I recently bought myself a new watch. I already have a nice timepiece, but I wanted this sporty one and considered it a belated birthday gift to myself.
As I placed it on my wrist for closer inspection, I somehow got to thinking about time. My mind tends to wander like that.
We do seem to value it:
Time is money.
Don’t waste my time.
And we use it to rate experiences:
It was the best time of my life.
I had such a good time.
The concept becomes downright philosophical:
Time waits for no one.
As old as time itself.
And yet none of these sayings have anything to do with the measurement marked by a ticking clock. We think that there is nothing more objective than the way we calculate a day, carefully dividing hours into minutes and minutes into seconds. With stopwatch in hand, we gauge progress on everything from athletic aptitude to workplace efficiency. Time matters.
But without question, there is a subjective component to time, colored by individual perception and all that the term implies. When I taught school, I used to wax poetic about the genius of Shakespeare and his puns and metaphors, as I gabbed on ad nauseum during a class period. I would often comment on how fast the time went when the bell rang, as my long suffering students would exhale a sigh of relief and bolt for the door. I doubt that we would have agreed to just how long the time we spent together in that class felt. An hour in the dentist chair or waiting in line at the DMV isn’t the same as an hour at a theme park or a movie. Consider the value of a moment when you are having soulful conversation with someone you love, at which point, time stands still, which is an altogether different concept.
In other words, time flies when you are having fun, but it can be a drag when you aren’t. The experience is timeless, having been shared by people since, well, the dawn of time. Forgive me, I got carried away there.
Even the moments in our lives, good and bad are defined by time. “Remember the time that we...?” As the story of what we have experienced replays through our memories, we delineate who we are by the successes and failures on any given day, often remembering the hour in which it happened. And our near misses, when our lives were spared through some bit of serendipity remind us that timing is everything. As Dickens penned, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
When we introduce the concept that time is finite, we place limits on our lives. It is why high stakes moments are carefully timed. Remember the SAT and every other standardized test you were subjected to in your life? And whether in school or the workplace, we learn early on the meaning of the word deadline. Uh, it has the word dead in it, which implies if you somehow miss the bewitching hour when the bell tolls, you are toast. Is it any wonder that folks feel anxious to hear those stress-inducing words, “time is up.”
What I have found interesting is the insight that a scary diagnosis like mine can bring with it. I seem to wonder about everything, marvel at the mystery and beauty of all that life holds. I refuse to think that I have an expiration date, that my time is coming to an end because ultimately, only God knows the answer. And until He lets me in on that little secret, my goal is to enjoy every minute of the time I have left, finding joy in the simple things, (like ice cream) while embracing every new adventure that comes my way. It really is a shame that it took an illness to help me see that, but better late than never, right? That’s another of the lessons time gives us.
Maybe I will return the new watch. Sure, it is pretty, but who needs it? I don’t think I do.