It’s About Time

I started to think about time one evening, and I couldn’t get to the end of it.

I have a friend in India. Chandigarh is half-way around the world from where I lived until a year ago, and I had a hard time keeping track of what time it is there, so I made a chart. I called him one day, and I updated my chart because I had just moved to a different time zone.

There I sat, changing time. Can we change time? I always struggle with Einsteinian physics. I do get the general concepts, so I am aware that theoretically we can change time in some sense. We can bend time, or stretch it, or shrink it; time is, as they say, plastic, not concrete. But we cannot, as I understand things, change time’s consistency. For example, water can be turned into steam or ice, but I haven’t heard that time can be made liquid or solid. My sense is that time is evanescent. At least, it gets away from me in the same way as does a cloud.

Think of all the things we do with time: We take time, make time, use time, keep time, save time, lose time, spend time, waste time. If we have time, we can spare time, give time, share time.

We bandy those words about with abandon. At first, as I listed them, I thought them all to be literal impossibilities. Then I thought again.

Make time. How do you do that? Well, you decrease the amount of time you spend on one or more activities and thus release time not otherwise available. It’s like when you pinch off a bit of dough from two already formed cookies to make a third.

Taking time works much the same way, but you could be taking it from someone else’s allocation, and that might not be fair.

Using and spending time mean pretty much the same thing. Once you have done one of them, the time is gone; we all know that. Where did it go? When you use water, you know where it went: You drank it or you took a bath in it and let it go down the drain. Where does the time go? We ask ourselves that many times.

Keeping time has several meanings. You keep time with music by tapping your feet or dancing well. A young man keeps time with his girl.

You can save time by hurrying while you perform some action or activity. But, I ask you, where is that time you saved? Do you have a drawer full of time at the end of the week? A book in which you record all the time you saved, and the interest accrued?

All of us have lost time. I am sure that, once you let it get away, you never get it back. I doubt that no one who reads this has never wasted time. That time is as good as lost, also. But I believe that some wasted time is valuable, so I never worry about that.

When we plan ahead, we leave time for the unexpected.

Here are a few puzzles: We can run out of time, but not into it. We can take a time out, but not a time in. We can do different things at the same time, but not exactly the same thing at different times. At the end of an event, we say time’s up, but we never say time’s down. We have both down times and up times.

I’m ashamed to admit this one: We all kill time.

Sometimes, we just sit around with time on our hands. Again, you cannot see this time, or put it away to use later. We all know that it is good to give some time—say a few minutes—to someone else who needs a hand; we all can spare time at a time like this.

Best of all, we can share time with all the folks whose company we enjoy. There’s nothing better to do with time than share it.

Oh dear! I had a lot more to say and I never did answer the question about whether or not we can change time, but now I don’t have time.

 

How to Procrastinate

How to Procrastinate

I’ve been thinking of ways I procrastinate when I have a major project to do, and can’t seem to get started. If you’re like most folks you, too, manage to find other things to do, things that probably don’t need to be done anywhere near as much as “The Project.” Sometimes, it’s hard to even think about those things, so I provide, below, a short list of ideas that might help you do a good job of procrastination.

You can do any or all procrastinations for any effort, in no particular order and depending on how desperate you are:

  • File your nails—this task can take as few as ten minutes or, for greater procrastination, you can make it last for a half-hour.
  • Polish your nails—you have options for a half-hour quickie or a full, all steps included, job that can take a mere 2.25 hours, or as much as 3.75 hours. It depends on which preparations you make before you actually apply polish, how many coats of polish you use, and how long each takes to dry.

I usually go for the big job that includes cuticle preparation, an oil soak for 10 minutes, and five different kinds of clear polish that take ten or fifteen minutes to dry satisfactorily. (Actually, the final coat takes about two and a half hours to dry solid, so I can bump into something and the combination of polishes doesn’t smear.)

  • Check all your pens and markers to see which ones are out of ink and can be thrown away—this is a fairly quick procrastination device. The length of time to allow for it varies proportionately to the number of writing and coloring instruments you can find. You might survey only those implements on your own desk or you could scavenge the whole house, including the bedroom of your thirteen year old daughter.
  • Load more paper into your printer—a really quick intervention. It shouldn’t take more than five minutes unless you have to unwrap a whole new ream of paper, in which case you might stretch it to ten minutes.
  • Make that appointment with your dentist—the length of time to accomplish this exercise depends primarily on the number of people in your dentist’s office. Time elapsed can range from ten to thirty minutes. It’s a matter of how long you are on hold.
  • Straighten, delete items from, or add items to:
    • Desk drawers—allow at least fifteen minutes per drawer; if you get carried away, you may take a half-hour for each drawer.
    • File drawers (those in file cabinets)—Consider how deep the drawers are from front to back, how tightly packed they are, and how much reading you must do in order to decide what to keep (and/or refile somewhere else). For each drawer you can take between a half hour and a whole hour.
    • Kitchen and/or Pantry drawers / shelves / cabinets—these require, at best, only guesstimates. Each could take as few as fifteen-to-twenty minutes or as long as a half hour or more. If you go all out, probably you can spend at least a half day, maybe a whole day, getting your whole kitchen straightened up. If you are compulsive enough, and think you can take the time, you can wipe each surface clean as you go, and add another five to ten minutes to the time you estimate for each component.
    • Clothes closet(s)—Oooh! This one’s pretty big. You can simply go through a closet and scan the contents for things you can / should remove and discard or donate. You might add to that a re-organization—by type of garment, for example, or you can go all out and arrange the garments by color, length, where you are likely to wear them, or how often you wear them. You almost certainly have a much better idea than I of how to plan for this work.
    • Garage—the garage, most likely, is the biggest activity of all options for the procrastinator. A real quickie, for the average two-car garage in which both cars are usually parked, should take only two or three hours. But, for the same garage with no cars ever parked in it, you can easily spend a full day, or more. Beware: nearly all predictions for how much can be done in how long turn into final reports of time taken that are approximately twice as long as predicted.
  • Balance your bank account(s)—here, I hesitate to prognosticate. This activity can take as little as twenty minutes or as long as two hours (and, possibly, the account still doesn’t balance). Variables include how many transactions you’ve made, whether (or not) you recorded them as they occurred, and, possibly, how good you are with basic arithmetic. 
  • Work on your photos / albums—the first variable, here, is the number of photos involved. The depth of your work may be simply gathering all loose photos and sorting them by album, or you might be really anxious to get all of your photos really properly organized and securely positioned in their intended albums. It seems to me that the best thing to do is decide on how long you will give to this task, work that long and only that long, then quit before you find yourself trapped into twice or three times the allotted time.
  • Make lists, of everything—I love lists and practice their usefulness as often and as much as I can. The amount of time you devote to list-making is entirely up to you and may be restricted to only one list for the hardware store or an overall list (perhaps of lists) that encompasses everything from phone calls for the day to Excel charts for long-term planning. The lists listed below are only a few suggestions. I am sure your list of lists (even if it exists only in your head) is the most practical for you and your situation.
    • To Do
    • People to call / email / send a note or letter
    • Things you need / want
    • Recipients of next December’s Holiday Greetings / Newsletter
  • Call as many people you can think of (especially the long-winded folks)—I’m sure you know better than I how long you want to talk with each contact. Probably, you will want to set aside a block of time available, rather than predict actual time involved.
  • Work in the garden—some people can spend as little as fifteen minutes in the garden. Others like to take a half- or whole-day. It’s entirely up to you.
  • Exercise / Walk—I have to procrastinate to do either of these, so I’ll leave it up to you.
  • Take up bird-watching—the amount of time you spend on this activity depends on your particular circumstances and/or need to procrastinate.
  • Start a New Project—this strategy is for only the most serious procrastinators. You can take a few minutes (say a half hour) to sketchily outline your new project. At the other extreme, if the New Project will take as much or more time and effort as your current Project, and you need to provide a detailed proposal, it can take days. Only you can determine and make an educated guess about how long it will take you to create a plan and complete work on your New Project.

I’m sure I’ve left out many opportunities for procrastination. You will think of some yourself, as you read through those listed above. At least this is a start.

Good Luck! Enjoy your status as an Official Procrastinator. You’re in the best of company. 

Wordsmith Unlocked

Lively
words that had been lorn, alone,
burst into flower,
gathered new life,
again filled my mind.

Slowly,
words that had been locked inside
trickled past brain cells,
slid through fingers,
tumbled over keys.

Quickly,
words that had been lost in space
covered blank pages,
flew through ether,
trembled with meaning. 

Lovely
words that had been left unsaid
found voice in darkness,
fell on keen ears,
gave substance to love.

Codfish Dinner

On a cold, gray 
Michigan winter evening,
we sit to dinner.

Codfish, mashed potatoes, canned corn; 
all cold.
The fish is old;
fried to leather, 
it smells like rancid ocean.

No one speaks.
I push fish flakes 
among corn nibblets,
unable to clean my plate.

My grandmother giggles.
My mother titters.
I look to my right.

With brown eyes dancing
above his solemn face,
my little brother wears
a mashed potato beard

Losses

We lose our keys. Our glasses. The scrap of paper with our son’s new address on it, just before we leave our house to go over there. The word that was the point of the punch line to the long joke we started to tell to five people standing around in the parking lot at the Safeway. We’re old now. It happens to the best of us. Everyone understands. We find the keys and the glasses, and we call our son who gives us the directions again. Our friends laugh with us about the joke anyway. 

More losses come with our age. Our vision. Our hearing. All manner of “good health” things we never used to worry about now are lost in a sea of “issues” we must take care of every day. That’s not all. We lose sleep and, somehow, control of our cars and our golf clubs and our tennis racquets. It’s a losing battle.

We lose people. We lose them to diseases and cancer, and to failure of body parts to function any longer. We lose neighbors and acquaintances, and mailmen, doctors, and Yoga instructors, and people we didn’t really know but who were important to someone we know well. We lose classmates, friends, and cousins—people we were close to. In our minds and hearts, these people were not supposed to die. Like ourselves, they were supposed to live forever. At least, we think, they were supposed to outlive us, so we would not have to consider their absence, the cause and manner of their death, and our sorrow at the lack of their presence in our lives from now on.

We lose our closest friends, our siblings, our spouses, even—perhaps—our children. For some, these losses are not always totally unexpected. The person was ill, or had a life-taking condition with a probable prognosis for when they might pass away. But, for many, all the preparation in the world is of little help when the moment arrives and the loved one leaves. Whether the loss is a peaceful and calm departure or a sudden surprise, those left behind experience a period of grief and sorrow that may inhabit their lives for years. Sometimes this feeling is intense and sharp; it may come and go and then essentially disappear. Sometimes it pervades throughout all the life of the mourner for the rest of their days. Each person’s experience is different; it depends on the characteristics of the person left behind and the nature of the relationship between the two people. 

As we grow older, we encounter a greater number of these personal losses. At times, we feel overwhelmed and it seems we are alone in our grief; no one is left but ourselves. But we are in a unique situation. Our generation is the first to live as long as we do. More of us are still alive at our ages than were in any decade before now. We are not alone.  We have only to look around and recognize the number of folks trucking along with canes and walkers and wheelchairs. So many! So take heart and go meet a new friend, today. Who knows? It may be the start of another lifelong friendship!