“Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”
M. Scott Peck
“Your greatest resource is your time.”
“You cannot kill time without injuring eternity.”
Henry David Thoreau
I don’t know what happened, but I really hurt myself last night. I was playing softball with my two youngest daughters after going to my oldest daughter’s Open House. I was having a great time playing pickle with the girls when suddenly I got a very sharp pain in my left side, in my rib cage, I think. Taking pain reliever didn’t seem to help. Nor did it help to laugh because that increased the pain. I felt like I got hit with a hammer. The next day I was fine, but it was a little unexpected.
Of course, being the melodramatic person I am, I started wondering if I was having a precursor to a heart attack or something. Then I started wondering if I were going to die soon. (It sounds silly, but it’s not completely unreasonable. People younger than me have died suddenly.) Then I wondered if I was ready.
I’m not ready.
I’m ready because long ago I entrusted my life to God and so far He’s never let me down. I haven’t lived a perfect life. I can’t even say that I’ve always done my best, because I certainly haven’t, but I believe God loves me anyway. He loves me not because of who I am or what I do, but because of who He is and what He’s done, specifically on the cross.
I’m also not ready, because there is so much I want to do. There is so much I want to do, so many books I want to read and so much more I want to write and teach. I need more time. I’ve already lost or, more accurately, wasted so much. I need more time to do the things I want and need to do. Unfortunately, I’m guaranteed nothing. I may live another 50 years or another hour. If I live another fifty, then I want to make sure I get that house on the beach. If I only have an hour, then I want to finish this blog. That’s really it. I want to reach my long- and short-term goals and I want to keep moving towards them every minute of every day. How else can one live a full life?
Since I began writing these blogs, I feel like I’m more preoccupied with living than dying. Possibilities have opened up and things I was afraid of no longer seem so imposing. The perfect life may not be possible, but a wonderful life is, no matter how much time I have.
“Don't be afraid your life will end; be afraid that it will never begin,” said actress Grace Hansen.
That’s exactly what I was afraid of for many years. Now my life has begun again. The funny thing is that it’s still full of challenges, just as it was before, but it feels different. Since I began writing I feel like I’m out of a cage. I built this cage. I had the key. I was miserable in it, but apparently, for years, I wasn’t miserable enough. Then I started writing. And soon (not suddenly) things started changing. I used the key and opened the cage. And I walked out.
Now it’s not enough to just walk out of a cage. I then had to take a direction. There are far too many people who get out of literal and figurative prisons and taste the sweet air of freedom, only to return to the cage because of fear, inaction and a lack of a plan. I was one of these people.
As Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art:
It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarefied for us to breathe. The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.
I was once in a job that made me miserable. One day I decided I was going to quit and do something else. I remember how happy and free I felt. I started reading and exercising again. I felt great. Unfortunately, fear, inaction and the lack of a plan (yes, I repeated myself) guaranteed my staying in that job a few more years. I had the key to free myself, but I walked back into my cage and put the key in my pocket for a few more years.
I think most of us do this. We keep ourselves locked in a prison of our own making. We get out for a while and then we go back in. In the literal prisons this is called recidivism, the act of returning to prison by committing another crime or the same crime again. The rate in California is around or over 65%. According to one article, prisons that have programs to deal with trauma and adjustment have a lower rate. (http://californiainnocenceproject.org/issues-we-face/recidivism)
I think it may be higher for those who are not in a literal prison. There are no programs to keep us from staying in or returning to bad jobs, bad relationships, bad behavior or a lack of self-discipline.
Well, actually there is a program, but we each have to create it for ourselves. But here it is:
1. I have to know what I want. It may be enough to know what I don’t want, but only for a while.
2. I have to take as many steps as possible, as often as possible and as much as possible to move towards freedom. For me, this means writing blogs. It means something else for you. It may mean teaching preschool or starting your business or finishing your thesis. But it means I have to do something, anything, to free myself and to stay free. I have to work as if my life depended on it. Because it does. When I say “my life” I don’t mean my mortality, though that might be at stake, too. I mean my vitality. When I refuse to move forward, I am at risk for becoming increasingly dead inside.
3. I have to Get Started and Keep Going.
I need to use my time well in order to reach my potential, my goals and my dreams. I have to Get Started and Keep Going, because whatever time I have left, it’s just not enough, but if I use it well, it may be all the time I need.