I have a morbid sense of time passing. This probably comes from doctors telling my parents, when I was two, that my disease meant I wouldn’t live to be a teenager. I don’t remember how I came to know of this, but I do remember crying a lot on my 12th birthday.
After I graduated from high school, I remember thinking that I had already received more than I could expect, so I treated every year as if it would be my last. I would spend an hour every day just sitting in front of the daffodils, soaking in the springtime, because I knew that I might never see those bright beauties again. Every season had to be absorbed and enjoyed — the warm breezes of summer, the fiery leaves of autumn, the snowflakes of winter. When each season came to an end, however, I often felt that I hadn’t enjoyed them enough, that I wasn’t getting everything I could out of what little time I had left on earth.
By the time I celebrated my 25th birthday, I realized that I had no idea when I was going to die and that maybe I shouldn’t live so much like a hedonistic, self-indulgent kind of child.
Maturity is a lifelong process, with each stage taking longer for some people than others. It was many more years before I started putting in the time and effort to concentrate on someone other than myself. My world of relationships became bigger as my sister got married, I gained nephews, and licensed nurses’ aides began coming to the house a few hours a week to help with my care. Observing people instead of things and thinking about their concerns and feelings instead of my own helped me to grow as a person. But sympathy and compassion doesn’t stop the overwhelming sense of time itself slipping away. I wonder at how fast little boys grow: was it really so long ago when they were two and four, enraptured by my storytelling and our games of make-believe? I wonder at the length of time that has passed since I last saw particular people: where does the time go?
These are common experiences. We are limited human beings, living in a limited world, knowing that our time here is likewise limited. We have all felt the relentless fleeting of time in one way or another.
Time Well Spent?
In a place with cold winters, like where I live, summertime can be especially fast, starting off like a big red ball, bouncing high, and then a little less high, the bounces coming more and more quickly with less and less amplitude, until summer days just dribble away and are no more. And there’s an outside pressure to enjoy the warm weather while it lasts and to get summer right. You must go to the beach or the lake — maybe and the lake — and when you go, you must go with a group of other people to make it a real outing. You haven’t done that yet? Other people are posting photos of picnics and zip lining — what do you have to show for your summer vacation? Pretty soon it’s going to be cold, there’s going to be two and a half feet of snow on the ground, and you’ll wish that you had done more when the sun was high.
Time goes by and we haven’t done or accomplished all the things that we think we should have done or accomplished. We feel let down, maybe we feel like failures — so much time wasted.
That’s the funny thing about time, however. We talk about spending time and wasting time, but what is time, really? That’s far too deep of a question to answer in this little reflection, but it’s enough to say that time is more than — and other than — the marked minutes and hours on a clock, or days and months on a calendar.
Sure, you can think about time in terms of life in the past and future, but what about now? Right now, this instant. What is your life at this moment? Are you paying attention? Are you really here? Let’s see if you are.
Are you inhaling or exhaling?
Are you holding your breath?
Are you smiling, just a little?
What does the sky look like, or the texture of the wall?
What’s that sound in the background?
Who is the nearest person to you, in inches or maybe miles, right now?
More important than how much time you spend in a pretty place, or how many pictures you take of your adventures, is how present you are in the present. This present. Appreciating your own breath or a child’s ridiculous joke, providing someone with an attentive ear or a helping hand is so much more than time well spent — it’s time fulfilled. It’s you fulfilled.
Every moment of time that you have lived in your life, the good and the bad, the boring and the exciting, lives in you, right here, right now. And now. And now. And now. Witness your life. True fulfillment doesn’t come through the amount of likes on a Facebook post, the variety of places in which you’ve taken selfies, or even the number of people who know you by name. True fulfillment doesn’t even come through happy feelings. When you give of yourself in the smallest moment — to a fellow human being, to one of God’s creatures, or to God Himself — you touch the heart of your fulfillment, you touch the heart of God, going beyond time and space. That moment will never be lost, will never fail.
As William Blake puts it:
“To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wildflower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.”
By the way, any grain of sand, pebble in your shoe, rose of a person, or dandelion will do. Let yourself be open to the wonder of now. When you experience regrets (God knows I despise the feeling of regret) or the sense of missed opportunity for goodness, then allow divine forgiveness to work its miracle. Allow God to forgive you — and forgive yourself. Give every moment to the Creator of time and space, so that you can fully live who you are right here, right now. Eternally now.
© 2019 Christina Chase
PS. Why not just take a moment, now, to follow this blog? Then visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel where I made a video similar to this reflection — talk about time well spent! 😀
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.