The Gift of Time
I’m sure many people are thinking… How terrible it must be to spend a year planning an 8-week trip to France that involves renting a house, leasing a car, and purchasing expensive summer airfare and then have to walk away from it all. For a minute we felt that way. We were really dismayed and disappointed that this should occur. But then our priorities forcefully changed and all of that compared to my health seemed rather insignificant. We have not regretted our choice to return home for a second. There is something to be said for that timeless wisdom, “There’s no place like home”. We should all be able to click our heels and return home instantly when we most need it.
Time is an illusion. We talk about not having enough time, things taking too much time, trying to find more time in our day. When we fly to France, we lose time. We usually leave mid-day and arrive there in the afternoon the following day — excited about our trip but with the usual jet lag sinking in due to the nine hour adjustment. On our return trip, we are happy to gain the nine hours back. In reality, however, there’s a finite amount of time in any given day. We have no power to change it, but we can definitely choose how we use it.
At work whenever a meeting has to be unexpectedly canceled for one reason or another, the administration usually informs us at the last minute and tells us they’re giving us “the gift of time”. Suddenly, you have an hour of time free that you hadn’t planned. Generally, I have a long list of things I need to do so I will launch into one or two of them and check them off my endless list. I never have any trouble using this time productively. Being productive is always my focus so I try never to waste time even when I am at home. This approach to life has its pros and cons. You certainly get a lot of things done every day, but you rarely stop and just enjoy the moment.
When we departed prematurely from France, I realized that we had unknowingly given ourselves the gift of time. Of course, our main objective was to have plenty of time to see doctors and follow up on resolving my severe anemia, but that alone wouldn’t occupy every minute of every day. So, despite the fact that I had very little energy or ability to do much of anything, I instinctively thought about what I would do with the rest of my time. Then, fortunately, I stopped myself and thought… What we had planned for this time is off the table and I don’t need to replace it with anything else. I don’t have to plan any projects (as I am so prone to do). It’s time to just be in the moment, take care of yourself, and get well. That was an amazing realization. The fact that my brain accepted it was even more amazing.
We have enjoyed just spending this time together without any resentment of what happened in the recent past (having to leave France) or pressure to worry about what will happen in the near future (being ready to return to work). It has been wonderful to appreciate all the small moments, which frankly, given the gravity of what occurred, we feel lucky to have.
Next time I receive the gift of time, I’m going to think twice before I decide what I will do with it because sometimes doing nothing is something… something you need to do.