My dog, Sadie, walks up to the screen door and looks back at me. “Will you let me out, please?” her eyes ask. I open the door and she walks out with clear intent: to flop down in the big patch of late-afternoon sun pooling on our balcony floor. She does so with no other purpose in mind but to lie down in it and soak it up, save for the occasional fly buzzing by that catches her attention. I watch as her ribs start to expand and contract at a slightly faster clip. Eventually, she sits up and is in full pant, but still seems to be drinking up the sun like a pint of Guinness, eyes fluttering in canine ecstasy. Time progresses for her in a different way than it does for me. She is an inspiration, not just because of the simplicity of her nature, but because she only does one thing at a time. And because she does not have to go to work, “accomplish” things on her to-do list, or think ahead to what she is going to eat for dinner, time is never of-the-essence for her.
My relationship with time, on the other hand, is much akin to the relationship I once had with my 6th Grade Reading teacher, a nun and former catholic schoolteacher who always seemed to take everything a little too seriously. This was public school after all, not purgatory. I always had one eye on her, thinking that at any moment she would sneak up behind me and catch me doing something I wasn’t supposed to (like slipping my shoes on and off distractedly under my desk, god forbid!). I was rather petrified of her, actually, and would get so nervous some mornings before catching the bus to school that I would get sick to my stomach and ask to stay home. Yet, for some reason, I always wanted to get on her good side, get to know her a little better, and try to understand why she was so…well, mean! The fear of her, after all, came from the complete lack of control I felt I had when I was in her classroom. Even asking to go to the bathroom felt like original sin. Funny how being nervous all the time does little to bolster one’s reading skills. I don’t remember a single book I read that year. But I made it through, relatively unscathed, with one lesson to hold on to: there are some things in life you cannot control, you just handle them as best you can, try not to vomit, and move on. Time is something I will never be able to control either. But time and I need some relationship counseling. I want to have time on my side again.
In high school, I used to sway my hips back and forth and sing, “Tiiiiiiiime is on my side, yes it is!” a line from the Rolling Stones song. Time felt friendly and constant back then, so it seems from my current perspective. More and more, when I take a moment to check the clock I experience a second of utter shock and horror (flash back to reading class), wondering what happened to the last hour of my life and thinking how much I still want to do. Admittedly, I put a lot on my plate each day and expect to get most of it done. I never do, and never will, and I have yet to accept this. I still haven’t learned my lesson.
There is hope, however, in that we DO have agency over our relationship with time. Meditation is one of the ways in which I can purposefully slow my breath, my mind, and thus, my perception of time. Because time is relative and elusive, what matters is our perception of it and the steps we take each day to foster a loving, not fearful, relationship with time. I continue to work hard at this because I feel it is essential to living a good, happy life. Like my panting dog on the balcony, I will strive to go through each day with clear intent and focus, and just try to allow life to happen as it is meant to, not how I plan for it to be.