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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.

What if you knew how to build that hot turquoise upholstered swivel chair you’ve been dreaming about? What if you learned how to do it? What if you could not sit still for more than five minutes because you had too many ideas? A woman in motion, remains in motion, and you as a parent have developed the inability to focus on anything for more than several minutes at a time as a defense mechanism. Otherwise, the incessant interruptions would drive you mad.

But what if, say, you wanted to learn how to make chocolate? Or how to frame a painting? Or how to bind books? It’s curious how we don’t realize that everything around us, from the food we eat to the trinkets we covet, is made by people; people just like us. Which means, we can make this stuff too!

Yes, even you. You can sew your clothes, if you want, you can make paper and work on calligraphy, you can learn how to take apart a transmission and do your own oil fill.

So what if you were to tear those “I’d rather be…” stickers off your bumper, and do those things you’d rather be doing? Dare you? Dare I?

Because no matter how much we’d all “rather be” somewhere else, we really only have today. No matter what happened yesterday, nor what you plan for tomorrow, you’re always stuck in today. There’s no other day to do it. So, my mantra has become, “If it doesn’t get done today, it will never get done.”

Today is my birthday. It is always a special day, and I am excited to call this Monday the 13th mine. I was born on a Monday too. When I came to the States and learned about Friday the 13th, I felt a bit relieved that at least I wasn’t born on that day/date combination. Turns out, in Russia Monday is considered unlucky. But my Mama lovingly says that for her, it proved a very lucky day indeed. I would have to concur. I mention my birthday because it is a good occasion to try something new.

Like, for example, to introduce my new blog that I am launching today. It will be focusing on the ins and outs of trying to live life deliberately, parenting thoughtfully while working insanely, and finding joy in the little things. It’s called Carpe Diem Dame, for the obvious reasons that I am writing about seizing the day, and I am a female. I plan to post there daily, while leaving this blog as is, dedicated to all of the more sublime thoughts that I want to share with you. Yes, you speficially. Sometimes the posts will be the same. Most of the time, they will be different. Please stop by there often – I promise to put up better pictures. I recently got an AWESOME CAMERA, so eventually I will get AWESOME at taking pictures with it.

I hope Diem Dame will be a place where we can all share our thoughts and ideas on the practical aspects of living life intentionally.

Not to sound pretentious, but I get this a lot: “How do you have the time to do all of these things??” Often I am tempted to reply with a half-snide “I make time. What do you do all day?”

Thing is, if you think about time, you may realize that it is the great common denominator. Everything can be broken down to time. It’s also the universal currency – most of the decisions we make affect our expenditure of time or arise from it. What some of us may not recognize, often enough, is that time is a precious, nonrenewable resource. It is limited, for each person, and it does run out. Try as you may, you cannot create, recycle, or plant more of it. I think if we understood this, we would live differently.

Maybe I am being too optimistic though.

Two thoughts on time. One is that your age should be determined not by how much you’ve lived, but by how much you still have left. Imagine! A 25-year old criminal on death row would be older than the 60-year old recreational diver. This is the flip side of the traditional approach to age. Think about it: when somebody is young, it means that they’re inexperienced, foolish, maybe, reckless..but it also means that they still have much ahead of them (as in “I’m still young…I have time…”). The reverse is true of our typical perception of being old: there is much behind you, and not much left ahead. “Oh…I’m too old now to (fill in the blank: get married? Pick up para-sailing? Learn how to use a computer?)”. But if you saw your age as what lies ahead instead of what lies behind, you would be forced to evaluate the choices you make more carefully, because actually, you don’t know how long you have left.

Let's do it!

The old saying goes, “Why do something today if you can put it off till tomorrow?”. I say, “Do it today, because there may not be a tomorrow for you (or me)”.

The other thought is this: I have always adhered vehemently to the credo “Life is short” (implicit: live it to the fullest), because at one point I realized that life will be short for me. That is, it will be too short to do and try and learn and taste and experience everything that I would like to do and try and learn…. Like, I was driving home from church yesterday thinking it would be great to pick up kayaking, especially because in the area where we live there are many waterways perfect for this water sport. And then I got to thinking about wall climbing and how I should join an outdoors climbing group to go on climbing trips with them, and then I remembered that I wanted to get more into composing, now that we have a keyboard at home…and the list goes on.

Honestly, I am stumped when others do less. I mean, what else is there to do except…stuff? That’s what living is. Doing stuff.

A few examples of time as the common denominator: I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and literature lately about living green, and car-free, and being independent, off the grid, having your own homestead, picking your seasonally-grown veggies for the winter months, etc., and I got to thinking. On the one hand, I salute the movement fully because it is based on another credo of mine: living deliberately; thinking about how you treat the land, and your bodies, and the people and nature around you. On the other hand, like any movement, it can consume you.

To market, to market...

Say you don’t want to leave a carbon footprint because you love nature and want your kids to love it and learn to value it. So you start recycling, saving all of your plastics and reusing glassware, getting rid of your car, using candles and solar power instead of electricity, and drying your clothes on cloth lines. You realize that many of the chemicals in your house are or can be harmful to you or the environment. You start mixing your own natural cleaners, soaps, makeup, detergents. Before you know it, all of your time is spent on doing this stuff, and none on going outside, actually being in nature, spending time with family and friends.

Or you want to be independent, food and electricity-wise. So you start a garden, dig a well, set up solar panels and wind turbines. You preserve your fruits and vegetables, you milk your cow, make your own yogurt, cheese, butter, cream. You grow your own organic fiber, weave or knit from it your own clothes. Yes, eventually you become fully independent, but the caveat is that while you’re independent from other people providing you with all of the necessities of life, you’re fully dependent on your own efforts to sustain you. You must toil day and night, like the people of yore, like all of civilization did for millenia before the industrial revolution radically altered the way humanity produced goods…And again, you have no time for the things that matter (to you).

Basically, these more radical expressions are only worth it if the process in and of itself is actually the way you’d prefer to spend your time. Or you can spend your time working to earn money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables any time of the year, or to pay for a car so you can go places and see the world.

The same can be said of child-rearing activities. For instance, you can work long hours, earn money to get your kid signed up for fancy-pancy classes, Montessori school, art, dance, football, fencing…or you can work part time and teach these things yourself (and learn them in the process too!). Bottom line again is: where do you want to spend your time? Doing what?

I got a George Washington Carver award in high school, and on it there’s a quote by him: “There’s no short cut to achievement”. This is true too. If you look at someone who is a tremendous painter or an exceptional mathematician, know that they put their time in, and got results. Others put that same time in to bar hopping, partying, smoking weed or just watching TV all day. The time is gone, either way, the return on it, though, varies greatly.

So the moral of the story is: go ye forth, and seize the day! Seriously. Do it.

I had always been weary of doing the right thing and then being sorry I did it. Especially when this concerned making sacrifices for the family and then unconsciously holding a grudge against them because I still regretted not getting to do something else, something so vital to my own sense of fulfillment and meaning in life. I didn’t want to have those grudges, and so, my mantra became: no regrets.

Let me develop that. You can regret something that you did, and you can regret something that you did not do. I always opt for regretting things that I do , instead of avoiding potentially wrong choices altogether. Because at least this way, you know how it would have turned out. Regretting not having done something is the most torturous kind of regret, because of all the “could have been”s.

So how has this been working for me? Mixed results. I went to Paris and married a young man that I fell in love with, four months after meeting him. And spent the better part of the next six years regretting it. What was I thinking when I married him? Well, I didn’t want to live with the regret of not having married him; of letting an absolutely unique and talented individual become a stranger when he wanted to weld his life with mine. Did I consider for a moment that we were incompatible, literally unable to function as a single unit? No, I didn’t think about it. See, I was all about no regrets.

Went to graduate school when my kids were 2 years old and 1 year old, pushed through so that I wouldn’t regret not having obtained an education due to the fact that I had young children, and unconsciously hold a grudge against them for life. Do I regret it?


And then there is the vending machine predicament. I stare at the variety of death treats, wondering, if I get a reeses, will I sit there eating it wishing I had gotten cheetos instead? Listening to my inner gut, I try to discern what it wants. My mind says, stick with the peanuts. But I don’t want to regret not having gotten the Snickers…Ultimately I end up regreting whatever I get, and when I get nothing…well that never happens because that would be the cardinal sin totally negating my mantra.

The same happens at night. I get ready for bed but then my husband invites me to a game of chess. Can I say no? But then I will never know how the game could have turned out. And sleeping is always so predictable…

But wait.

I know this. Peeling out of the covers before the crack of dawn, hurridly taping my drooping eyelids to my forehead, really far back for that EXTRA bushy-tailed look, peering in the bathroom mirror only quick enough to say, “Oh boy…”, I know exactly how each late-night game of chess turns out. And the mystery snack options all yield the same yucky aftertaste, and the what if’s get more and more predictable.

Still, I vote for no regrets. Now though it comes not as a result of my action or inaction, but as a natural consequence of the decision I make, when I have the strength of spirit, to not regret things.

It’s that simple.

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