Tag Archives: time

Garden


I pulled up the last prolific pepper plant this Thanksgiving week, after the second hard freeze finally took it out. The freezer is jammed with this year’s haul; they should last us all winter. The last tomato plants came out the week before, but we still have a few green ones to enjoy before the long wait for next year’s crop.

It’s always sad to see the garden go, and I think about the next one I’ll plant all winter long. My absolute favorite is the tomatoes. Everything’s better with home-grown tomatoes:  hamburgers, salad, BLT’s, even tacos. I’m now down to growing only peppers and tomatoes, after years of growing lots of things. After all of that practice, my garden is down to a science:  3 hours of ground prep and planting in the spring, then just 30 minutes a month of maintenance through the summer, after a friend’s painfully obvious recommendation of black fabric to keep the weeds down. More tomatoes than we can eat and peppers all winter for very limited effort and cost–it’s a great return on investment.

I garden now just like I live:  increasingly stripped down to the bare essentials, with years of experience to guide me as to what matters and what can be put aside. I don’t need more zucchini or cucumbers than my whole block can eat, and I sure don’t need the work it takes to grow them. Just like I don’t need a lot of the junk that I chased for too much of my life. In the same way that I’ve honed my gardening to minimal effort for optimum gain, I’ve also honed the way that I spend my precious, limited time. I now spend more time investing in people…it’s the only thing I’ve found that makes this long, hard life worth living. I find time for family, for friends, for coaching others. I spend far less time than I once did on housework, on watching TV, and at work. There’s limited meaning in those. My house will be too clean…and too quiet…someday soon. And for the first time in my life, I am spending a little time trying to make the world a better place, even if it’s only a tiny drop in the bucket. My stripped-down life means I now have a bit of time to be a voice for the voiceless, to support the targeted, to add one more voice for tolerance. I may no longer grow a big garden, but I’m eager to see what my new harvest will bring.

“A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good attentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.”  –Liberty Hyde Bailey


Who I Was Meant To Be

“Who I was meant to be” popped up in two separate songs recently on my favorite contemporary Christian station. The phrase grabbed hold of me and has yet to let go. It represents hope:  hope that I’m not forever destined to remain the wounded, stunted human being that I began as.

If I’m honest, I didn’t start out trying to become a better person. While I don’t feel like I was ever really bad, I cringe when remembering some of the things I’ve done, some of them not that long ago. I’m not totally sure how my journey of improvement started. A brush with mortality in my late 30’s was a catalyst, though that wasn’t all of it. Much of it, I think, was just getting experience under my belt:  I eventually realized, through thousands of interactions with hundreds of people over a couple of decades, that people are a desert, and in the desert you don’t need much water to make an impact. It’s not only more rewarding to make people feel good, it’s addictive. It became circular:  the better I behaved, the better I wanted to behave. It wasn’t intentional, but I was changing from the inside out. I now wish I could go back and do so many things over again, but that’s never an option, is it? All we can ever do is learn and go forward from here.

I suppose that’s one of the most comforting aspects of Christianity…that no matter my unique flaws, no matter my regrets, no matter how shriveled my heart started out…as long as I allow the water of love to help me bloom, I am welcomed as a beloved child returning home. I am grateful for that mercy, for I have needed every minute of my life until now to earn my meager, hard-won progress. I am still very far from who I was meant to be, but I am closer today than I was before. And I won’t give up. I like who I was meant to be, much better than who I was.

“He said ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.'”  –The Velveteen Rabbit



Daylight


After the time change last week, my morning commute now begins in the dark. I don’t much like it…my drive is on curvy country roads, and I have to concentrate more in the dark. But as the sky began to brighten one morning this week, I remember feeling grateful, not just for that day’s daybreak, but that we can count on them coming every day.

When I was younger, I took the cycles of life for granted. As I’ve gotten older, I appreciate these repetitive rituals which come like clockwork. It’s actually pretty amazing if you think about it:  the cycles of our world are so predictable that ancient peoples could learn them and pass them down to future generations with only the tools of observation and language.

I’m specifically grateful that the Earth’s daily rotation on its axis–a trait not every planet in our solar system possesses–gives us the gift of daily rest. I’m grateful for the cheer of watching the world reawaken from its annual slumber. The daffodils, now fading by the thousands in ditches along my daily commute, were the first bright sign amidst the brown grass of the hope of spring. They have been replaced by the exploding purple of the red bud trees and the majestic white of the Bradford pears, the new stars of this Great Show. I find myself spontaneously smiling as I drive…anybody who spots me, driving alone to work and grinning like a Cheshire Cat might be suspicious of my mental state. But the rhythms of life make me happy, they make me smile. And they make life reassuring and comforting, reminding me that Someone great and good has always been in charge.

“There was never a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”  –Bernard Williams


Impatient


I’ve been fighting the motion sensor light in the women’s restroom at my new company since I started. It’s always the same:  it’s dark as I walk in, so I hit the switch just as the light flips on, immediately flipping it back off. By then I’ve usually advanced a few steps and must backtrack to hit it back on. (And yes, I’ve been giving it a little slap in frustration). Then recently on my way in, I was deep in thought over something, so much that I didn’t notice the pitch blackness when I walked in. And something amazing happened:  the darn thing kicked on by itself as it sensed my movement, just as it was supposed to. Wow. For two months, every workday, I’ve been fighting that stupid light multiple times a day, only to find out that it was me all along. I’d been too impatient to wait for it to kick on. Every day for two months. Since then, I’ve noticed that it works pretty much every time. I’m finally trained.

It struck me with this experience, and not for the first time, how impatient, how always in a hurry I’ve always been. I’ve never understood why, it’s just always been part of who I am. I’m always barely in time for everything, trying to cram more productivity into every few minutes. I’ve always taken a lot on. I struggle to relax. I had thought I had gotten better over the last few years, finding more moderation and working far less. But here was a tangible reminder that I may not have progressed as much as I’d hoped. I now get this reminder to slow down and be patient several times a day, every day I’m at work. It makes me smile a little now to wait for the light to click on by itself. Except when it still doesn’t. Dang, that makes me impatient.

“When someone says they’re impatient and ‘I haven’t got all day’, I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day?”  –George Carlin


Time

I don’t know where the time has gone. We’re creeping up on Megan’s 17th birthday; later this summer her kid sister will follow her siblings into teenagehood. Seventeen. It sounds so near-final. I know I shouldn’t look at it that way, but it’s hard not to. Her brother left home a year older and never came back. No boomerang kid, no summers and Christmases back home the way I’d reassured myself it would be. He simply walked away, shoulders back and unblinking, straight into the sun and his future. Of course I’m proud of his independence and happy that he’s happy, but weekly phone calls and annual visits are no substitute for hugging him goodnight every night.

It’s impossible to say what path the girls will take. Our own journey would have been unbelievable at that point in our lives. We all must find our own direction, stumbling and feeling our way, getting extraordinarily lucky sometimes, falling face first into the pavement others. Our scars either make us hole up and hide away, or they leave us stronger…limping and bruised, but wiser and more certain of what we believe in.

I am just as optimistic about our girls’ futures as history has proven  that I was right to be about our son. They are optimists. They know how to laugh. They are smart. They are so very strong and independent…I never worry that they’ll allow themselves to be taken advantage of by anyone. But I also know that they will make mistakes…some big…and they will get hurt. And I will continue to hurt when they do, just as I always have. Except that I won’t always be right there to rub their backs and say soothing things to help make it better. I will have to count on who they have become to get them through from here. I know I won’t be ready. It’s a good thing that they will be.

“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”  –Denis Waitley


One Week


I’m generally a good sleeper, but I had an unusual experience Thursday night that I can’t shake. When I awoke in the middle of the night, an odd question popped into my head:  “Another week of my life nearly gone, what did I accomplish?” I had helped a couple of friends on job searches. I had several meaningful conversations with the girls, always a victory with teenagers. And I visited my parents. A good week, is what flashed through my head in the dark, but not terribly impactful, leading instantly to a more difficult question:  “How do you wish you’d been able to answer?” The. Silence. Was. Deafening.

All through my life, I’ve asked myself the question that I assume most of us ask ourselves…what should I be doing with my life? A difficult question to be sure, but one which hasn’t been distressing to not be able to answer. It’s been easy to let myself off the hook with that one. I mean, who expects to know what they’re supposed to do with their whole life, after all. But a single week? Not having that answer was astonishing.

Of course, the irony is that our lives are made up of individual weeks and days and moments. As an organizer and planner, I am fully aware that not having near-term goals makes it less likely that I’ll achieve my longer-term ones. Yet for some reason, I’d never thought about breaking down the enormous meaning-of-life goal into achievable chunks. I don’t even know where to start. But it seems important enough to start figuring out.

“A year from now, you will wish you had started today.”  –Karen Lamb


Rest

We recently took a long weekend in a beautiful resort area nearby. While we did some fun activities, there was also time for just sitting. I spent hours sitting on the screened-in porch overlooking the Ozark mountains. It was heaven. Sitting there in the quiet doing nothing reminded me of a week spent similarly many years ago. I was working for a company under a destructive chief executive; it was taking a toll. The hours were long, the requests were meaningless, and the decisions were flawed. In addition, I was scheduled to testify in defense of my company in federal court in Washington, as they had been accused of wrongdoing. I was totally burned out.

I took a week of vacation that summer, and in that pre-cell phone era, refused to tell anyone where I was going to be. I spent the entire week in my backyard. I mean the entire week. Every day I got up at 8:00 and went out to a lawn chair under a shady tree. All day I watched my young son play outside with the neighbor kids, going inside only for food. When it got dark, I went inside to sleep, only to head out the next morning to the lawn chair. I had never done so little for so long in my life. I needed that much rest and went back to work somewhat refreshed.

Things didn’t get better. A few weeks later, my mother was scheduled for major surgery the same week I flew to Washington to testify. Our attorney asked for permission for me to leave before the trial was over; blessedly the judge agreed. My company lost and appealed…in the following round of document discovery, an internal document surfaced confirming our guilt beyond doubt. They settled. I decided to leave.

That week of doing nothing, my first, showed me what likely seems obvious to almost everyone else…that we all need rest. The challenge for high-energy people like me is that our brains can’t absorb this simple concept. I have been on a decades-long journey to learn to rest and recharge. I’m still not good at it, but I’m better than I was. A good boss jolted me along on that journey, pointing out I was a terrible role model for my team. He wisely knew he would have more impact appealing to how much I cared for my team vs. myself. But I’m working on that, too. I am trying to be selfish now with at least some of my time, doing things just for me. There still aren’t enough hours in the day for all of it, though, and working mothers always feel guilt about, well, everything. I’m working on the guilt, too. I’ll get there, probably later than I should, but I’ll get there.

“Silence

It has a sound, a fullness.
It’s heavy with sigh of tree,
and space between breaths.
It’s ripe with pause between birdsong
and crash of surf.
It’s golden they say.
But no one tells us it’s addictive.”

–Angela Long