Time is too precious to worry about the future, or get stuck in the past.
|Time is relative, and how we relate to time changes as we go through our lives, dependent upon our circumstances.
For the young, time either goes by too slowly or too quickly in relation to what's going on in their lives. Time literally seems to drag if one is waiting for the bell to ring on the last day of school. And it flies by in an instant if one is finally spending a long-awaited day at Disneyland (for which the waiting FOR seemed incalculable before it arrived).
As we get older, time tends to spend itself too quickly most of the time. But as with the young, the speed by which our time seems to advance is also affected by circumstance. For instance, I can remember putting numbers on our calendar in August of 1996, counting the days until we would go to Maui for a long-saved-for ten year anniversary trip. I began the numbering at 143 days, and it seemed as if the very act of writing those numbers on the calendar made time stand still, if not stop completely. But once we arrived in Maui, our 10 days there went by in the blink of an eye, and before I even totally got over my jet lag, we were home. In fact, once we arrived in Maui I knew the time would fly by, and so by the second day I was already mourning our departure, which was still eight days away. Know the feeling?
Having said all of that, the reality of time is that it DOES pass, and whether or not it seems to be ticking by slowly or at the speed of light ~ the moment a second passes it's gone forever and cannot be returned to us. Time is a precious commodity, not to be wasted.
Now I may differ with some folks about what's considered to be a "waste of time." For instance, I don't think staring out the window watching cardinals at the feeder is wasting time. Nor do I think watching television, going to a movie, or surfing the Internet is necessarily a waste of time. Something I do consider to be a waste of time, however, is binding oneself to the past or fixating on the future, instead of living in the present moment.
We measure our lives by time, by how many years have passed since this, and how many days are left until that. And many of us waste that time on regrets about the past and worries about the future, myself included, even though it's obviously foolish to be so consumed with either the past or the future that we miss out entirely on the present.
If we waste precious time regretting past events or situations, in particular ones we cannot go back and change or make amends for, or if we spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about things in the future that may not even happen ~ then we miss out on a lot of living. And I'd suspect we know that in our heads, whether we are actually able to practice it or not.
Having said that, it's equally foolish to pay no attention to lessons from the past, or be attentive to the requirements and realities of the future. If we don't learn from history, we are told that we are doomed to repeat it, as seems to be played out regularly in world events.
And it's silly not to pay attention to or have some practical foresight about our future. We get vaccinations against the possibility of contracting a disease, and if we are able, we start retirement plans to help us be financially viable after we stop working ~ both help us anticipate the reality of future scenarios.
But we all know that we are capable of going overboard at times, worrying about the future or staying stuck in the past. So some of us need to try to find a balance between attending to the lessons and requirements of time, both past and future, without giving up the ability to live in the present, which those lessons and requirements make possible in the first place.
What do I mean by that? Well, I'm not the same person I used to be when I was, say, 21, so what's the point of fixating on things I did when I was 21, drowning in regret or guilt? Sure, that person is still part of me. And yes, if there is any way to remedy a situation from the past by seeking out someone I may have harmed by making amends, then certainly I should try to do so, if it's not too late. But whether or not I am able to do that, the reality is that I am more than my 21 year old self ~ I am the sum of all my parts. And if I let myself get stuck living in my regrets about my 21 year old self, it robs my 41 year old self the opportunity to live fully now.
Likewise, if someone gets so wrapped up in trying to make sure that everything is perfect for when they retire, they risk missing what's going on now. That can happen by pinching every penny now so that not one red cent is spent on pleasure or anything extra, and all of it is saved for the future (of which there is no guarantee anyway). Or it can happen when a parent's obsession with work and making money is to the detriment of his or her relationship with their growing children, time which they can never get back, but for which, of course, he or she can redeem if they pay attention to it now.
Speaking from my own experience, it seems to me that we can get so caught up in the regrets, guilt and missed opportunities of our past, and/or in the hopes, needs and fears of our future, we miss the wealth of our present. Thus we need to make a decision about our attitude regarding what time owes us or what we owe time, about how time enslaves us or how we can be free of time.
Because ultimately, we have the choice between either making time our ally or our enemy, of whether or not to benefit from lessons learned, or to allow ourselves to be bound to mistakes that need no longer define us. In that place of balance, we can live in the present moment with a sense of appreciation and fullness, releasing the ghosts that haunt us in both our past and our future.