One morning a few weeks ago, near the end of one of the most bitter winters in living memory, I was walking to my chiropractor’s office. I go to his office once a week – the only time I take that route.
Along the way, I pass a community garden marked by a white picket fence. That morning, the shadow of the fence undulated in blue lines across a gleaming, fresh snow drift. I considered stopping to take a photo of the fence, the shadows, the brittle, diamond-like snow reflecting the blue sky.
But it was so cold. I didn’t want to stop and take off my mittens in the frigid temperatures or take the time to find my phone. “I’ll get that picture next time,” I told myself.
But there wasn’t a next time. There was never another week where the snow was that fresh and cold AND the sun shone AND the light was right.
Just in case I hadn’t gotten the message clearly enough, the Universe reiterated it for me last Sunday when I went to a drumming recital. At the end of the session, class and audience were invited to take up a drum or other percussion instrument and jam together. It was an amazing, collective experience. Afterwards, one of the leaders noted “The music we just created will never exist again.”
I’m glad I was fully in that moment.
Each spot of time is unique. Be in it. Absorb it. Appreciate it. This moment is the only moment and will never be again.
When I was a very young child, I used to go to my mother’s carnation garden and try to open up all the budding flowers. At first I thought I could speed things along – get the buds fully open and beautiful so my mother could enjoy them sooner.
Even after my mother patiently and, what I can see now was the exercising of loving-mother restraint, repeatedly explained to me that I was not helping but was in fact destroying the flowers and they would never bloom, I persisted in trying to open the buds.
I knew my mother said it was wrong to do. I knew she said it wouldn’t work and that it upset her, but I was pretty sure that the laws of nature didn’t apply to me. Don’t we all think that sometimes?
You just have to give some things the time they need: to grow, to heal, to open, to close, to develop, to rise or recede. You can’t help every process along. What you can do is get out of the way and give time time.
Time. Valuable because it’s irreplaceable. The time that’s gone is gone. You can’t grow or earn more. You don’t even know how much you get in a lifetime. I recommend investing the time you do have for the greatest return.
Know how long it takes to do things. Does MapQuest say your morning commute is only 15 minutes but in fact it’s 30 because you’re always stuck in traffic? How long does it take you to complete household chores? Can you really pack for vacation in 10 minutes? Once you know what the demands on your time are, you can organize and prepare.
Get organized. Know your priorities and what’s most important to you. Develop a system for keeping your home and work life running smoothly. There are a million formal and informal organizing systems out there. I use Franklin Covey and, for longer or more complicated tasks, determine the critical path. Find something that works for you. You’ll save yourself a fortune in time and lost opportunities.
Plan and prepare. Know what you’re going to be doing and where you’ll be in a day. Remember Home Ec. class? The teacher taught us to read the whole recipe first before doing anything. Make sure you have the ingredients and equipment you need. Know what steps you’ll need to follow and what to do first and how much time the whole cooking process should take. Do the same with the recipe for your day.
I’ve been teased because I have my lunch prepared and my outfit ready for the next day. People say things like “Must be nice. I’m just too crazy busy to do that.” Is that so? Those tasks have to get done. I can either do them the night before or in a mounting, messy frenzy the next morning. I know which I prefer and consider the night-before prep as a sound investment of my time and a set up for my own success. And who can argue with success?