Well, here we are, all in one piece. The Mayans were wrong and the world didn’t end after all. The shootings in Newtown, Conn., made it feel that way, however.
What can we do but move forward. It’s not like there’s another option, unless you’re willing to throw yourself into traffic right now to end it all. Me? Not willing. Feel the pain, feel the sadness and move on anyway.
Although the Mayans were unable to predict when life will end, I’m much more skilled. I can not only predict when the world will end, I can also predict when each of our lives will end: at a moment when we don’t see it coming.
Boom. Blink. Done.
It will happen some random moment when you’re in the middle of buttering your toast, and the asteroid hits from out of nowhere, or your heart seizes up like a fist, and then … fade to black, roll credits. Imagining that each of us can count on 100 years of life is an illusion. None of us knows if we’ll be alive 70 years from now, or seven minutes from now. Time, which is all life consists of, is not a given. It’s a gift.
In that light, I’ve fashioned my own New Year’s resolution, and I put it out there to you to adopt if you so choose. My New Year’s resolution is not to waste time. This year, I will become the same age my father was when he suddenly had a massive brain aneurysm one random morning, and spent the next 26 years of his life completely mentally and physically disabled. My mother had the same thing at two years older than that, but she succumbed to the hemorrhaging and died. I’m not sure which of them had it worse.
I am possibly more aware than most people that life can be snatched away far too early, when you still feel alive and vital, and have so many things you want to do and see and accomplish. My parents’ short lifelines heighten my awareness of time, and also my awareness of avoiding people and activities that shorten your life — stress and people who cause it at the top of that list — and, thereby, waste your time. Your life. They’re interchangeable.
And, of course, it’s not just others who waste your time. We do it to ourselves, and I’m no exception. Examining myself under my own microscope, how do I waste my own time? Two things pop right up: procrastination and over-commitment. I’ve already been working on my procrastination a bit, particularly in the area of my writing.
Even when I don’t want to, even when my muse is off gallivanting in the universe and avoiding all contact with me, I make myself do one little thing to take a step forward. Even if it’s just to open the document and type one sentence, or pick up my stack of index cards and put them in front of my keyboard where I can’t so easily ignore them, a microscopic step forward is better than stagnation.
Another thing I’ve procrastinated about is seeing more of the world. I’ve wanted to see Italy all my life, but my fear and loathing of flying has always stymied me. Well, I took a microscopic step and got a passport. I also mapped out a travel plan, complete with hotels, forwarded it to my husband and said, “Let’s do it.” At least I’ve put the ball on his side of the court now, instead of hiding it for fear that it might actually go into play. Beware of fear. It wastes time in surreptitious ways.
As for over-commitment, this continues to bedevil me. Too many people and too many things are competing for my time, and I’ll keep whittling those things away. White space in my appointment book every week. There’s a tangible goal. At least one day per week when I am beholden to no one but myself.
It’s all about time, baby. How you choose to spend it (writing and traveling) and how you choose not to spend it (putting everyone else’s demands on my time before my own). What this means, ultimately, is a willingness to be selfish. A willingness to say “No” as a complete answer. A willingness to let other people sputter and fret about hearing that complete answer and figure out another way to solve their problems besides handing them to me.
Yes, this year, I’m going to embrace my own selfishness about my time. My life. “No apologies, no regrets.” That’s a line from one of my favorite novels, “White Oleander” by Janet Fitch. Although I’d never go so far as to harm anyone, as Ingrid did in the book, I’m still aiming for her complete lack of guilt about commanding my own choices and, therefore, my own time. My own life. Mine, all mine!
What this also means, of course, is choosing to spend more time with people who replenish positive energy and less time with those who siphon positive energy away. You’ll know which is which. Time spent with the latter leaves you feeling exhausted. Avoid those people. They’re wasting your time.
Those who emit toxic fumes of dysfunction like a poison cloud will be pruned away like spent flowers on a rose bush. They’re doing nothing but draining energy. Time. Life. Prune them away to allow for new, healthy blossoms to emerge. Keep the flowers, lose the thorns
So that’s my New Year’s resolution: I will be selfish this year. And it’s about time.
— Email Debra at [email protected]; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com