“Time is a created thing. To say I don’t have time is to say I don’t want to.” – Lao Tzu
It’s been a couple of years since my mom died. It was a difficult death. Hospice came suddenly and as her body declined, she suffered. She also braved it out till the end.
In her last days, she began to look and listen with zen-like focus. I noticed she had stopped doing things to occupy her time—her favorite cooking shows went unwatched and her daily crossword puzzles were left undone. If it wasn’t deeply rewarding or absolutely required, it didn’t make the cut.
She let her loved ones visit with her. She enjoyed the view of the trees, the balmy breeze and the birds singing outside her window. She tried to eat. When she couldn’t eat anymore, she tried to rest. I sensed she was afraid and sad, with much on her mind. Her body was agitated and restless, too.
To sum it up, she wasn’t ready for her life to end. Neither were we. But the end had come.
That’s why I’ll always cherish the last words my mom said to me before she drifted off and passed away:
“I just need to calm down.”
Whenever I think about my mom’s final days, it reminds me:
Emotions are a part of the human condition. We’re wired to get anxious, afraid, frustrated, angry, blue, stressed, overwhelmed. We just need to calm down.
When we’re calm, it’s easier to make wise choices, to accept what is and deal with change… to sense the love that is all around us.
Rewarding or Required
When time is at a premium—and is it ever not?—I don’t want to waste energy on things that are not deeply rewarding or absolutely required.
This urges me to reassess. To choose how I spend my time, money and effort with reverence about what makes the cut. To simplify. Radically. And it’s such a relief.
We’ve all heard that we should live life to the fullest, because tomorrow isn’t promised. But there’s an inner challenge in trying to honor our natural desire for comfort, abundance and fun. If we were to live each day like it were our last, we might never get out of our pajamas. And if the present moment is a treasure, are we allowed to use it to watch meaningless TV shows or take Facebook quizzes?
Actually, yes. There are endless ways for each of us to live. In my view, we choose our own way. Even in adversity, we have personal choices. Yet most of us feel bound by obligation or society or human frailties that undermine our abilities to be true to who we are in any circumstance.
But we’re not bound. And we don’t have to wait until we’re terminally ill to pare down to our authentic selves. We have permission to be here, now, and to create time for what we choose until the end. How radical is that?
Time is a Created Thing
As for me, I ’m choosing what inspires me more mindfully now. It’s simple: I ask myself, “Is this [opinion, blouse, argument, job] adding to my life or taking away from it?” I’m just trying to minimize unpleasantness and burdens. To make the most of my time. To learn from my mom.
So I’m working on having less stuff to maintain, protect and store. Less worry and less regret (yes, those are choices). Less fighting to be right, needing to impress, or trying to explain.
That’s how I’m creating more time for what I want, like making memories with my loved ones and enjoying the fresh air. More recognition of what nourishes me, inside and out.
I’m sure this is what’s meant by “less is more.”
I’ll admit, to get to the point where all I do and all I have is deeply rewarding or absolutely required would be a radical shift. Maybe that level of zen-like focus won’t fully develop until my own end of time.
I’m good with that, because living my life in the meantime includes casual chatter, cheap wine, baseball games, silly jokes and cooking shows. Simple pleasures.
Because to make time is to say I want to.