Are you spending time well?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It is interesting how humans break life up into neat little packets we call time. Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, decades, and centuries marking our passage from here to gone.

On Monday, we lived through the longest day of 2010 and now the daylight hours get progressively shorter. Well, they are actually the same length just our perception of their length changes. Time is, after all, about our perception of how slowly or quickly it passes.

As I thought about this, a conversation I had recently with friends came to mind. We were talking about how we spend our days, what we give attention to and what we fail to notice. The consensus was that if we aren’t careful we slide through the hours in a fog of busyness that eats up precious time.

I think that is the way of most of the world. Folks rush around like ants scrambling toward the mound. Or, as I heard it described, we live like a dog chasing its tail, only the dog has more fun.

The conversation continued as we talked about how to change our mindset and perhaps stop playing the tail-chasing game so much of the time. The idea that emerged was a simple one, something we could, we thought, easily practice.

What we decided was that every day we would do at least one thing we really enjoyed doing. It didn’t have to be a big production or any kind of grand activity, just a simple pleasure we’d give ourselves as a gift.

Maybe it is reading, taking a walk or a nap, or doing something creative like painting, or writing or gardening or baking a cake. It could be as simple as sitting quietly sipping a cup of coffee or a drinking a cold glass of tea under the shade of a nice old oak tree.

The more I thought about this, the more I puzzled over why most of us have to decide to give ourselves time to do something enjoyable. I couldn’t help but wonder about the priorities we set for our lives.

If we aren’t doing at least one thing we really want to do every day, exactly what are we doing with our lives? Where is it we are trying to get to with all the rushing about?

And what if the someday when we think we will finally get there never comes? Or what if when it does, our health isn’t good or the folks we wanted to spend that time with aren’t around anymore?

That was a lot to think about on the longest day of the year, and it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my time.

So, I finished cleaning up the lunch dishes, put a load of clothes in the dryer and sat down at the second-hand art desk that is one of my favorite pieces of furniture. Then for the next hour or so, I painted. Now what emerged probably isn’t something that will end up displayed in a gallery, but it is a nice enough painting of a flower.

Best of all, for that space of time, the voice in my head reciting the “to-do” list was silent and this dog stopped chasing her tail for a little while.

Now I know there is necessary stuff to do each day, and not all of it qualifies as our most enjoyable thing. Still, surely in the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and years that make up our lives we could squeeze in a few more just-for-the-joy-of-it moments if we tried.

Who knows, it might slow down our perception of how quickly the time passes between here to gone.