Scholars, artists, musicians, philosophers, and ordinary people have speculated about the meaning of time forever. It seems that time never just “is.” We tend to speak of time in terms of the future or the past.
We have too much time on our hands.
We don’t have enough time.
It happens time after time.
Can’t time just stand still?
Time is running out.
The time to act is now.
I can’t argue with any of these typical measures of time; however, I’ve learned to equate time with presence. Whether I’m thinking about the past, present, or future, I ask myself, “Was I present in each moment? Did I fully embrace the now?”
On January 30, 2017, time stopped for me when I nearly died as my appendix ruptured while traveling in the Caribbean. It was the biggest disruption of my life and the start of a hugely important personal reset, including the way I view time. I now see time as a gift of moments I can choose to immerse myself in, observe, or disregard. Time isn’t simply a checklist to tick off item by item.
My newfound attitude has taken some getting used to and lots of practice, but it’s been liberating. I feel more peaceful and less stressed. My family tells me that I’m more fun to be around. It’s as though giving up my former obsession with trying to compartmentalize time into the past and the future has paved the way for finding more joy and wonder in each moment.
Every year in January as part of my thanksgiving ritual for being alive, I reflect on how I’ve used my gift of time over the past year.
Did I show compassion?
Did I offer support?
Did I forgive?
Did I seek forgiveness?
Did I show gratitude?
Did I learn from my mistakes?
Did I celebrate small victories as well as big wins for others? For myself?
Was I a friend?
Was I able to speak of hard truths?
Were my actions authentic?
Did I help others achieve their goals?
Did I take time to nourish my soul?
Did I smile enough?
Did I laugh?
Did I play?
Did I try new things?
Did I celebrate?
Did I give myself enough space and grace to be sad, mad, or frustrated?
Did I let go of things that no longer nurture me?
Did I allow myself to think big thoughts (and small ones)?
Did I love fiercely and unconditionally?
Did I allow myself to be loved?
My hope is that I have more “yes” than “no” responses. I also hope my reflection leads to some happy memories, some pats on the back, some relief that I made it through the inevitable hard times, and enough encouragement to keep trying.
One of my all-time favorite songs is “Seasons of Love” from the hit musical Rent. If you haven’t heard it, the core message centers around how we spend our moments in one year. The song breaks down time into minutes and the chorus repeats that there are 525,600 minutes in one year of life. Over the past five years of trying hard to be more present in each moment, that adds up to about 2,628,000 minutes I’ve had to be a steward of my time rather than a master of it. What a gift!