Lately I’ve been yo-yoing between two unpleasant feelings: the feeling of being stuck and the feeling that I’m careening through time without brakes.
If that doesn’t make sense to you, think about payday vs. rent day: it takes forever for payday to roll around, but the rent is due every time you blink, right? How is that possible, when it’s all on the same calendar? (Maybe that illustration only works for broke people. Financially stable people, you will have to come up with some other example. I know you have one.)
Of course, it’s a matter of perception and how we feel about those two events. A twenty minute wait in the dentist’s office feels like three hours; three hours having coffee with an old friend feels like twenty minutes.
Right now, that paradox is my whole life.
In the slow lane: weight loss. I have a tiny mental tantrum every time I stand on the scale. Even if I’ve been good all week, I’ve only lost a pound—at this rate it’ll take a year for me to get to my goal weight. A WHOLE YEAR. 52 weeks of protein shakes and veggie sticks? Forget it. Just order a pizza and pass the ice cream already.
On the other hand, I have very real panic when I think about how fast the year is passing, because at this time next year, my baby will be graduating from high school. She wants to go away to college—away from me! Can you imagine? My eyes tear up every time I think about that, even right now while I’m typing. ONLY ONE YEAR. Oh my god, skip the ice cream and bring wine. Lots of wine.
There’s a lesson here somewhere, a big-picture angle that I’m struggling with. Something about balance, focus, priorities…maybe it’s time management, the lesson I’ve struggled with my whole life. It just feels more important now that I’m older. The stakes are higher. My priorities have shifted.
The stuff that I want to rush is accomplishment stuff: I want to lose weight faster, save money faster, get the heck out of this dumpy apartment faster. The stuff I want to prolong is the beautiful stuff: I want my daughter’s childhood to last. I want a few more years with my dogs. I want time with my girlfriends to linger. I want to stretch the sunny afternoons so I can plant more plants, paint more pictures, and still have time for a nap.
It’s exhausting, this push and pull of time. I can only make things happen so fast, and I sure can’t seem to slow anything down. I make my to-do lists, cram as much as I can into each day, work towards goals that seem light years away, and try to hang onto the fleeting moments in between.
Hmmm… something about balance…something about focus. I need to focus on what’s beautiful, the things that speed past, so I don’t miss them. Accomplishments are important—I do need to save money, I do need to lose weight—and if I do those things, everything gets better. But weight loss and saving money are auto-pilot functions; I can put systems in place to address them and not make them the center of my attention. That frees up time to pay attention to the areas of my life that deserve it: the people and passions that bring me joy. And a fringe benefit of focusing on what brings me joy is that I will be satisfied, and less likely to mindlessly eat or spend money and derail my material goals. Ha! Now I am getting somewhere.
The older I get the more I realize that time really is precious. (Also, the older I get the more happily I toss clichés around. They’re cliché for a reason, you know.) The bottom line is that another year is going to pass, just like the last thirty-nine have, and at the end of the year, I will be thinner or not, I will be broke or not—but the year will pass either way. If I spend the year racing towards accomplishments, I will run right by the important things—things that are moving fast enough already. If I recognize that time is a gift, I will never rush—instead, I will spend it on what’s truly valuable. Yes, it may take a year to lose the weight. In the meantime, I will just enjoy the beautiful things, like my daughter. I’ve only got one more year.