Posts Tagged ‘time’

Why Wait? Do it Now.


Why wait?  I opened up Facebook the other day to see a friend’s status staring at me, reflecting back one of my basic operating principals.

I determined this to be good operating policy a long time ago for a not very profound reason.  We were living in Virginia and had three small children and a small budget.  Or perhaps it was North Carolina when we had three smaller children, an even smaller budget, and many jobs between us.  At any rate, Mark’s parents flew us out to California for a significant family event and we were going to take the kids to Disneyland.  You can imagine the excitement and buildup to this magnificent event.

The question was when to go – at the start of our trip or near the end.  Nothing prevented us from going near the start – we just didn’t.  And in the last week, Mark got sick.  Very sick.  Just a cold, flu-type thing, but he was weak and Disneyland was in real jeopardy.  It came down to the wire and he thought he was perhaps well enough but we might need a wheelchair to push him if his energy flagged, and then it rained.  His dad said it was folly to drive from Ventura to Anaheim in the rain and try to visit Disneyland.  We insisted so his dad insisted on coming with us and doing the driving.

We went, I’m sure the kids had a good time, but I have no memory of the visit at all.  My main memory is kicking myself for not going right away at the start of the trip.  Ever since that day so long ago, I have determined not to postpone doing things that are important.

Of course, there are varying degrees of import.  When you are young, broke, and have the chance of a paid-for Disneyland trip for your kids, that’s one kind of important.  Nothing really hangs in the balance.  Then there is the other extreme, when life hangs in the balance.

I suppose that could mean telling people what you’ve always wanted to tell them, something we always think might be a good idea but never quite get around to.  But when my mother-in-law died, my daughter Karen wondered why we wait until people die to say what we think of them.  She thought we should tell each other what we thought of each other right now – so my husband, our three girls, and I wrote individual essays about each other saying just that. It was hard work – that’s four thoughtful essays each – but I bound them in a booklet called Family Tributes and it was and is something precious to have.  As I reread, it’s also become something to live up to.

A more active interpretation of DO IT NOW is just that – do it now, don’t wait until life hangs in the balance.  About eight years ago I told my husband I would be traveling and I hoped he would come with me.  I was watching too many people in my school district save up and wait until retirement to start traveling, at which time they or their spouses dropped dead.  Literally.  And I watched a math teacher stand in our break room in bewilderment after his brother, barely 30, had died of a heart attack, wondering why he and his wife were working so many jobs all the time and never spending a dime.  He vowed to take the kids on vacation that summer.  There is never a good time to do something.  There is never the perfect time.  There is never enough money.  You just have to DO it while you have the health and the time and just enough money.

Another way to look at that statement to DO IT NOW is in an everyday kind of way.  My father recently died and in examining his life – which I’m just beginning to do, really – I’m starting to peel away the layers of a complex individual who used every moment doing what he loved.  He wanted to be an artist since he was a child and he was an artist.  From his boyhood until his 80s he thrilled to the feel of a paintbrush in his hand and the excitement of whatever he was working on.  He did what he wanted every day of his life. This is not to say he wouldn’t have liked to have had more money – but he made a choice and knew what he was getting into by doing what he wanted.  His entire life he Did it Now.

I think I just uncovered the key word in this reflection on DO IT NOW – choice.  Just what exactly do you want to be doing so acutely that you must be doing it now?  Coelho means of course what will fulfill your life, and I would wager not all of us can easily answer that question, but it’s worth thinking about.  Our book club just read and discussed his novel The Alchemist, which was about following your personal legend (which seems a contrived way of saying personal dream, but maybe it’s just the translation).  And it’s all well and good to follow your personal dream but if we are all running around pursuing our personal dreams I think chaos will result.

What started as a simple reflection on doing what we want now or we’ll run out of time has morphed into a crazy mess of doing what now, how do we choose what we really want to do, how far do we pursue it even if it means abdicating responsibilities, and are we talking about a grand scale here or just day-to-day.  Knowing that Coelho, who wrote the above quote that caught my eye, wrote The Alchemist, I think his quote is oriented toward the grand scale.  However, The Alchemist is a modern-day fable and we can take the message as we will.

I take it as a reminder on a scale large and small.  We all waste time, or misuse it.  Or fritter it.  But we do it less as we get older and understand that our own mortality is facing us and indeed, if we are going to do it, we’d better get on with it.  The question is, what is IT.  I think our hearts can tell us that answer to some degree.  What do we respond viscerally to? If we don’t know, it really will be too late.

I know what it is for me.  It’s not a grand answer.  It’s seize the moments as they come.  It’s not letting fear hold me back.  It’s keeping the enthusiasm and interest to see and experience.  Small example: I read two weeks ago that this year the bloom of Joshua Trees is unprecedented, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime.  My response?  Must see!  So we made it happen.  Can’t wait.  See, learn, go, do.  Teach.  Kids, grandkids, husband, friends, family.  Give them all experiences.  I think I have done pretty well in the DO IT NOW department.  But I do have to get to Antarctica.  Can’t wait long.  Money, health – who knows how long those things will hold out?  Like Coelho says, one day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time.  I can’t get it all done but as long as I keep thinking, revising, reflecting, paying attention, and seizing the special moments, I think I’ll get enough done now of what I want to do.

Striking a Chord; Renting Kamala, and a Good Start to the Day


Yesterday’s blog post about time sure struck a chord for many of you.  Comments on the blog and facebook show a heightened sense of how fast time moves amongst many of us.  Of course, it was many of us of a certain age.  Young people think time goes ever so slowly.  Will summer ever come? How many days until we go to Disneyland? The month of December especially seemed to drag.  Young people are waiting for time to pass quickly; we are waiting for time to slow down.

One of my favorite comments lately is don’t wish time away.  And I always come back to the constant, so well stated by Annie Dillard, which I quoted yesterday.  But I like it so much I’m quoting it again today : “Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time.”  Of course, that implies choices in using time.  And we all do have the same amount of time.  It just goes faster for some of us.  Perhaps Einstein has a theory for that.  I would not know.

This is what time feels like to me now.

Exploding Clock by Salvador Dali

Yesterday’s post struck a chord with me, too.  It got me back on track.  Yesterday I forced myself; today I feel like writing.  I did make a promise to myself that I would blog or keep a journal until the end of this year, which would make two years.  I haven’t been keeping the journal because it became redundant.  I’m going to keep my promise to myself and blog away at least until December.  It’s my own personal record for the world to see.  To me, that’s one of the most contradictory aspects of blogging – what you might not say face-to-face to a friend, you will gladly say to the entire world.

Just a couple of things I wanted to mention so this is a real mish-mash.

First, regular readers are so used to reading about me being at our cabin.  Slowly, after two years, it dawned on us that we’d be smart to rent the cabin out when we weren’t here.  It would be lovely to be able to pay the mortgage.  So I set out to put the plan into motion.  I had no idea of the mounds of detail that awaited me.

There is a co-op rental site in Alta Sierra which about eight cabins have joined.  The site is set up to be fully automated, but who knew that the endless detail just to get our information in would go on for days.  And weeks.  Getting a merchant account set up so we could accept credit cards.  Now this is interesting.

I applied for the merchant account in my name only, because Mark wants this to be my project.  The company called and said I had insufficient credit, whatever that means.  Having a credit score of 799 and credit cards with balances paid in full every month wasn’t sufficient credit?  They wanted more info.  We faxed some bank statements and tax returns.  Not good enough.  Why didn’t we change the application to Mark’s name?  We did, gave them no new information, and it was approved.

What I am supposed to infer from that?  Same info (except Mark’s name, driver’s license number and social), both names on taxes and accounts, and Mark’s credit score is 799 also.  I infer that gender discrimination was in play.  Anyway it sure made it difficult to complete the first rental, which I finally did on paypal.

I listed on VRBO as well as the co-op site.  Detail!  By the way, you can see the sites here:  The  Kern River Co-op site, and the VRBO listing.  You will notice something – we are spelling the word “cabin” with a “K”.  I cannot believe I am doing that.  When I see signs such as Koffee Kafe I shudder.  But Roy (the co-op developer and owner) is a computer programmer, and he said that will maximize exposure – that it has to be different or catchy, and it has to appear high on the web rankings when you do a search.  I can now write Kabin without coming apart.  Barely.  Alta Sierra Kamala Kabin it is.

I think the sites look good – but I need to do several more.  This is the photo we are using for the primary shot of the cabin.

Alta Sierra Kamala Kabin

Lastly, let’s strike a chord musically.  I’ve written about taking three of my grandkids, my daughter, and friend Michael Purcell to a Black-Eyed Peas concert. I’d been using “I’ve Got a Feeling” as my anthem, my wake-up song start-the-day-right song.  I just substituted the word “day” for “night.”  Today Michael forwarded something I hadn’t seen yet from when the Peas slightly modified the song for Oprah’s 24th anniversary.  It has two of my favorite things: the song and flash mobs.  I’m going to try to embed it in this post, but since I’ve not been successful with that yet, I may end up with a link. Just in case

Did you see that blur? It’s time flying by.


I’m having a lazy day.  I’m slowing down time. I’m just sitting around and I don’t really care. I came up to the cabin without my art stuff on purpose.  I don’t want to do anything and I don’t want to think about anything.  I’m watching the trees bend in the wind – I’d forgotten how much the pines sway in the wind – and you know, it takes lots of time to watch trees, if you’ve got the time. The blue jays are eating peanuts, the squirrel is trying to figure out how to get on the porch and steal those same peanuts, the chickadees are at the feeder, and the hummingbird is sipping nectar.  In other words, everything is as it should be up at the cabin.

The cats like it up here – Tiger was even running around and playing!  A very un-Tiger- like activity.  When we’re at home, Lily is always trying to interest Tiger in a chase or a game, but Tiger gives a little growl and spat, turns up her nose and stalks off.  Up here they play and sleep; however, to sleep each one takes a recliner and I can never bring myself to push one off.  Cat’s do what they want.  What’s time to a cat?

August 28, and I have the heat on.  Even Bakersfield is cool today – 80.  Last week it was 110, 107, 99 and 80 or something like that.  Such extremes. (Hold on a minute – time for a glass of wine….ok, that’s better. A nice chianti classico.)  It’s not TIME for cold weather, but nothing follows a pattern anymore.

So here I am, slowing down, lazing away, but one thing I did want to do was put together my Shutterfly album – Highlights of 2009.  I’ve been doing these every year now for a while, although since I am never moderate, I have two volumes for each year, Part I and Part II.  You might want to think about doing something like this.  The way I see it, it’s a hedge against memory loss and old age. Something I can look at when I can’t do any of those things anymore. And I’ll have plenty of time to look.

So I put my 2009 photos on my flash drive, came up to the cabin, was loading them on, and they passed before my eyes, each one, fleetingly, as they downloaded.

It was literally time flying by.  It was last year in a compressed version and there was a lot of it!  Much more than there will be for 2010.  I haven’t taken that many photos this year, for one.  The move seems to have consumed everything, and then the amazingly good and horrible month of July finished me off, and now I don’t know where I am mentally.

It was also disconcerting to see how fast time could fly literally in front of my eyes, when of course my time is flying – all of our time is flying – and I don’t want to stop it necessarily, but I want it to last.  I really want to live a very long time, several hundred years will be fine, but how can I think like that? It’ll never work unless we start colonizing space.  Where will they put us all?  The ubiquitous “they.”  If only “they” were listening to me, the world would be on the right track.  For instance, I could have saved people lots of time – so many studies have been funded to confirm the effects of socioeconomic status on school performance.  Why didn’t “they” just ask me?  Or any teacher?

Should I keep blogging or not? is it important that I say what I am thinking to the world?  Not so much.   Except when I get a comment about how much a particular blog helped someone deal with something, and then I’m in teacher mode.  Helping just one person is enough.  Teachers develop a warped sense of accountability.  I mean, I can’t “help” students and strangers my whole life.  Or can I?  Is that what I should be doing with my time?

I don’t know.  I think I’ll continue on with my lazy day, which also includes eating what I want when want.  I’m on my own timetable, at least for a few more days.

Cyndi Lauper’s song says it well – the story of time:

Time After Time
Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles confusion
Is nothing new
Flashback warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after time

Sometimes you picture me
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said
Then you say go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows you’re wondering
If I’m ok
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time

You said go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time

If you’re lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I’ll be waiting
Time after time

Time after time
Time after time
Time after time

Ultimately, the discussion of time is circular by nature.  Cyndi Lauper speaks of times remembered, but I always remember a line from Annie Dillard’s book The Maytrees:  “Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time.”

In response to Annie Dillard, I say I want more time, not equal time. So maybe I should be lazy more often, so time will drag, not fly.

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Best of Blog: What book touched you? Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees and Dexter Filkin’s The Forever War


Question for December 4 is What book- fiction or non – touched you? Where were you when you read it?  I need to talk about two: Annie Dillard’s The Maytrees and Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War.

maytrees annie dillard

If the measure of whether a book touched you or not is how many of the quotes you remember, the work of fiction that has stayed with me is The Maytrees by Annie Dillard.  When I was a seventh-grade language arts teacher, I’d tell my students that what we take from a book depends upon our life experiences.  A book read ten years ago can be a whole new book on the next reading depending upon the happenings in our lives, the knowledge we’ve acquired.  So I have to say that aging must have been heavy on my mind last year.  I think I have that worked out mostly,  but it doesn’t mean that books and articles that touch upon aging won’t resonate more than others.

The Maytrees was one of the first books of the year for me, and at first, I didn’t even like it.  I’d never read Dillard – not even Pilgrim at Tinker’s Creek. Dillard’s prose is spare, but as I became accustomed to it, the book began to speak to me.  It builds slowly with characters that seem like a motley bunch and made me question, could there possibly be this many quirky people in one small community?  As I searched my own experience I realized the answer was yes, there could.  Many of us could string together events in the lives of neighbors and friends and decide it has to be fiction because these lives couldn’t be so complicated, messy or strange – but they are.  And The Maytrees, set in Cape Cod I think, or at least a very small similar sea-town that would attract artists and summer vacationers, and perhaps the more eccentric who live year-round, gives us an ultimately believable cast of characters.  Characters who, when you strip the quirks away, are just people after all.

I’m just going to put in a few of the quotes that struck me – probably because of where I am in life.

“Their summer friends in particular harvested facts row on row from newspapers like mice on corncobs.”  This sentence made me remember how good I am at Trivial Pursuit with all these miscellaneous facts taking up storage space in my brain.  How do we get through life without accumulating knowledge we won’t need, or more important, how will we know what knowledge we will need when we are assaulted on all fronts every single day with more information than any one person can process? It’s so easy to get caught up without stopping to think – is this how I want to spend my day? Do I really want to read this article? Watch this newscast? Or should I just take a walk and let everything settle?

And this one: “How constantly, Lou thought, old people claim to have been once young.  It is as if they don’t believe it. ..that old people were old never jarred her, but it shook the daylights out of them.”   Watching my parents and intimately aware of my own thought processes and the position aging has in our society, this sentence made me realize (oh, I already knew it but this brought it into focus) how much time I spend in mild distress at getting older.  I think old age does shake the daylights out of the elderly because every day is a challenge and getting dressed can be an act of courage.  I think we still feel the same inside but our outsides won’t cooperate so in a way we don’t believe we were ever young. And that nicely transitions to the next quote.

“The tragedy of age, Jane said, is not that one is old but that one is young.”  This is profound.  At 63, I still feel like that 18-year-old setting forth on my own, my thoughts are youthful (not the same as immature I hope), I AM young.  But my body betrays me and the disconnect leads to Dillard’s “tragedy of age.”

One last quote from this book.  I’ve thought about this constantly throughout the year.  How many times a day do we say, “I don’t have enough time.”  “I can’t do that, there isn’t enough time.” “I wish I had more time!” This quote about the main character Lou: “Everyone envied her the time she had, not noticing that they had equal time.”

Powerful, huh?  In its simplicity.  Why has this stuck with me? Because we all DO have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day.  It’s how we use it that matters.  We make choices.  Life is about choices.  If we need more time, we should evaluate how we spend our time.  Simplify.  Discard the time-wasters.  Of course doing that takes the time to think about it, and thinking time is the hardest of all to get.  I frequently told my students that time for thought was not appreciated in our society.  Say you’re at work, sitting at your desk staring into space, and your boss walks by.  S/he asks what you’re doing, and you say “thinking.” How does that go over? Not well.  We’re industrious Americans and should be churning out whatever it is we churn out.

The Maytrees isn’t a great book but it comes close.  At least for me, at this particular time in my life, it came close.  I sure remember it.

the forever war dexter_filkins3

BUT WAIT – there’s more.  I have to include a non-fiction book too.  I know that everyone reading this blog is a thinking person or you wouldn’t be here. You owe it to yourself and to our soldiers to read this eminently readable work of non-fiction by reporter Dexter Filkins.  He was stationed in Iraq – I don’t remember for how long, but over a year I believe – and the way he narrates his experiences takes you somewhere you really, truly don’t want to go.  But you have to go there because thousands of our troops go there in this forever war, and this makes crystal clear why they are not coming home as whole people.  Sometimes literally if they make it home at all.

Read this book and you will “get it.” You’ll have to take this on faith because I can’t communicate like he does about the real hell war is, especially an undefinable war started on false pretenses.  And the complete impossibility of comprehending life and war in an Arab country. I lived in an Arab country for two years so have a foot up, but anyone who doesn’t have first-hand knowledge can come as close as possible with this book.

If you are intrigued, read Desert Queen, a book about Gertrude Bell, and you’ll get the whole thing.

Tiny adendum – I really enjoyed a book called Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and The Wild Things by genius Dave Eggers is pretty profound on many levels.  And a great kids book that may  not really be for kids is Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.  All three easy reading but requiring much thought.  You’re lucky the battery on my kindle is dead, or I’d go on forever!

sum GraveyardBook