“Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”
Or, how about the most cliché saying: “Time flies!”
Whatever your favorite or most hated cliché saying about time is, there are so many because time is so important to us. We hate to waste it. Then we want it to pass quickly. Then we realize we don’t have enough of it.
How do we utilize our time and make the most of it? How do we grapple with this love-hate relationship with time? I’m not trying to suggest ways to squeeze as much as you can into your waking hours or give tips on how to be super efficient and check everything off your to-do list. It is funny though that I’m now bringing up my awesome Passion Planner that I use to hand-write my weekly schedule, goals, dreams, and doodles. But it’s not my endless to-do lists or calendaring that I want to share. What I want to share is something that I find so simple and silly at the same time. There is a section for your daily focus and I often pencil in mindfulness or being present. And then I never do it. Such a seemingly easy thing to do, yet so hard and silly that I have to be reminded to do it.
What’s the best way to define “mindfulness”? To put it simply, it’s being present in the moment. Being present and aware of your feelings, thoughts, and body. I think this is a good start if you want to be more mindful of your time. My mind moves at a million miles per minute. I am a self-proclaimed multi-tasking queen, but that comes at the expense of never being fully present wherever I am. Or never getting to the big things that will make a real impact. A recurring problem for me is story time with my son at night. I love reading together and we do it every night, but as I’m reading Steam Train, Dream Train or Are You My Mother? for the thousandth time, I’m constantly thinking about what to do once he falls asleep.
I start to read, “Through the darkness clickety-clack…” And as I’m reading the words, my mind wanders and I think about how many loads of laundry I can get done tonight. And I ask myself whether or not I should bake muffins for tomorrow. I try to remember the things that I need to order from Amazon. “A whistle blares out in the night,” I continue, while reminding myself to schedule a gas delivery at work tomorrow so I can run out of the office and start the long trek home without having to make any stops. And this goes on and on until I finally whisper, “chhhhhh…goodnight.”
When I was kid, I saw this saying somewhere. “To say ‘Time is money’ is an insult to time.” I think it was a billboard or maybe a commercial on TV. I didn’t have enough life experience as a kid to truly grasp the meaning of it, but I get it now. More than ever.
I currently find myself in a job that I absolutely hate. I find my mind wandering to places I want to be or to things I wish I could be doing or to people I’d rather be spending my time with. When I think about how fleeting time is, I often see these flashes of my son quickly growing up before my eyes. Then my mind darts back to my college years and how I ended up where I am today. Should I have gone to school elsewhere? Should I have taken my chances with this or that? Should I take my chances and take a big risk now? I can’t go back and change things, but I can embrace the here and now and realize that there’s no time like the present.
Years from now, when Tyler is in school or away at college, do I want to look back on how amazing my multi-tasking was? That I could seemingly be the most put-together mom who didn’t shirk my parenting duties or work because I just did it all? Or how I was so good at establishing routine and order? Probably not. I want my memories to be filled with the nights (almost every night) that my two-year old stayed up later than he should because we were cuddling and getting lost in storybooks about trains and night owls. I want my memories to be filled with the countless times we pushed toy trucks around and used our imaginations to be silly and make up games and songs and laughed until we couldn’t breathe. Not the way I rushed through our bedtime routine so that I could quickly move onto chores and meaningless stuff. You have to run a household and do adult things like laundry and grocery shopping, but most times, those things can wait. The laundry will still be there in the morning as much as you don’t want it to be. You can always run to the store or order groceries. But you can never replace or replenish that precious time.
When I’m retired years (many many years) from now, whether I’m rolling in piles of cash, or living frugally, do I want to see the same monotonous routine day in and day out? Just mechanically going through the motions? Do I want to remember hating my job and being stuck where I was because I didn’t do anything about it? No. I want to remember the risks I took, the projects I worked on, and the lessons I learned. I want to think back and remember that even if I failed along the way, I pursued the dreams that were most meaningful to me. I want to be able to go to sleep every night knowing that I contributed to my family, community, and self to my fullest potential. That I filled my life with people and things that added positive value to it, and that in turn, I did the same.
It is important to have an awareness of time and understand how valuable it is, but it’s worthless if you don’t act upon that knowledge. For me, it’s a work in progress, but I aim to be present in the moment and I aim to thoughtfully spend my time in ways that reflect what I value. The time is now!