The Elegance of Time ~ 6 Ways to Make the Most of It

IMG_1675It’s that time of year when graduations, weddings, and class reunions fill nearly everyone’s calendar. We give a high school graduation gift to someone who it seems was just a toddler. How can the bride possibly be all grown-up and getting married? The people at our class reunion are old! These events ceremoniously mark the passage of time, and we can’t help but wonder if we’re making the most of it.

In her book Time Alive, contemporary author Alexandra Stoddard writes, “Our time is brief by any standard. Now is the only opportunity we’ll have to give life meaning and find satisfaction. Our entire life depends on the wise use of our moments.”

I gained my first real understanding of the passage of time when I was in the third grade. A reel-to-reel film featured the seasonal progression of an ordinary tree. Classical music played softly in the background as a woman’s soothing voice narrated. Through the magic of time-lapsed photography, tiny spring buds transformed into lush green leaves, morphed into autumn-colored foliage, and fell away leaving stark bare branches.

I was captivated by the beauty, rhythm, and order of time marching forward. Sitting cross-legged on the cold linoleum floor of Lincoln Elementary School, I remember fighting back tears of wonder and joy. In an unforgettable moment of clarity, I became stunningly aware of time and its inevitable and precious passage.

The eight-year-old who holds that memory now qualifies for senior citizen discounts. I hope I’ve made good use of my time so far. When I find myself drifting or dragging from one day to the next, milestones in life remind me time is passing whether or not I am truly living.

Certainly, our individual responsibilities and stage of life determine how we spend our time, but here are six suggestions to help us make the most of our time alive.

  1. Evaluate how you’re spending it. You might be surprised how much time you rack up watching meaningless television, scrolling through social media, or frittering away at things that don’t bring you real meaning or happiness. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” wrote Annie Dillard.
  2. Identify your priorities. Decide what’s most important to you at this time in your life and dedicate your time to those things. Ask yourself writer Mary Oliver’s burning question, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Making the best use of your time often means deciding what we choose not to do.
  3. Picture your ideal day. Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not enough to be busy. The question is what are we busy about?” Considering the realities of your life, what does a well-spent day look like? Map out your morning, afternoon, and evening to create a general schedule that leads to living your best life.
  4. Do it before it’s too late. James 4:14 says, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring…for you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Maybe you really want to see the Grand Canyon, write a book, plant a rose garden, or say “I love you.” What are you waiting for?
  5. Simplify your possessions. There’s no point in wasting time acquiring, cleaning, organizing, and storing things you don’t need or want. Imagine the time (and space) you could create in your life. Nineteenth century essayist Charles Dudley Warner wrote, “Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.”
  6. Take care of yourself. You can’t make the best use of your time if you don’t feel well physically, mentally, and spiritually. In that memorable film from my early school days, the tree that bloomed and grew beautifully through all the seasons was a healthy one, rooted in purpose, simplicity, and elegance. §

“Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing.”
~ Miles Davis

Parking Lot Rainbows

Most of us have had the chance to visit a place of magnificent beauty. Maybe you stood in awe at the edge of the Grand Canyon, watched dolphins frolic in ocean waves, hiked to a waterfall on a snowcapped mountain, or gazed at the northern lights. Those experiences become etched in our memory and remind us of the grandeur of our world, but natural beauty can be found almost anywhere. The wise and wonderful Maya Angelou wrote, “Open your eyes to the beauty around you. Open your mind to the wonders of life.”

I recently ran into the grocery store in a cold, driving rain. I struggled to control my umbrella as the wind blew it inside out. Sloshing and shivering through the aisles, the shoppers’ expressions looked as worn and tired as their winter coats. When I left the store, I was stunned to see the sky awash in a surreal post-storm glow and a full rainbow stretch over rows and rows of dirty cars. The parking lot was filled with people who stopped their carts and smiled heavenward.

Just this week, a surprise gift from nature brought comfort and joy to my mom and me. After 24-hours in the emergency room, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital an hour away. I followed in my car, accompanied by an immense orange sun that transformed the sky into an entertaining show of vibrant color until dramatically sinking into a cornfield. When I met my mom in her hospital room she quietly said, “Did you see the sunset? I watched it all the way here through the ambulance window.” In a time of distress, my mother chose to open her eyes to the beauty around her. I feel sure such a positive attitude will help her heal after unexpected surgeries.

There are natural wonders of the world that you and I may never see. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Africa’s Victoria Falls, and the Himalaya’s Mount Everest probably won’t become entries in my travel journal, but there are still amazing everyday sights to be seen.

In her book Open Your Eyes, Alexandra Stoddard wrote, “I’ve found most people go through life half blind. Few really know how to see and as a result are unaware of the majesty and beauty around them. But seeing can be learned, and to those who learn to see well, the world becomes an entirely different place. ”

As we make our way through our days, we can look for natural wonders wherever we may find ourselves. Daisies pushing through sidewalk cracks, chickadees singing on porch railings, clouds in the shape of a heart, and parking lot rainbows seem to show up when most needed to bring happiness, encouragement, and hope to those who open their eyes. §