Our complex relationship with time

A dog’s ability to be present is something we can all aspire to.

Dr. Susan David has said, many times, that growth only happens with discomfort. So being uncomfortable is the breeding ground for change. I have been thinking about this concept a lot recently as I have been sitting with my own discomfort in this strange period of transition. Last December I left my full time job, a job filled with structure and routine and I am now in what I am calling my ‘waiting to feel normal’ stage. But what if this stage is not really an in-between, liminal stage but actually the place to make myself at home? What if I need to make peace with this time instead of rushing it.

Many of my coaching clients talk about time: not having enough of it, not knowing how to make the most of it, fearing it will run out and also wishing it away so that the good times can come. When I worked as a full time teacher, I noticed that often teachers often had a countdown to the weekend, or the next holiday. One of my line managers would send out emails starting with a countdown “4 more days”!  Many people seemed to be rushing through their days to get to the ‘good bit’, when they could rest.  I wondered when we would stop shaking the hourglass in the hope that we  could hurry that sand. 

Now my days are slower and it is giving me pause to think about time. I have felt myself in the same trap, as if there were an internal countdown inside my brain urging me towards the next thing. This is the next thing. Many people are in a period of flux and change. Someone I know is adjusting to having no children at home, another to having a puppy and another to living as a single woman for the first time in 15 years. A good friend of mine is struggling with working full time and raising two rambunctious busy toddlers. She asked me what it felt like to be on the ‘other side of all this.’ I said it is both the sweet spot and also often too quiet. But it is where I am, and I accept that. When she felt guilty counting the minutes till bedtime I said maybe it is okay to want the hard times to be over and to also enjoy the moment.  This is the paradox, the tension between sitting and being with it and rushing through it.

How many of us are being fully present in our lives instead of being busy as a way of avoiding being uncomfortable. Are you allowing yourself to sit with all the feelings, even the discomfort? Or are you numbing the feeling and running away from the spaces where you live?

Dr Marcia Reynolds has given me a mantra that I try to live by when I am coaching: Your clients want you to be present more than perfect. What I am realizing is that I need to be present with myself first.

Have you noticed yourself wishing minutes, hours, days away in the hope of getting to the end of the work day or the end of the week? We are what we do with our hours, are we not?  Anne Dillard says “the way you live your days is the way you live your life.” I am restless by nature and often pace around, walking into the kitchen opening cupboards, shifting books and papers from one side of the table to the other, scrolling on my phone, falling into rabbit holes on the internet. The lesson I am trying to learn is how to lean into the space, feel the discomfort of change, embrace the paradox of grieving something and at the same time feeling so joyful that I can have the chance of change at all.

Above all, what I am learning is how to “feast on my life.”

Here are some ideas that I am trying, not always doing well, but leaning into.

  • Notice: Go for a walk without earphones. Chase the ‘awe’ of the breeze moving through the trees, the light painting shadows on the wall. Pay attention.
  • Listen: Sit and listen to a song all the way through, instead of doing two things at once and having music as the backdrop.
  • Disconnect: Have designated no phone time by leaving it in another room
  • Let it out: journal writing. It doesn’t have to be prose, bullet points and doodles are fine!
  • Be intentional: Set a purpose for the week rather than for the day
  • Use all your senses: taste your food, listen to the wind, touch your sweater, lean into the way things feel. And listen to your instinct. What do you notice?
  • Get inspired: Read a poem. This one is a good start.

Love After Love by Derek Walcott

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

If you enjoyed this please consider forwarding it to someone who might find it helpful. And be sure to check out previous posts by clicking on the blog tab. Thank you for reading I really appreciate it.

Sam x

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