A few words on time as treasure

The weeks slip by like pearls on a slippery strand. I watch them go, or rather, I don’t, but they go anyway. And often, too often, I find myself scrolling back through my calendar asking myself the same desperate question:

Where did the time go?

It amazes me to look back and see what the days, the weeks, even the months bring. Since I last posted here, I’ve placed two creative pieces in national publications and countless articles in the newspaper for which I work, written a (truly rough first draft) novel for National Novel Writing Month, finished the final proofs cycle on the literary magazine for which I serve as editor in chief, wrapped up my final MFA semester and submitted reams of work to literary magazines and publications in which my heart can see my name, even if my eyes haven’t yet had the chance.

But I’ve accomplished so much more than the activities that fill my days when my hands need something to do. I’ve given and gotten kisses that made my heart leap to my lips for the chance to join in. I’ve laughed until my stomach churns and cried until torrents of emotion carried me away on winds that were my breath. I’ve danced until I couldn’t feel the floor beneath my feet, run like my lungs had no limit, and yes, stumbled and fallen because I wasn’t placing my feet as carefully as their obstacles demanded. I’ve dreamed up universes. I’ve worked toward building them on the clouds.

And you know, I don’t think any of those (the second paragraph especially) have wasted a single breath of my time. Too often, we spend so much energy trying to cherish every moment that we end up worrying all of them away. I’ve caught myself stopping in the middle of an activity to ask, “Am I having fun? Am I grabbing this with both hands and holding on as tightly as I can?” The answer, when I stop the moment to examine it, is no.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t be both examining a moment and inhabiting it. How can we live if we’re always grasping at the straws of time, trying to grab them in our greedy little fists, to take out and covet later?

Sometimes, I’ve been afraid of time. Afraid of losing it, or of not having enough. That seems to be a common reaction, when faced with our own terrifying mortality. We become obsessed with appreciating the days we have, because none of us knows how many of those there might be. Think of all the self-help books that tell you to “live in the moment” or that “every day is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.” Doesn’t it seem a bit off-kilter that we spend that time learning how to live, when we were all born with an innate ability to do exactly that? I think we’ve been conditioned to assume we’re doing it wrong. But if you got up this morning, if you feel present in your moment, if you can look back at your days and see them stretching back behind you like a map of where you’ve been, I don’t think you need anyone to tell you how to live.

And when I remember that life is not a bank account and time cannot be spent so much as lived, neither do I.

Today, I will not cherish the moment. I will not treat today like a gift. Cherishing is too close to coveting, and coveting is cousins to greed. Gifts can be burdens as much as blessings, but time? Time just is. And letting it be what it is meant to be for your own, beautiful, particular you, is the best way to live of them all.

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