Time, Shakespeare, Dr. Seuss, and More Cowbell
Do you remember being confronted by writing prompts in high school English class? This week, I found myself staring at a clock, so I decided that would be my prompt to begin a scribing exercise.
Full Disclosure: This Is Not My Typical Blog Post
Before I take you to wherever my ramblings will lead us, I must disclose that this blog post does not intentionally offer tips for self-improvement. Any benefit you may derive from this essay is purely accidental. So, if you’d rather invest your time elsewhere, I encourage you to pull the ripcord now and read something else. You’ve been warned!
Wait, you’re still here??? OK then, let’s get to it!
The 1,716 Weeks Wake-Up Call
We all have good days filled with unbridled optimism and potential waiting to be tapped. Then there are the days when we feel like we’re running in place or simply running out the clock. Speaking of which, I recently wandered across the most recent CDC life expectancy data: “In 2018, life expectancy at birth was 78.7 years, increasing by 0.1 year from 78.6 in 2017 (Table 13). The difference in life expectancy between the sexes was 5.0 years in 2018, which was unchanged from 2017.”
After reading the CDC’s report (and since I don’t have the temerity to review the data for the year I was born), I’ve made two decisions.
- First, I’ve decided that I was born in 2018. (I’m just a bit advanced for my age.)
- Second, I’ve decided to count myself as female for the purpose of longevity. (I’d really like those extra five years.)
If only it were that simple. The mortality tables tell me that I’ve got about 1,716 weeks left. That seems short… especially since it feels like I just got here. Regardless, I still have enough time to make some quality decisions and put a few more dents in the world. Yet how many dents and how deeply might they go?
The question of “dents” is a nice turn of phrase, yet the real question is “How do we choose to spend our time?” That question brings me back to my initial observation about our days.
For many, like Shakespeare’s Macbeth, time is a villain that brings daily, unbearable agony and the tyranny of yet another fresh hell the following day. People always remember the middle and end of his soliloquy yet forget the beginning.
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools.”
I hope that for most of us every new day is not a Shakespearean tragedy but a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Even despite our best efforts, though, our days fly by, and we’re often left pondering a very Seussian question.
“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”
For the last several years, I’ve attempted to be more fully present wherever I am. (My purpose? Pretty much just to embrace and live the idea that “Wherever you go, there you are!”). I strive to be more conscious about turning off phone notifications, feeling the sensation of the water when I wash my hands, and paying closer attention to what someone is telling me so that I might better hear between the lines and detect what they’re not saying but want me to understand. Some days, I partly succeed with this discipline.
Even before I calculated that I only have an estimated 1,716 weeks left, I began paying more attention to being present because I know what matters to me. Further, since the clock runs constantly, I know that I need to live my life in real-time instead of observing it in the rearview mirror.
This isn’t to say that my focus is complete, I’ve banished fear, or have become enlightened — nor am I immune to loss, regret, heartache, and shock. I have many uncertainties left to vanquish, untapped potential to leverage, and unrealized dreams to pursue — not unlike the one dangled by Christopher Walken’s character, Bruce Dickinson, in an SNL skit, who famously remarked:
“Easy guys… I put my pants on just like the rest of you… one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I make gold records.”
So, as you put on your pants, make sure you’re suiting up in pursuit of where you want to truly spend your time. Then dig a little deeper and consider why you want to spend your time where you do.
As for me, I know where I’m spending my time. I also know that if I can’t quite get to gold record status, I at least know how (and where) to find more cowbell.
If you’re searching for meaning in Shakespeare’s prose, trying to mint gold records, or perhaps just searching for more cowbell, send me a flare. I’m always up for a good chat about time.