A Thousand Months

Another New Year has passed, and as usual, I slept through the midnight hoorays. I cannot be bothered to stay awake to see a clock move, but I admit that there is something about the ending of a year that makes me think about the passage of time.
Here’s another thing that has just made me think about the passage of time; looking at school reunion pictures. I was on the Reunion’s Facebook page, but I only attended this school for the last two years of High School, and many of the names and faces were unknown to me. They had left long before final exams. My first thought was, wow, they’re so middle aged! And then I looked in the mirror.
What has happened in their lives? Did they have goals and dreams? Did they feel content that they have achieved enough so far, or do they fret over wasted time? Like losing money to a scam, it’s a very hard thing to admit we have wasted time. In any case, I don’t know. I didn’t go and so I couldn’t ask.
AC Grayling, British philosopher and academic, said that ‘we do not know what time is, but we know a great deal about it. We know that it flies, that once lost it cannot be recovered, that we waste it prodigally, that it is mightier than anything in existence. We know how little of it we have, unlike the stars; they exist for billions of years, whereas we humans exist on average for fewer than a thousand months.’ (I would add to that – if we’re lucky!) ‘We sleep for three hundred of those months, and spend another three hundred, not fully awake to life.’
This High School is several flying hours from my current home and on a journey back there a while ago, I could see clearly how some of my home town citizens were spending their time. I saw trees wrapped in colourful woollen outfits. I am told this is called Yarn Bombing. I cannot think of a more pointless thing to do with time. Are they fully awake to life, as AC Grayling phrases it? Perhaps they are, and I am missing something. It’s just that it never occurred to me that a tree needed a knitted garment.
Some years ago, at the Sydney Biennale, I watched a Japanese artist sitting quietly amongst a mountain of shredded paper, slowly, silently adding to the mess around her. A good friend of mine would not have been able to stop himself from saying, ‘alright love, you’ve made your point.’ If I had laughed out loud about this waste of time, I know I would have been shushed – because after all, it was art.
We cannot possibly be constantly ‘awake to life.’ There are chores to be done for a start. We keep our houses tidy and our clothes washed and pressed. We brush our hair and sort out cupboards. We shuffle trollies around supermarkets and we can, if the research is correct, spend extraordinary amounts of time on You Tube and social media. The average Australian is checking their smart phone over 35 times a day. That takes up time. Is it time well spent?
Perhaps the people who knit cardigans for trees think I’m a fool for working long hours at my age if I don’t have to, and sometimes, when I’m caught in a traffic jam or stuck in a pointless meeting, I agree with them. Am I a fool for always having piles of books I desperately want to read? I have known enough people in my life who told me that reading was a waste of time.
The notion of time as a resource that could be spent wisely or wasted, was introduced to me in my early twenties. I was sent to a Time Management course and I thought the title was absurd and my enrolment was highly unnecessary. But I became a convert. I have, ever since, been a committed goal writer and a To Do list tragic. I realised, when I put it into practise, that I was far more likely to achieve something if I wrote it down. If I broke large very goals into pieces and persevered, then more good things happened, not by magic or by luck but because I was more organised for action. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. I liked the idea of separating myself from the human flotsam who said things like ‘one of these days I’ll get around to that.’ From the trivial to the meaningful, from booking an appointment to planning a trip to Russia, I wrote it down. Research from one Dr Matthews later told me I was 42% more likely to achieve something by simply writing it down.
I still write lists. It’s now a habit, but I can also excel in wasting time. Arguably I waste plenty of it. On many work evenings, I sit on the floor with a glass of wine in my hand and watch reruns of comedies or old favourite movies. Is that a good way to spend my time? Probably not, but I also think, if we get too precious about every hour, we would never relax or be fun to be around. As William Henry Davies wrote; What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?
We are extremely fortunate. Just pondering the issue of wasted time, like storage and nail extensions, is a first world luxury and worry. Too many of the world’s women and children still trudge to collect water each day. I can turn on a tap. Excluding the extremely wealthy, only modern generations have had discretionary time to manage or fritter away.
But back to this vexing issue about wasting time and the year ahead. Should I stand and stare more often or hit the To Do lists with a vengeance. I’d love to shout, ‘No! I will not waste time, I will be better at seizing the day!’ but I know in my heart that there will be many more afternoon naps, bad movies and mindless TV. I will no doubt flick through Facebook too often and end up replaying cute clips of pandas or puppies. I will sit in the hairdressers for hours, colouring in my hair, rather than facing the fact that I’m 55 and my hair is white. I’ll waste even more time looking at their trashy magazines to see who has divorced this week or who looks too fat or too thin. I’ll spend about a day this year in a chair getting my toenails painted. I might as well knit a cardigan for a tree.
But I will also try to be more fully awake to life, if not necessarily at all moments of the day. After all, those 1000 months are well past the half way mark on that imaginary hourglass.
Happy New Year everyone.
Another year if before us.
Aren’t we lucky?

3 thoughts on “A Thousand Months”

  1. I think I’ve mentioned Cheryl, I don’t do any social media but just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this particular post.   X

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  2. Hmmm food for the fodder. So if I get a bit chilly sometime, I’ll take a drive up the road and score myself a knitted cardi, sure to be plenty hanging around 🙂 sniggering quietly here!

  3. Well said, Cheryl. Tempus fugit and you have no control over that so you might as well try to have fun along the way. If that means knitting cardis for trees, so be it but give me a book any day!

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