We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. – Karl R. Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies
There are seemingly endless quotes about the finality of time, how it is our most treasured resource, and in short supply, although no one knows how much remains. It is a theme that has been studied and explored in many a song and poem, as each person contemplates his or her own mortality.
Do not squander time. That is the stuff life is made of.
Time Waits for No One
You may delay, but time will not.
Time, time, time, see what’s become of me…While I looked around for my possibilities.
As 2016 draws to a close, I find myself thinking about time; how I sometimes find myself rushing ahead, and at other times feel I surely must be standing still.
In one of my favorite childhood movies, The Man in the Moon, the father makes a comment to the mother about Reese Witherspoon’s character being too big to go running about the countryside wild as a jackrabbit, to which the mother replies:
Used to be she was too little. Now she’s too big. I guess she passed by ‘just right’ when no one was lookin’.
I think it’s easy to wait, marking time for ‘just right’. As a young women starting my career, I used to worry my clients would question my experience based on my age. Now, I’ve come to a place where I notice many of my clients are younger than I.
Likewise, as a parent of young children it’s easy to put off things, waiting until the kids are just a little older – to go on a trip, resume a family tradition, or visit a favorite restaurant. In a way this becomes marking time, waiting for ‘this phase’ to be over, until you come to a place when things will be right, or the conditions ideal.
Nearly everyone can relate to the idea of waiting to do something you always dreamed you might. In my youth, I enjoyed day-dreaming about the things I might do. But as life races ahead, I wonder, hadn’t I better stop day dreaming and start doing at some point? What if ‘just right’ is right now? What if the conditions may never be ideal, but I can choose to stop waiting? What if I decide to do the thing I dreamed I would, knowing tomorrow may never come?
Behind our house our backyard slopes gently up a hillside. Adorned with a semi-circle of trees, the hill is a compilation of tree roots and large rocks. This along with changing sun, shade, and moisture creates a challenging planting environment. Only the hardy thrive, and most often the hardy are weeds.
For years we looked the other way while weeds ran rampant. In the spring we would pull, trim, and lay mulch. In early summer we would plant, full sun in one section, shade tolerant in the other. But, it was all a mere band-aid. In truth, it was something we just tolerated.
As humans we can tolerate a lot. This adaptability is one of the things that prolongs our survival. A less-than-ideal neighbor, an unpleasant situation, there are some things that are better tolerated, but there are also things we can tolerate, but don’t have to. There is a difference between adaptability, and change we choose for ourselves, lest we fall into apathy.
Late this fall, I mustered up the will to tackle the hill, maybe not once and for all, but more than a band-aid. For three days, I pruned and pulled. I found muscles I didn’t know could hurt from using a pick ax. I must have removed several hundred brambles, tiny trees, and invasive thorny bushes.
It’s amazing how this task changed my week, even my month. I felt emboldened by removing it from my to-do list where it had gathered dust for years. It was energizing and confidence boosting. If I could accomplish this seemingly small thing, what else could I do? That distracting pile of folders in my office that sapped my motivation, gone. Why had I waited so long? It produced uncharacteristic boldness, and I tackled other unpleasant chores with verve. I was tired of accepting things that I could in fact change. I found I was more scared of the answer to the question – If we accept these failings, what else can we learn to live with?
Patience is a rare virtue; life certainly involves a lot of waiting, but I don’t want to wait if I don’t have to. I don’t want 2017 to be a year I wait to do things with the kids until they’re older, or hold back on dreams until the time is right, or wait to fulfill goals until things are easier. Time promises no guarantees. Even if more time were certain, I want to fill our days with joy and love now.
What I do today is important because I’m paying a day of my life for it.