I Knew It! It’s Only a Matter of Time.

All you have is the NOW.”

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This is a quote from my yoga teacher. She reminds me twice a week that there is the past, and the potential, but most important is the present.

This moment.

And once it goes, it’s gone.

I wrestled with that quote for an entire hour last week during class, trying to unravel it. Those six little monosyllabic words. It was harder to pay attention to than I thought it would be. My thoughts have a habit of being way ahead of my body—or way behind it. The idea of syncing the two together is about as easy as the concept of bowling in space or playing tennis underwater. Not a lot of success, and hugely effortful.

I understand the need for a point of convergence mostly because I’ve benefitted when I’ve arrived at exactly that spot. But these are tiny chunks of time—slivers really. Twenty minutes of meditation where maybe out of those twenty minutes I was fully present for about four of them. The other sixteen were thinking about my grocery list, what books were due at the library, or how to encourage my plumber to put whisky, red wine, and chocolate sauce on tap in my kitchen.

I know. I get distracted. But it’s nearly impossible for me shut down that thought factory.

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The idea of remaining mentally engaged is a no-brainer for me—although that’s clearly a poor choice of words. As a writer, I need access to my stores of creativity and a method of churning up its source to keep the vault filled to capacity. Damned is the day I open that door, reach in and pull out nothing but a fistful of mothball scented air. I also need cerebral acuity in order to keep up with my kids. Once I discover they’re slowing their speech and purposefully choosing words that would be dismissed as too difficult for a fourth-grade spelling bee I am toast.

I’m grateful to my yoga and meditation teachers who all seem to carry the parade-sized banner that states: Found yourself distracted by other thoughts? No worries! Start again. It’s rather an amazing club to belong to where you thankfully realize that J.K. Simmons is not your mentor and you will never get slapped upside the head for losing the count.

But the measurement of time—or time perspective—is often where I get caught in a circular loop. I once heard psychologist Philip Zimbardo lecture about how time—as our current culture defines it—can be broken into six segments.

You can have a Past time perspective, where you focus on the positive or negative, a Present time perspective, where you focus on hedonism or fatalism, or a Future time perspective, where you focus on life goals or the transcendental.

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I may pen Dr. Zimbardo a note to suggest a quick conversation with my hero Neil deGrasse Tyson who believes we could possibly add a seventh segment to time perspective that I’ll call Sideways. Neil says, realistically, if there’s a forward and backward and a ‘stay where you are’ on the measurement of time, there’s likely a left and a right built in there too, but we’re just not seeing it yet.

Yep. Mushroom-shaped, mind-blowing thought, eh? See why I can’t stay focused?

But I think I’ve discovered what would help me on all fronts of time measurement and it’s a ridiculously simple solution, and yet an impossible one.

HIT PAUSE.

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Stopping time altogether seems like an answer that would affect the past, the future and the present—and likely those wonky side bits Neil says are invisibly hanging about. How?

If for twenty-four hours I could stop time entirely I could work at fevered pitch, press play and then realize that the next day I’d wake up and be a paltry nineteen days behind schedule rather than the overwhelming twenty I’ve currently tallied. That might make a dent in the past and I’d feel a more ‘positive past time perspective.’

Or I could use the time to make a massive deposit in my depleted sleep bank and snooze through the two dozen hours. This would surely display my tendencies toward ‘hedonistic present time perspective.’

Or lastly, I could finally fill out that Last Will & Testament, write sappy farewell love letters to my children, build myself a sturdy pine box and locate the tree I’d like to be buried beneath as a clear illustration of my ‘transcendental future time perspective’ because the alternative of devoting those windfall hours to ‘life goals’ would do nothing but demonstrate that God had somehow managed to insert an eighth day to the week, as it would be the same as the seven before it.

No. It must be unique.

Twenty-four blissful bonus hours of time not moving even one tiny inch forward. I could catch up, I could sleep or I could focus entirely on my impending death.

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Umm … it may not be as tough a choice as I once thought.

Yep. Those extra hours sure would be appreciated. In fact, maybe the best idea would be to devote the day to increasing my success with that whole mind/body being in the moment goal.

So, for now I’ll put the past behind me and I’ll set aside the future. Because as all the great Zen masters say, there’s no time like the present.

Except for the ones Neil says we can’t see.

~Shelley

*BONUS ROBIN GOTT CARTOON!* (click)

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

 

 

86 thoughts on “I Knew It! It’s Only a Matter of Time.

    • Oh, yes, Lisa, I do fear for my general sanity altogether now that I’ve thrown in that mindbending matter of sideways. And not thinking about it is going to be like hearing someone say, “Whatever you do, don’t think about pink elephants.”
      Shoot. o_O

  1. Hi Shelley,

    Time just stopped and I’m stuck here mentally picturing the whisky, red wine, and chocolate sauce taps in your kitchen.

    You’ll have to patent that idea 😄

    Clare

  2. A great post on time, it’s meaning and its possibilties. In a moment ot timeliness, as I was reading this, my eight year old lad walked into the kitchen and stated ‘I wish we could go back in time and it was Friday night again.’ (It is Sunday evening in this hemisphere.) I suggested that maybe he should enjoy the here and now instead. He shrugged his shoulders, said I don’t know what you are talking about and walked off. I stand in this moment, look at my kitchen taps and wish they contained red wine.

    • Ha! See, Cheergerm? This is the universe shouting out to us to not ignore its well-placed “coincidences.”
      Maybe the tiny tyke walked off into another parallel universe which happened to be two days behind the one we’re currently inhabiting?
      I’ve got to find the door to Friday nite land. It’s my favorite day of the week too.

  3. My brain turns off on a Sunday so I find transcendental ideas are covered in some very slippy oils and unable to grip.
    Since you’re saying ( I think) that I should concentrate on the Now and my Now just happens to be Sunday. I’ve voted to keep my brain turned off so I can concentrate off my Now remaining on Sunday.I will remain perpetually in the ‘Now’ then.. Actually for most pf the week I’ll be ahead of the game then anyway.
    xxx Massive Hugs Shelley xxx

    • Actually, David, I’d say that your posts are perfect examples of just how successful you are at staying in the now. Reading them is like being at your side. So maybe I can score extra points with the universe for being in my Now and your Now at the same time? Yes?
      And there we have it. Yet another level of existence in addition to forward, backward and sideways. Multiple Nows. (insert small brain explosion sound here)
      xoxox

  4. A unit of time wears many descriptive hats (second, minute, hour, day, week etc). Yet a minute for one person may seem like an hour to another. All a question of perspective and time management I suppose, and when we’re busy, we never have enough of it.
    Like the idea of chocolate sauce on tap. I’d never get Hubby out of the kitchen!

  5. My perspective on time is very simple. The few minutes that it will take me to “hunt and peck” around this keyboard to produce this comment are the few minutes that I will never have again. I cannot go back and use them more productively. They are a few minutes out of my life that are gone forever and, given that my life will eventually end, my life will now be a few minutes shorter. When people waste my time, I get annoyed ……….duh! How do you spend your time? (No need to answer it in public!)

    • Well, a few minutes shorter yes, Colin, and hopefully a few minutes richer for the effort you put into connecting with other people or thinking about a subject that might hold some worth and interest to you.
      But I am in full support of having a solid filter system. If an activity isn’t serving you, then by all means, it may need to be kicked to the curb.
      And how do I spend my time?
      Writing, writing, reading, writing, pet the hound, scratch the cat, write, write, read. (rinse and repeat ad nauseum) 😀

  6. “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”
    – Lau Tzu

    Thank you for yet another great post Shelley, you make my Sunday mornings just as Garrison Keillor does my Saturday afternoons. 🙂 (Thanks dad).

    You are such a great inspirational writer and I love your humor. Mr. G, outstanding art, as always!

    Happy Sunday, and respect to those who have and still serve… for our Memorial Day.

    God bless,

    S

    • A brilliant quote–and one I’ve not come across until now. So thanks for planting it here. It’s one worth getting lost in.
      Glad you liked the post. And yes, a “timely” reminder to hold a few precious moments of gratitude in our hearts for all the men and women around the world who have served their countries with honor. Those Memorial Days of my youth are some of the best memories I own. Very special days, indeed.
      Cheers, buddy!

  7. Which Now do we have? This Now? Or that Now? My, Now is an elusive critter. When I was a kid I used to try to hold on to special moments; Now. It never worked. They always hopped out of my hand and became the past. You certainly picked a cerebral subject to write about. And you did it in classic Shelly fashion. With both brains and wit, and some great drawings. They are all so clever and descriptive. I think my favorite may be the semi-femme fatalist. A seductive pose and a message of impending doom. My kind of woman. Some years back I met a man who was a manager for the Queen’s Forests, as in the Queen of England. Whenever I started over thinking a topic he would say”Don’t put too sharp a point on it.” Maybe some of our points don’t need a sharp point. Oh I like your new picture. Very pretty.

    • I love that phrase, Benson: Now is an elusive critter. It sums up the puzzle of time so beautifully.
      And I too recall making some monumental effort to keep some precious moment from slipping through my fingers. Wish there was some sort of ‘time safe’ we could store those moments in–although some would say a video camera would be that object. Somehow, it doesn’t pack that same punch of perfection.
      And having spent a great deal of time on Her Majesty’s real estate, I’ve heard that delightful phrase about as many times as I’ve had hot dinners. And still love it.
      Cheers!

  8. I am proud of myself for getting the “Whiplash” reference even though I’ve not seen it 🙂 Love Rob’s use of color these days and the cameo by Mae West!
    I am hopeless at meditation. Too focused on what’s for dinner.

    • Score! Well, done, Linnet. It’s not a film for everyone, but boy, did it nail a few of my music instructors perfectly.
      And if we’re encouraged to focus on one thing in mediation like counting, or breath, or what shapes we’re seeing on the inside of our eyelids, then why can’t dinner meditation be a thing too? Sign me up.

  9. Loved this post. I have a made a pact with the devil (aka Time). I only think of him in the past, and he lets me live in the present. The future? We split the difference. 😉

  10. One of the things I love about your blog Shelley is that, not only do I always enjoy your posts, but you also have some super duper followers who write wonderfully entertaining replies! Love Sir David’s comment and Cheergem and the fabulous Benson! Anyway I love this time theme of yours, I obsess about it too and remember very well as a child driving myself nuts saying ‘This is Now, now, no but it’s now ” yes I was that weird as a child! Still the dilemma remains, now (when?) I try to forget about it and do some gardening instead 🙂 Love the Potato Headonist Robin!

    • I agree, Jane. So much of the fun of this blog is below the post line and thick in the middle of the community that comments about it. A loyal and reflective bunch. So glad you’re a part of it.
      And I think there are a gazillion gardeners out there who would support the idea that gardening is one of the most meditative activities available. Talk about connecting to something earthly and earthy. It’s perfect.

  11. Shelley, I loved learning about Zimbardo’s different perspectives on time. I have been working feverishly on improving my capability to meditate, with limited success. I’m like you – my mind wanders and I have to rein it in again. I don’t know what on earth I would do if time stopped. It would be like that spooky Twilight Zone episode where everyone is frozen in time except the protagonist. This makes me realize how much we are dependent on interactions with others – which is probably why sitting still by myself and meditating once in a while is a good thing.

    I vote for the chocolate sauce. 🙂

    And Rob, I love your “living in the present”!

    • I totally understand, Sue–the measurement of success. It’s a constant nagging factor. But I can hear my meditation instructors advising us to toss out that ruler and saying something that needs to be printed on the inside of a fortune cookie. Maybe it’s something like: To fully understand life, watch more of the Twilight Zone. 😀

  12. A much-needed reminder for this one who’s always thinking (and worrying) about the future. I love making plans, but there are only so many plans you can make before the future decides to screw with you (maybe laughing in my face for thinking I could control things). So I have to take myself out for a walk instead to try to focus on the here and now.

    Also, I vote for red wine!

    • I love the old quote that says, “Want to make God laugh? Plan something.” Makes me giggle each time I hear it. I suppose because it rings with such painful truth.
      And those walks? Much better meditative experience for me than the sitting down sort.
      And you’ve still got two taps to fill, Abby …
      😉

  13. I’m with Arlingwoman: Sideway?? What in the what? As if I wasn’t already bad enough obsessing over past and future, now I have to worry about sideways? GAH!

    • That’s the problem with paying attention to folks like deGrasse Tyson. He inserts these niggling bugs into your head and then you sit there wrestling with them until you’re nearly pretzel shaped from the effort.
      Back to the kitchen faucets.

  14. Love your thoughts on time, Shelley! I don’t know how many times I’ve yelled at myself, “Now! Appreciate this view, this moment, now! Stop thinking!” You always make me chuckle. Thanks for that.

  15. First off, before I get distracted and forget, loved Mr Potato Headonist, and was wondering if Rob is an Ian Dury fan?https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sd2bd2_toXU

    Now what was next? Oh yes – I vote for red wine, toffee sauce (as made by our local pub to go with sticky toffee pudding) and champagne. Or Cava. Maybe Prosecco…

    As for the whole time thing, I too have a problem with staying focused on the now, as you may have noticed, but there are three things that never fail to slow me down and allow me to unwind my brain. The first two are walking the dog in the quiet of the woods and weeding. There’s something about being out of doors and really concentrating on your surroundings that just works for me. The third thing may well have you calling for me to be put in one of those white coats with extra long arms, as it’s ironing, but there is a good reason for it, honest. 🙂

    Anyway, bravo on the post, such a difficult subject and how I wish I could hit pause. Except I think I’d be wanting to repeat the trick at least once a week. :/

    • I had to jump in with a reply here. Am I an Ian Dury fan? Oh yes indeedy, very much so, ever since I lived in Plaistow during the late 70s (remember “Plaistow Patricia” and “Dagenham Dave” and “Billericay Dicky”?) and in fact “Mash it up, Harry” was the inspiration for my recent fascination with “Mr Potato Head”, who you’ll be seeing more of. Thanks for the link – watching the old geezer has made my day 🙂

    • Sticky toffee pudding!! My favorite desert in the entire universe. Oh, I go through raptures for that divine dish. I once spent a week making seven different versions of it to serve for a special fancy dinner. My kids have totally gone off it. I never will. So yes, that gorgeous sauce would be in serious competition with the chocolate.

      And I totally agree, Laura, the walking and the weeding is incredibly meditative. And the ironing doesn’t’ surprise me in the least either. I actually find folding the laundry to be methodically calming and head clearing. No straight jacket for you this week. You may fill your goblet at the sink with a glass of gorgeous bubbly.

      Cheers!

      • If you ever come this way there are several fine pubs and restaurants that serve sticky toffee pudding. You could do a tour. 🙂 And thanks for the bubbly and lack of strait jacket, I shall get that last bit printed out and put it in my pocket. Just in case I need the proof!

  16. As usual, the perfect blending on words and cartoons! I’m off for the mountains in a few moments but couldn’t resist checking out your blog – you’ve got me hooked!

    • Firstly, many thanks. It’s a lovely thing to hear.
      Secondly–tips? Enjoy it. Your efforts will result in unlikely friends in unusual places. It’s a marvelous place to explore and expand.
      Cheers!

  17. When I first became disabled, my thoughts were all about the past. After all, everything in my life had changed and the past was comfortable. Then I went through a phase where I keep on thinking about the future. It worked for me to get the money up for the down payment on the townhouse I wanted. Now it’s all about the present. I’m bored with the past. And at my age, there isn’t as much future as there used to be. 😛

    • Oh, Glynis, I love how you’ve made such a thorough study of time and your life. It’s so pragmatic and bold. And I’m hoping very much tongue and cheek with that last little bit.
      So much left for you to do! You’ve got that book to finish and publish. 😀

  18. Sleep. Any extra, bonus hours that could be sent my way via some kind of pause button would definitely be spent sleeping. Oh wait…maybe reading. You should see the piles of unread books I’ve amassed. Although I guess technically if I were reading I would not be in the present, experiencing the moment, because reading takes you AWAY from the present moment into some other world or life or person. So I’m sticking with sleep.

    And the whole “sideways” concept from my nerd-crush Neil deGrasse Tyson – totally plausible, in my opinion. After all, my blog is based on the concept that I’m on a separate timeline, in a parallel universe that is, in many ways, similar yet vastly different from the previous universe I once inhabited. Ah, the conversations Neil and I could have!!

    Hope you’re doing well, Shelley! So glad I finally got a chance to check back in on your always insightful and humorous blog!

    • Jen, I’m thinking you might qualify for a 48-hour snooze button. Therefore, the best of both worlds. A little napping, a little reading, maybe dig deeper into the whole timeline of east and west–it’d feel pretty good.
      And a million thanks for taking some of your nearly non-existent spare time to share with me. It’s always such a happy day to see your words here, Jen. I hope things are moving along well in your cosmos too.
      Cheers!

  19. Great thought provoking post! I think we all have the power of the pause (button). However most of us are scared to use it. Inertia is an intimidating prospect.

    • You’ve made a really good point, Melissa. Something along the lines of ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?’ That attitude of just keep plowing through may prove to be our downfall.
      Cheers!

  20. I see we’re about in the same boat….I spend most of my days trying to keep up and most of my evenings wondering how I fell so much further behind than when the day began! I’m also quite convinced that time is speeding up the older I get! And…..I’ve never fallen asleep as fast as I do these days. Yes, I fear that time is the ENEMY these days….not only can I not outrun it, keep up with it, keep track of it, or even see it ahead of me in the distance, I’m almost convinced that I’m running a completely different race in the opposite direction looking too much toward the past and just hoping to make the cut and survive for the future. The present? It’s a complete blur despite my best efforts. I’ve often wondered about (read that ‘prayed for’!) that sideways dimension myself believe it or not…..it has to be there….I’ve just not ever been smart enough to find it!

    Rob’s drawings, as per his norm, completely awesome.

    • Oh, Torrie, you’ve got it as bad as the rest of us. I think we’re going to need a bigger boat.

      If science would hurry up and sort out the particulars of time and all its available directions, and then gift us the ability to utilize each as we please, I’m guessing most of us would be incredibly thrilled for a few minutes and then realize the planet has been overrun with millions of folks who are going to quickly learn how to game the system. Maybe we should be stuck with the status quo. Maybe we’ve got a few more million years of evolving before we can understand time.

      It’s a head scratcher for sure. o_O

  21. Looks like you post on Saturday’s, Shelley. Is that the best time? oops never-mind, you just wrestled with time. As always, enjoyable and incisive writing. I’d wonder what you have planned for May 30 but I might be getting a head of myself.

  22. It’s intriguing how different situations and even different locations make us see time in different ways. I often wonder: if we were given more than the twenty-four hours allowed to us, would we actually use them any differently? Now there’s a wormhole that’s waiting for me to devote extra hours to….

    • Once you’ve solved that little pickle, let me know what the wormhole looks like and what’s on the other side.
      Universal questions. Too many to solve in a day. Unless of course a day was 25 hours long. 😛

  23. I wonder if in the same way that no matter how much more money we earn, we always manage to spend it, if we had more time, we’d use it up, too.
    Does that make sense?
    What I need to do is find more time to just sit for a moment and breathe.
    I’m going to work on that!
    In the meantime, good luck with those distracted thoughts during yoga. I’m the same way!

    • Make sense? A thousand times yes, Laurie. You’ve managed to extract the heart of the problem brilliantly. Maybe it has a lot to do with that elusive happiness factor we’re all so busy chasing. I keep listening to those inner yogis who continue to chant Sit and be in the moment.

      And I’m working on ignoring the inner housekeeper who’s shouting, GET UP–YOU’VE GOT LAUNDRY TO DO!
      😛

  24. I am so proud of myself for getting the Mae West reference! XD Living in the present is quite difficult. Maybe it has to do with the fact that in both the past and future, there is an air of comfort and expectation. A strange thing to think about the future, but as creatures that like observing cause and effect, I’m sure the brain loves the idea of sorting out a puzzle neatly. (Watching the mouse run the maze, rather than being in the maze ourself). However, living in the present means abandoning what we know, and what we can deduce, to simply be, blinders on.

    If we can’t even drive that way (I don’t recommend it!) maybe it’s not all bad to live just a little in the past (for reflection) or a little in the future (so you can be prepared for what’s coming!)

    • Now that, Alex, sounds like an appealing recipe for a life. A sprinkling of salt and pepper past and future with the meat and potatoes present.

      And I love the way you unpacked the puzzle of how so many of us think and sort. Study psychology much, Alex? 😉 I think you could hang a new shingle with a ‘keep it simple’ online therapy notes on life.

      Cheers!

  25. I too wish I had more time spent not doing anything with the time or about time, except for not counting time or thinking about time, and not thinking about Neil de Grasse either.

    • It’s funny you should say that, Bumba–the bit about Neil, as I’ve come across people who are either massive Neil fans or find their eyes rolling skywards when hearing his name. Maybe it’s the fact that he brings on a few uncontrollable and uncomfortable headaches with the heavy thinking required to contemplate his theories?

      • Not at all. I love his stuff and enjoy the occasional thinking moments involved. It’s just his name, his hyphenated name, sounded good at the end of the sentence.

        • I think I’ve butchered the poor man’s name way too many times when trying to recall which part goes where. I should probably make a grand cosmic apology to him for that. But maybe I already have in some parallel universe so I can cross that off my to-do list today. 😛

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