Good Things #36: Time

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A few months ago, I was on the highway. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and we were speeding on our way to one of my favorite port towns. My friend was driving, and I was trying to describe how to get to the used bookstore I’d wandered into the spring before. I knew there was no way we would find it again.

I told him I’d blogged that morning, and he said,

“Why did you already write your ‘good things’ post? You never know what the afternoon will bring.”

I laughed because he can be a romantic of sorts, and if I were always waiting for the next great thing, I’d never write a lick.

But I’ve been coming back to that moment recently, as the March sun promises warmth but the air has yet to comply.

~     ~     ~

Some people are good at living life as one big adventure. I have a friend who seems to jump from opportunity to opportunity, uprooting her life in America for two years in Switzerland and learning how to be in community while longing for that very thing. Of course she grapples with the normal dissatisfaction that seems to mark our generation, but she has a way of rising to the occasion.

I wonder what it would look like to live this way – with always the thought that “the next good thing” was just around the corner. Time has been a constant enemy of mine. I remember one night when I was eight years old, and my parents had my aunt and uncle and grandparents over. They were all in the kitchen, long after supper had ended, and we were supposed to be in bed. I don’t know what I wanted – probably just to feel like a grown-up and talk with them – but I came down the stairs. I heard my father, a touch of concern in his voice, say,

“Well, look at Catherine. She’s eight years old. Before I know it, she’ll be heading to college, and how in the world are we supposed to pay for that?”

I stopped on the cold blue tiles in the hallway. I was only eight years old, but there were the next ten years of my life, just the process of waiting for college and how in the word were we supposed to pay for that?

I couldn’t wait to study in college, but I also never wanted it to come.

[My mom’s friend sitting on the rug with me, not making eye contact, talking in her rushed-fashion about growing up and maturity and childhood. “Don’t try to be an adult sooner than you have to. I had to, I didn’t have a choice, but you don’t do it.” I looked at her and didn’t understand a thing she was saying. I just wanted to know what she and my mom talked about over tea at the island. It wasn’t my fault I could understand what they spelled to each other over our heads.]

Story after story of a young girl, and I travelled with her through childhood to adulthood, watching her blossom into a woman. And always that sadness when I came to the last page of the last book – for months Rilla of Ingleside sat untouched on my shelf because I couldn’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to Anne forever.

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These days, time is a different sort of enemy. When work feels long and I can’t imagine answering, “Magistra, what does quis/quae/quod mean?” one. more time., I tick the clock away until the doors open and I’m free.

But when the weekend’s here, I grasp after those same moments. Sundays are too short, no matter how good they are.

As spring approaches, and I think about ending my second year of teaching, it makes me sad that I countdown the days, hours, minutes till the end. Before you know it, you’ll be dead. 

Where does this voice come from?

The truth is, I love teaching, so why do I always long for something else even when I’m doing something that brings me joy?

~     ~     ~

“You never know what the afternoon will bring,” he said that day in the car, and I am reminded of the Swedish proverb I tacked to my wall senior year of college:

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.

I put it on my wall as a type of foreboding, a warning of change and its suddenness and my lack of control.

Now, I’m trying see it as potential. Like the day that stretches in front of you just before you swing your legs over the edge of the bed. Like the friendship just before you shake hands for the first time. Like that first smell of strong coffee just before you sip.

To be expecting the next good thing in the afternoon, but to enjoy the good thing that’s right here now.

I don’t know what the afternoon will bring, but I’m trying to rest in time instead of wrestle it.

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