if we could hold time in our hands

We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.

~ Francis Bacon

baconstarsOnce in a supermarket checkout line I was asked by the bagging clerk, If you could have any superpower, what would it be?  Flummoxed by the question, he offered me some choices his previous customers had mentioned.  Would I want bionic vision and the power to see through anything?  I looked around at the grocery carts in line behind me and decided I was grateful for clothes and walls thank you very much.  Would I prefer invisibility then?  The power to walk about or slip secretly into any room unnoticed?  Again, not interested.  I mean, I love to eavesdrop as much as the next guy and would certainly entertain the thought of being able to trail behind my girls during their high school years, knowing that they knew I could be right there, Invisible Mom, following them at all times at any given moment, but something about that power is fundamentally creepy to me.  And besides, what would I do without mystery in my life?  So what superpower would I want?  And this is when I said something that surprised him because he hadn’t heard it before.  I said, I would want to step outside time.  Not to stop it, but to just move aside.  Maybe find a park bench under a leafy tree and just put my feet up, sipping a latté and reading a book.  Smiling.

Now I don’t mean I want to sit back and watch life go by or anything like that.  It’s not that sort of thing.  It’s not that I want time to stop so my children will never grow up or I will never grow old.  I don’t want to go back to a simpler time either nor do I want to fast forward to some better time.  It’s nothing like that at all.  Here’s the deal as best as I can explain it.

I have never worn a watch, except maybe if you count that one Timex glow in the dark waterproof watch my dad bought for me at Thrifty’s Drugstore when I first learned how to tell time and that I really just wore so I could put on my goggles and watch its second hand circle around as I counted how long I could hold my breath underwater.  It had a velcro strap that eventually gave me some kind of skin rot rash and then that was it for me.  No more watches.  Many years later when someone asked me why I never wore a watch, all I could think to say was, I guess I’m philosophically opposed to them.  The thought of strapping time to my body makes me anxious.  The idea that these shackles are even remotely fashionable let alone high-end luxury items, astounds me, too.  As my closest companions will be quick to tell you, time is just something I don’t keep well.  It’s not that I don’t respect it.  It’s not that I don’t respect the way others respect it (and organize their lives around it, said with absolutely no judgment whatsover).  It’s just I resent it is all.  I resent the way it makes us feel: panicked, rushed, impatient, sentimental, old.  Maybe its the romantic in me, but I want this superpower, to live timelessly like trees or stars.

And yet isn’t it always this time of year when the calendar pages fly by, when the countdowns begin and like leaves dropping from trees the clock on the wall tick tick ticks.  Yes, right on schedule, right about now I’m starting to get a little grumpy with time.  I start to get short with her for barging in like this, and I want to call her nasty names in front of my children but settle for single letters instead.  F U, B!  See that park bench over there?  Do you?  Well, I’m going to go grab my books and a blanket.  See you in February, sister!  But time, she holds my coat and snickers, hear those sleigh bells jingling?  Ring ting tingling?  Damn her!

And so it goes, every November.  Whether I’m wearing a watch or not no longer matters.  I’m tangled up — despite my denial and protest — in the race against time — in the maddening holiday rush against the ticking clock.  And I wonder each year how can I possibly step outside of it?  How can I just move aside?  Because you and I both know I’ve already got two rolls of adorable “sheet music” wrapping paper in my trunk and am already hunting down the perfect velvet red ribbon to go with it, not to mention some complimentary red paper to make that perfect splash of color under my as of yet purchased but certain to be ten foot tall tree I complain about never having time to decorate.  And the catalogs are pouring in.  I’m picking out gifts and creasing pages and panicking because I know that as each second ticks by, one more item in the size and color I want is getting loaded onto a truck bound for someone else’s house which means I’ll have to go to the mall and then there’s the traffic and . . . .  Is it possible to truly enjoy this time of year?  I mean, can one actually have a happy holiday when there’s this little drummer boy reminding you to bake, shop, wrap, write, repeat?

One of the ways I try to maintain my philosophical opposition to time is to spend it as joyfully as I can.  I try to read a beautiful book like Marilynne Robinson’s Lila.  More candles come out around the house.  If I’m in the kitchen baking treats for my friends, there’s music and dancing.  If I’ve got to go out and face the shopping mall, there’s got to be a stop for pastries and a latté somewhere where they’ll trace a heart in the froth.  I smile at the clerks and get out of the way of that lady rushing ahead of me.  Spend a day in San Francisco, wandering through the de Young or walking in the park before taking the long way home down Highway 1 at sunset.  Sure, I notice everyone looking at their watches, wondering where I’ve found the time.  It’s not that I ever lost her.  No.  It’s not like that at all.  I’ve simply stepped aside.

Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
~ Jorge Luis Borges

I’m curious to know . . . how do you make time for JOY during the holidays?


 

Creativity occurs in the moment, and in the moment we are timeless.
~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.
~ Eckhart Tolle

Clocks slay time . . . time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.
~ William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.
~ Brian Andreas

Another glorious day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.
~ John Muir

 

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resistance is futile

Yesterday my little loves and I attended mass together after a few weeks absence.  I’d been traveling, they’d had sleepovers.  You know.  Life.  My oldest seemed surly the first few minutes in the pew, and her sister absolutely hates when she does this.  She’ll try to squeeze affection from her with nuzzling and hand holding, which makes my almost teenager cringe even more.  This time it was biggest love’s unintended but grumpy i hate you whispered on the way into the car because she hadn’t brushed her hair yet and so lost the front seat that sent my littlest smothering for her reassurance.  Eventually, though, my oldest relents and soon enough they’ve got arms wrapped around each other and for all three of us, the rest of mass becomes a 60 minute hug fest.  We do love this time together, and yesterday was clear we have missed it!

At one point, I can’t recall when, maybe it was [Read more…]

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service is a strength, love

Thank my littlest love for this story that came to me during my rainy commute.  I was sitting in the traffic thinking about our dinner conversation the night before, and I knew I had something to write about.  Understand the context behind this conversation was the fact that littlest, a skeptical naysayer who never signs up for anything and wants to chase dandelion clocks all day, spoke up and told us how she had volunteered to be the 5th grade class representative for student council because, she said, she wanted to be someone important.  I almost fell over because I’ve been trying to find something for her, some thing she could do to step up and take part in.  Leadership and service are family values we often talk about around the dinner table, and this was so out of character for her!  Imagine a kid who’s got that look perfected every time you make a suggestion, tucked chin knitted eyebrows crossed arms — a look that screams NO! WAY!  Well, she seemed to have slipped a finger under a new leaf and I thought, maybe I could take this opportunity to help her turn it over.  Here’s the conversation we had a few minutes later:

ME: You know, Blythe, Deacon Patrick says if you’re nervous about becoming an altar server we could do it together.  We could both be up there, and I could help you until you got more comfortable.

B: No thanks.

M: But, it looks sort of fun.  You get to wear an alb and use all those special things.  You’re really important.  You get to serve the priest on the altar and help wash his hands and . . .

B: I do not want to serve the priest.  He can get his own things and wash his own hands.  I’m too rebellious for that.

Oh, I just love her.  The quirky attitude and quick wit–how she makes me laugh and smile all the time.  And she’s got it all figured out, doesn’t she.  I mean, doesn’t she have a point?  So many working mothers spend much of our married lives resisting domestic stereotypes and encouraging our daughters to be independent, equal contributors to their community.  I vividly recall telling the man I keep the first week we were married that I would not be ironing his shirts like his mother dutifully does each week for his father. Let’s just get these expectations squared away from day one shall we: there’ll be no freshly pressed shirts hanging from the doorway in the laundry room; oh, and I don’t do dishes.

This is who I am.  This is how I was raised by my father, who encouraged me to keep up with my brothers and never once gave me the idea that because I was a girl, I was confined to any rigid roles.  And I’m still her.  I believe in feminist ideals and know that there’s little in this world I could not do by myself, maybe better, but I know I also have a choice.  Certainly it’s my hope my daughters will be able to change a tire, bait a hook or chase down any bully in a pencil skirt and heels, too.  But there’s another side to me that’s hard to reconcile with this hitch-up-your-skirts and hit-the-road girl sometimes and that I seem to be having an equally hard time cultivating in my sweet sassy thing.  I’m kind of loving, and I love being kind because it makes me happy.  And for me kindness means making sacrifices and being vulnerable and yes, littlest love, sometimes it even means doing the dishes.

 We are all here on earth to help others: what on earth the others are here for, I don’t know.

~ W.H. Auden

 


It’s complicated!  But I’m grateful for many who offer wonderful commentary on the status of women in the Catholic Church, like this article via Another Voice.

Pair this thought with a reading of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist.

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“Toss Roxane Gay’s collection of witty, thoughtful essays, Bad Feminist into your tote bag. With musings on everything from Sweet Valley High to the color pink, Gay explores the idea of being a feminist, even when you’re full of contradictions.” (Self, “Smart beach-read alert”)

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