“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard
Time flies, we all say. We have to stake a claim, choose what to spend it on, make the hard choices. Life stretches forth like a patch of calico, busy, colorful, stealing our attention. When are our lives full and when are they cluttered? Which are our options, and which are our duties? Work, play, errands, chores, goals. People, pets, homes, sickness, health. News, sleep, bills, passions, relationships. What is productivity and what is perpetual busyness? When does it call for purposeful attention and when is it a distraction?
I didn’t answer the door the other day. It was a stranger, coming to ask me to buy or sign. I didn’t want to do either. I don’t feel any obligation to answer the phone, so why should the door be any different? It would’ve diverted my attention from what I wanted to focus on, time stolen from me if I allowed it. Sometimes I wouldn’t mind so much. This time I did. I felt satisfied afterwards, having protected that moment, keeping my attention from pivoting to someone else’s plan. It was a small act of claiming, but how many times a day do we interrupt ourselves? If we don’t know where we want to go, we will be taken any way the wind blows, swallowed into time’s abyss. Then the day is over. Then the life is over.
We struggle to make peace with time and its passing. Should we cling? Hold on loosely? Savor it, waste it, use it up, respect it for the limited gift that it is? To gain some mastery over it requires fierceness; otherwise, it is gobbled up. To say yes to one thing, we have to say no to another. Choose a path and don’t relent. Focus and don’t look away. Let something go. Let someone go.
When we realize how precious time is, we treasure it and we want more of it. We feel the time behind us, evaporated, invisible. Was it real? Were we there? What did we do? What did we say? And ahead of us- what’s ahead? Will we get to all we want to do? But if we look behind or ahead, time escapes us again, gone. The moment is over.
Time can be so fleeting, so vague and wispy. Setting an intention for each block of time that we have helps us to contain it. Like holding clouds in a jar, this kind of segmenting will protect it from the denseness of life, of time’s thieves. Time will still pass, but we will have been there with it.