t even that; it’s a concept. It’s like trying to manage air.

Now, that isn’t to say that we often choose to make very poor use of our time. But I think what we’re really trying to manage is ourselves. At every moment, you are choosing to do a certain thing, even when that thing is nothing. So from now on, I’m going to replace the overused, insufficient concept of “time management” with something new. Self management. I’m copywriting that – don’t steal it.

Finally, have you ever wondered where the term “deadline” came from? I have a theory:  cavemen. Think about it, cavemen had to spend every single day working to ensure their survival. Some days this might have entailed staying around the cave, making weapons and fixing leaks or whatever. But other days, they had to kill a freaking Wooly Mammoth and not die. They had to finish before dark so they could (a) see, and (b) not get eaten by bears. They must have had a really stressful relationship with time. Like, they had to get all their food stores and warm stuff ready before the onset of winter, or they might not make it till spring. If they failed to accomplish these tasks in the appropriate amount of time, they’d die. They’d be dead. Get it?

And you think YOUR job is stressful.

For me, time is a lovely mystery. Seven months ago today, I packed up a moving truck and left for North Carolina. That’s the past. I know now that I am living a new kind of life, one I never imagined, and this new life is overflowing with wonder and possibility. That’s the present. And the future. I’ve started to think of them as the same.

So, how is your relationship with time? Are you counting down to something? Sweating an imminent deadline? Is time flying or standing still? Are you having the time of your life? Is time on your side? Does time keep on tickin’ tickin’ tickin’…….okay I think that’ll do.

Here’s my final thought. Whenever you’re stressed about time, try to find a cat and observe its behavior. Let the calm intensity of the cat become your own, and spend a little more Time just being.

Be like kitty.

Farewell, loyal readers. Until next Time.

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About Samantha Pollack

In 2010 I abandoned my city-slicker, Bostonian ways in exchange for a life of adventure in Asheville, NC. I'm a book-slaying, cat-owning, olive-loving, trail-running, movie-watching writer and holistic health coach. Hi.
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4 Responses to On Time

  1. Sue says:

    Love this Sam! I will never look at my cat the same way again. 🙂

    Sue

  2. Bodee D says:

    This reminds me of a famous Zen koan:

    A monk asked Joshu, “Has the dog the Buddha nature?”
    Joshu replied, “Mu”

  3. Tina says:

    You totally nailed one of the things I love about Rosie. And she really does calm me down with her Zen-ness.

    BTW, The origin of the word “deadline” comes from prison. If you crossed a certain geographic line, you’d be shot and killed. Yeah, I know I’m a big nerd… (I kinda like your version better.)

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