A while ago a good friend and I were talking about time management and restlessness. I have an issue with there never being enough time, and with an inability to dedicate the little time I have to one single thing. I get distracted, start wondering if this is really the best way to spend the 1 hour gleaned between work and picking up the kids, and in the end get nothing done and feel a failure. Or even – I DO get things done but don’t enjoy the process. Exasperated, I shared all of this with him. He patiently listened, smiled, and nodded, “I totally understand. I used to be the same way…”

Being 20 years his junior, I get that a lot.

I told him that I want to live life fully, to live each day as if it were my last. He responded, “I’ve come to realize that you have to live life as if you’re going to live forever.” I raised an eyebrow. He continued, “You have to be generous with your time. Do you want an hour of my life to complain about your boss? Sure – here you go. Would you like 30 minutes to keep me on hold – go right ahead. Are you all going to keep me stuck in traffic for two hours? By all means – I’m not in a rush, I have all the time in the world…”

Wise man, he is. This idea, at first counter-intuitive and absurd, has the potential to be life-altering. Think about it: in the end we’re all going to be dead. At that point it’s not really going to matter whether you rushed around like a headless chicken your whole life, accomplishing, checking things off your lists, not being present but being transient. It only makes the difference now. And now wouldn’t you rather live calmly, peacefully, being present in the moment and not just rushing through it to get to the next?

There is something deeply comforting in spending time with this friend. On a psychological level, it is painful, traumatic when the person you are trying to interact with is constantly being distracted. You feel as if you are not important. You notice they are already thinking about the next lunch date, planning their evening, or fretting about work instead of just being there with you. When you perceive this, you are not likely to open up. You feel trapped in a short time-slot and don’t say much beyond the platitudes and stock phrases that the other person reacts to in the usual, accepted way. With this friend it’s different. It’s as if he is there to stay – you really feel like he has no place to go, like he could just chat with you for many hours. And it is because he has made the decision to live each day as if he will live forever.

I have tried to implement this principle in my interactions with the kids, because I have noticed that they’re often at a high level of anxiety, especially at home. Since I am (usually) not able to give them my full attention for very long (I get distracted), they must feel that they don’t get the attention at all. As a result, they are always demanding, begging, bartering, or stealing it. If you think that yearned-for attention can be abruptly removed from you at any moment, you act out: you’re loud, obnoxious, annoying. You tell stupid jokes or don’t stop to listen for fear of losing your audience. The other extreme is just as dangerous: you retreat within yourself and don’t make contact, because making it and then losing it hurts more. So I am trying with my kids to give them time.

It is extremely difficult, but very important. As I do, I feel the changes in me, and in them. As for what I could have been doing instead – I try not to panic. Because I do have almost all the time in the world. At least I have as much as the world will give.

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