Thursday, June 4, 2020

Eagle Butte

Can you see the forest through the trees, or time through the moments?

Time is valuable. It drags by at a snail’s pace or travels faster than the speed of light, and like light, slips through our fingers.

Time is a concept we imagine. It spirals around each turn of the sun and moon and promises us that all living things grow from a beginning to an end, as it travels into eternity.

If our point of reference was time alone, we would have forever to get things done. Life, however, does not share the same nature as time, and so we have a limited existence within the time continuum.

Within our lives, given life’s limits, we set additional constraints on ourselves, using daylight as our guide, and the need for sleep, we squeeze into one day as much as we can or are expected to, and we feel a sense of accomplishment when we get “it all done.”

When we don’t get it all done, we console ourselves with, “There is always tomorrow,” or we berate ourselves for not being more efficient.

In our society, we are taught many ways to manage our time – to make the most of the time we have. We attach different values to time efficiency and to wasted time. The first is good; the latter is bad.

Poets carry on a silent debate about time. Some tell readers to hurry, because time is fleeting and waits for no man. Others tell us to slow down, enjoy the little things, not because time will wait for us, but because we too often speed forward without ever enjoying what we have in our time.

We are so busy trying to squeeze the universe into a twenty-four-hour clock, that we forget to enjoy each moment – whether it is typing at a computer, sweeping the kitchen floor, listening to the crunch of snow underfoot, turning left at the light, or feeling the cold wind on brush exposed noses and cheeks racing downhill on a sled.

If we spent every minute of every day absorbed in the task at hand, would we remember more details than we do when we are rushing to get all things done?

If we spent time wrting that book or building that boat steadily and consistently, instead of throwing it into the realm of impossibility, even if we could not rush, would we get more things done?

If we allowed ourselves to rest, and quiet our minds in those restful moments, would we be more productive in our moments of action? Would we make better decisions? Would we feel more at peace and treat each other better as a result?

I have always been criticized for over-thinking and planning ahead, and then criticized for not planning better. 

Enjoy life now, we tell our children, and in the next moment, we ask them what their plans are for the future.

While many kids have no clue, I have always had a plan about what I want to be, but never a clear idea of where that existence should settle. Therefore, I have floated across the country in a semi-nomadic lifestyle, chasing a place for my purpose in a lifetime whose tomorrow is not promised.

I do not live to die, and I am not dying to live. Instead I am living to live until I die. When I think of life in this way, it helps me to stress less about the looming deadlines and the punching of the clock.

When I zoom out on life, and look at the bigger picture of the time I have had and will I have, I plan as if I am like time, and time and I have forever to accomplish our goals.

Then, I think about all the steps along the way – all the supplies I will need to achieve the goals I set for myself when I was still in fifth grade, the year I decided to become a writer, and then when I was a high school junior, and I decided to retire to teaching.

While I have worked my goals in reverse, I am still planning for them, and taking each moment as it comes, slowly stepping into the next phase of my plan, and trying to absorb myself into each moment: like this one, feeling the cold invade my finger tips and listening to the click of the keys as they record these thoughts.

I think sometimes, we get lost and cannot see time through the moments. 

We should all hover over our lifetimes, see our lives into a distant and desired future, and then return to the moment with a plan that we choose to enjoy and use for all it offers, good and bad — and now.