Sometimes I am a terrible reader. Sometimes it’s auspicious.
Time Ambulance. Sparkle Practice.
These are my “creative” readings from this evening. AKA, things I did not read correctly. Well, maybe I read them in the way I needed to, correctly for me. The first I jotted down on my folder as a note for later. [I write lots of notes for later, do you? Things that catch my eye that I may want to write about or noodle or plant later? They are ALL OVER.] The second sent me straight to my computer. One inspiring mis-read in a night is one thing. But two? Two back-to-back that make me want to sing? Let the flow begin.
The actual words on the page were “time abundance”, but I like my version a lot better. My time ambulance wee-ooo-wee-oo-wheee-ooos down the roadway all the time, pushing all of us huddled in cars and huffing on bikes to the gutters of the roadway, stopping us in our tracks. The time ambulance careens me to a halt, as it whisks away another idea, project or dream that will not be seeing the light of day today, or tomorrow, or maybe anytime.
At first I imagined this metaphor with time itself in the back of the ambulance, oxygen mask strapped to its wispy face, and a nice paramedic saying “hang in there Mr. Time, we’ll make it.” As if time is somehow on life support, in critical condition! Fragile and emergency-like. Time is not the ambulance’s patient, it’s the driver.
It can feel that way, when time races by and jolts lightening strikes of panic in my tummy. And in my panic, what do I do?
I yield and watch it fly by.
In reality, I don’t actually yield and watch time pass. Yielding implies some sort of soft and subtle understanding and flexibility in the situation. That is not what I do. I pull over and flail and hold my breath when passed by the time ambulance.
Time is the one thing, along with gravity, that isn’t fragile. It’s not abundant. It’s not scarce. It’s not fragile, it’s not strong. It just is. And it’s our job to just figure out how to be in relationship with it. (Seeing a relationship theme around here lately?)
My relationship is futile. I make lists and try to be overly organized and plan, a lot. Not because this is an effective strategy, but because it’s just my coping strategy, and it always has been. I know the core of the problem. I know the route and the schedule of the time ambulance – but I feel utterly powerless (or frankly, unwilling) to change it.
Here’s the problem (or to be more kind, the root). I’m 34, and I have still not learned how to appropriately estimate what I can fit into one single day. I can not, realistically, estimate how long it will take me to accomplish one small task. Shouldn’t this be a skill to have learned by this point in life? I can not be realistic about this. My eyes are bigger than my stomach. I bite off more than I can chew, at least in the planning stages in my head.
So, at the end of each day, or sometimes even by 10 in the morning, the time ambulance is whisking away the wheezing corpse of a project that will not be accomplished today. Not because it can’t be done, but because I have not given it a realistic shot at a breath of life with the way I pack ideas into a day like sardines into an oily tin can. I can burn the midnight oil, I can set the alarm extra early, but the proportion of hours gained is paltry compared to what dreams of achievement I weave into them.
There is plenty of time. There is always plenty of time. As long as I can wrestle my expectations about what I can responsibly and reasonably fit into that time. Time isn’t the problem, I am. As a “type-A oldest child perfectionist kind of being”, to steal dead-on, smarty-pants words typed by Brenna Layne earlier today, I still hold on to this notion that I can do anything, and I can do it well, and I can make it fit. (Ha!)
When younger, there was a certain pride in over-accomplishing. I was fresh enough to handle all-nighters and over-loaded schedules. I thrived on a calendar that treated time as a full-blown, panic-filled, emergency crisis every minute. Full of hustle, arriving late, and all the anxiety that brings forth. (And, I happen to be a procrastinator, and a lingerer, and a hard-to-get-started-er, which eats time like chickens peck leftover salad greens.) But I would like to change all this now, as time begins to show her hand to me, and because eight hours of sleep is a dreamy, functional sort of thing.
So then the question becomes, how to pare down? What serves me well, and what does not? What adds value, and what skims savings off the top of the pot? What engenders my heart leaps, and what dredges the deep bottom with the weight of a lead anchor? What still keeps me up late, but refreshes my soul like a long rest on a soft mattress? What is useful action throughout the day, and what is valuable inaction?**
The thing about a real ambulance is, when you see those flashing lights in your rearview mirror, time does momentarily stop. The only thing that becomes important is to pull over and stop your vehicle and let that darn red truck with its important passengers get to where it needs to go, so that some real work can be done. And say a tiny prayer. You just pull over. Yield. Abide. For real.
[Thanks to Jeffrey Davis and Tracking Wonder for the #LiveTheQuest nudge to consider our relationship to time.]
Thanks to my dear friend Miss P, I was navigating Sage Cohen’s Radical Divorce blog over dinner. In reality, the words along the banner read Spiritual Practice, but I saw Sparkle Practice, and nearly jumped out of my seat. A sparkle practice? A sparkle practice! I don’t know what that is, but I want a piece of that practice pie.
I imagined myself throwing glitter confetti in spurts of joy at strangers in surprise moments. I envisioned a special sparkle in my eye as I cast the world brave smiles while walking down the street every day. I imagine the perfect way it feels when my thoughts and emotions conspire and produce crisp, mirrorball reflections on paper.
And since a sparkle practice is just a brand-new kind of spiritual practice – I guess I can make it whatever I want it to be. Heart to head to hand to glitter.
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**I am grateful to now call myself owner of the “Murphy Brown desk”. This is the desk in my parents’ bedroom as I grew up. Where my mother would pay bills and re-organizer her piles. The telephone books in the bottom left hand drawer, and the scissors in the upper right. (That’s how I was taught the word abscond. “Vanessa, did you abscond with the scissors again?” I usually had. They were the best scissors in the house, and even back then I was remiss to put anything back where I sourced it from. Old habits die hard.) Back to the desk. When my parents moved out of that growing-up house ten years ago, they were kind enough to hold on to furniture that I might one day want in my grown-up life. I wanted that desk. And now it sits in my office, well used. The wide, flat drawer above the chair space has three yellowed pieces of paper taped to its lip.
It’s the middle one that interests me most. I don’t think of my mom as a time waster. But this is calm, comforting and sage advice.