Sunday, February 21, 2010

Time Is Relative

We have all heard the phrase “time is relative”. What does that really mean? To what is time relative? Time is fixed. It is quantifiable. It is what it is. A second is a second. Sixty of them make a minute. Sixty minutes make an hour. Twenty-four hours make a day. Nothing is going to change that. No matter how hard I wish that some days had thirty hours, and then there are those that after ten hours feel like they have gone on way too long, the truth of the matter is that every day is going to last twenty-four hours and no one can change that fact. Again I ask, to what is time relative?

Time is in direct relationship with time itself and our direct need or desire for it. On those days that we seriously need it or desire it, there never seems to be enough. Take time spent sleeping, for example. I treasure that time. It seems that whether I sleep for three hours (I have had my share of those 180 minute nights in the last couple years) or whether I sleep eight hours (there have been a couple of those nights too), it is never enough. I say that, but I really don’t know what enough is. Or for that matter, what too little is. I don’t notice a whole lot of difference during the day one way or the other. Maybe I just don’t appreciate the complex relationship of time spent asleep verses time spent awake.

Maybe that’s it. Time is relative to how much we appreciate how we spend it. I have spent almost twenty-one years raising children. Offspring No. 2 is leaving in the fall for college. A lot has happened during those 21 years. It many ways the birth of both girls seems like forever ago. Fortunately those days of every meal I ate for nine months making a second appearance are now only a blurred memory. At other times, the days of teaching them colors and numbers and how to bite a Dorito and create a trapezoid seem like yesterday. I have enjoyed nearly every minute of every day with the girls and I don’t regret how I have spent any of the past twenty-one years. That is a great feeling!

When I look back, time has passed quickly. As I am fast approaching fifty, I want it to slow down. I don’t want the next 21 years to go by so fast. Maybe these feelings come from the fact that I am starting all over in life. In a few short months I will no longer be a 24/7 parent and I will be a newlywed. The last time those two things aligned I was twenty one and had a lifetime ahead of me. It seemed then like I had all the time in the world to go to graduate school, establish myself in the work force, have and raise children, buy a house, save for retirement, travel, and the list goes on. My perspective is a little different now. How much longer do I have to work to pay all the girls’ tuition, have enough for retirement, and still have enough time to enjoy retirement? Suddenly I feel like I am working against time – or is it that time is working against me?

I can’t change time. I can only change how I look at it. And here is my perspective. In the twenty-four hours that make up every day, I can choose to look with joy and gratitude at all that those hours bring, or I can spend them wallowing in dissatisfaction and worry. For me, there is no decision to be made here. If time is relative to how much we appreciate it, it may pass quickly for me, but I would rather come to that end smiling at where I have been and at what I have done than crying because I have staggered so long in misery and grief.

Approaching each day this way gives me confidence to believe that the best is yet to come.