Lately I have become acutely aware of contradictory sensations related to time. On the one hand, time passes at an alarming speed. One season collides with the next: summer disappeared before the fall crop of seeds got planted; fall was replaced with dropping temperatures and snow, freezing unfinished garden beds. Holidays whip ferociously by; Thanksgiving overlaps with Christmas and then it’s New Year’s—when was there time to live an entire year?
And yet each day is so packed. When I was younger, and time seemed infinite, work and getting together with friends filled every day to capacity. On a Sunday, a bike ride along the Charles River followed by a snooze in the sun was a day well spent. I enjoyed myself then, and have few regrets, but time seemed in such plentitude that looking back it feels squandered. Now I plan lunch or dinner with friends two months out, schedule exercise, carve out time for volunteer work, orchestrate a Saturday’s errands to maximize efficiency. Always a list maker, I have one for each day, another for the week and a third for the weekend…and a monthly calendar to keep track of upcoming events. All of this activity actually makes me feel more alive and engaged than in my younger days. The more I experience, the more interested I am in learning. Still, the one thing I wish for is time—to sit quietly and read, to write with my head not racing through a “to do” list, to observe: the dynamics of the chickens, the garden growing, the sky changing.
Thanksgiving…a week ago now…I read the paper over breakfast, before cooking up the sweet potatoes to bring to my aunt’s Thanksgiving dinner. One piece on the OpEd page stopped me, “On Being Not Dead.” The author, Bill Hayes, wrote about time, friends, and noticing life. Talking about degrees of “aliveness” he said: “One can be alive but half-asleep or half-noticing as the years fly, no matter how fully oxygenated the blood and brain or how steadily the heart beats. Fortunately, this is a reversible condition. One can learn to be alert to the extraordinary and press pause—to memorize moments of the everyday.”
December is almost upon us and with it comes three family birthdays: my mother’s, sister’s and then mine. Followed by Christmas. Added to our regular activities will be a tree to cut down and decorate, presents to choose and wrap, cards to write and send, cookies to make, friends to celebrate with, holiday events to attend.
This is a big birthday year for me. To mark it, I hope to press pause more frequently. Maybe then December will feel like 31 days, and 2013 will be 12 full months. Plenty of time to learn, to grow, and to notice.