Apt metaphors can help us build a better relationship with time. This week, I am thinking about how time is like a hurricane. Like storms, our lives can be turbulent. And our days can also be calm, like the eye of the storm. The best way to experience the calm is keep flying through the turbulence to get to the eye and to have the courage to carry on to the other side.
In order to think about time as both necessarily turbulent and calm, I have watched my share of videos that feature hurricane hunters. The hunters fly through the turbulence into the eye of the storm, the only place to measure the storm’s true size and strength. This time in the eye is only a pause, however, before the pilot must return home through the ring of turbulence.
I don’t need to tell you that we are all in the midst of a worldwide storm. And we can channel the hurricane hunter as we seek to do our part.
One of the most challenging aspects at any academic conference is time and its perceived scarcity. Imagine thousands of scholars squishing their ideas into ten minutes allotments, when they are used to holding forth for fifty or seventy-five minute lectures.
At a recent academic conference, I noticed a generational divide. The Millennials and Gen Xers, along with a few hip elders, set and launched the alarm on their Smartphones before they began their presentations. Time’s passage, for the next ten minutes, became intimate journey between the presenter and their Smartphones. The Boomers were another story, mostly depending on the panel’s chair to mark time’s passage with five and two minute warnings. Some presenters looked up furtively at the nine minute mark, saying “how much time do I have?”
Do Millennials and Gen Xers have a more realistic perspective about what can be accomplished in ten minutes, as most finished in their allotted ten minutes? Do they lose some of the relational or codependent qualities of time because they do not require hand signals and warnings? Do Boomers even know how to set the alarm on their Smartphone or perhaps they distrust its accuracy?
Yes, I was listening to content. And, as always, I was distracted by the mystery we call time.
Your assignment for the week ahead:
Try practicing with duration. Set a ten minute intention. Set your alarm and see if you can accomplish it.
Undergraduate students I teach find moving from horizontal to vertical a struggle, particularly in their quest to get to an 8 AM or 9:30 AM class. I know some do because I receive periodic emails from students who let the bed win. The alarm clock did not go off or it was not heard. Once, a student told me her alarm clock had been set improperly by her boyfriend.
Because I get it, I have offered wake up calls. And, no one has ever taken me up on my offer. I suppose the idea of your professor calling, like the front desk of a hotel, is just too much (and it is). I am simply trying to convey that their reason for missing class is no reason at all. Learning how to show up for our commitments is probably one of the most important habits to cultivate, even when it means parting ways with a warm ocean of sheets and blankets.
Your assignment for the week ahead:
What is your relationship with getting out of bed? Can you try something new?
My Grandma tucked a hanky in her bra. My Mom kept a stash of peppermint Life Savers in her purse, desk drawers, and bedside table. My Dad keeps a bat by his bed. All of us who carry big bags—purses, backpacks, or brief cases—not only carry a lot of stuff, we also carry objects we imagine will be useful, just in case.
The hanky, the Life Savers, and the bat. My people have always taken the time to consider and prepare for the just in case. I am not sure anymore what I think about all of the time + space we have dedicated to just in case thinking. I do fret over what I might need in the future. And even though I carry around big bags of thinking ahead, I still have to borrow a Kleenex, sneak a Life Saver, and hope for the best when I go to sleep.
Your assignment for the week ahead:
What is your time +space relationship to the just in case?
My sixteen year old will no longer permit me to post her image or actions on my Facebook. I hardly ever post but when I do it often involves my kids. So when I was banished from sharing my daughter’s photograph, I could not stop thinking about the loss. I became wildly jealous of other parents who are able to post photographs of their children. I also started to think, wow, my child has a point.
My daughter’s ban has left me thinking about the massive amount of cub reporting. And I wonder if children should be asked first before they are uploaded. Many tweens and teens have developed their own presence in social media and some, like my daughter, find the parental reports to be a nuisance, at best.
Kahlil Gibran had this caution: “They came through you but not from you and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” As our children get older, it makes sense to ask first, then post.
Five years ago, Dusty came into our lives. Her owner (our neighbor) could not take care of her any longer. At first, we enforced a lot of rules. No dog in the kitchen or dining room. No begging, only dog food in the bowl.
Over the past six months, the rules have loosened. As a result, Dusty is getting a steady stream of scraps and leftovers in her bowl. In addition to dog food, meat grease and left overs have become a yummy staple in her diet. Unfortunately though, this attention we have given to Dusty has had a shadow effect. She is now keeping an anxious vigil around her dog bowl, waiting for the next scrap. When once she slept the day away, she now breathes heavily and salivates by the dog bowl.
In life, there are times—of various amounts—when we too become consumed by the anticipation of the next scrap, whatever that might be. We too pace beside the dog bowl of our own making. While we may not salivate excessively, our mind and our hearts are consumed by the hope of receiving another “scrap” from that friend, family member, or colleague. I think we just might have a choice. We can be like Dusty and spend precious time waiting around the bowl or say, “No more left overs for me. I’ll wait for the dog food.”
I am noodling over the time + space of the daily commute. What does it mean that most U.S. commuters spend about forty-five minutes in their cars everyday? Do you?
I suppose many of us can justify the time +space of the commute by listing in-transit accomplishment. Pick the nose. Drink coffee. “Read” books on tape. Make phone calls. Clear heads. Car pool. Not so much. Catch up on the news. Listen to the hits from the decade of one’s choice. Sing. Talk into recording devices. Eat French fries.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I recently joined the ranks of car commuters. I took a faculty position that requires a mega commute. Unlike my urban commuters, I have no real traffic jams, only school buses and farm equipment. And I get it. I now look forward to my rolling time + space behind the wheel. While it is odd and fuel inefficient to say that my greater mindfulness (these days) seems to be the result of more time spent behind the wheel, I am beginning to believe the road has made it so.