Some people live more in a day than other people live in a lifetime. They see more, feel more, hear more and just experience more than others. A day for them can be enough to fall in love and out of love and even do it all over again before the sun sets. Other people can make a day feel like only a minute. They are so busy running after the clock, chasing seconds, grieving for minutes lost, fearful that the time to come will never be enough, that no matter how much time they are given, they will always desperately need more.
Yet, tell a person that they only have a day to live and then see how deeply they try to live that day. Will they waste their time doing things that have no value to them? Will they talk to people they don’t want to talk to? Will they spend time in places they don’t want to be in? If time is the greatest gift a person can give to others, then isn’t it possible, that it is also the greatest gift one can give to oneself? If you need to breathe after a long day, need to scream a bit, cry a bit or even laugh a bit, need to just be alone long enough to remember exactly who you are, then wouldn’t it help if you could create those spaces for yourself in any amount of time given.
When I first found out my father had stage 4 cancer, I remember thinking that life is shit. How the fuck can God allow me to connect with my dad again only to take him away from me as the connection is being made? What sense does it make? What kind of divine being plays a joke like that? All the cliche shit that people supposedly feel and say in situations like this comes to mind. Yes, being pissed off at God is real. Yes, being pissed off at the cancer is real. And most of all, for me, being pissed that there would not be enough time to make things right between my dad and I was real as hell! And yet, throughout this journey with my father and his cancer, I have learned a thing or two about time. I have learned the difference between people who can live more in a minute than others can live in a day and people who can be around for a hundred years and never once live even in a minute.
Meditate and pray for ten minutes to whatever divine force you meditate and pray to and you will discover that ten minutes can be of more value to you than ten days. Run for an hour, bike for two, dance in the morning, write in the evening, make love at sunset, work at sunrise, feed your child at feeding time, feed yourself all the time, and do everything in the time designated for everything to be done, and you will discover that the person who understands time, also truly understands life.
I used to watch my grandmother work pretty much from the time the sun rose to the time the sun set. She was an early riser who did her morning exercises when people in the house half her age were still in deep sleep. After her exercises, she would do some cleaning, then when I woke up she would do some cooking and then, she would sit at her Singer sewing machine and work on her dresses. At some point, more people would wake up and she would do some more cooking and then a lot of people management, since we lived in a house that on any given day could have a minimum of eight family members, all of them looking to Mama for guidance, love and support. For a long time, she would also go to work for rich women in the city, who were only a few years older than her, many of whom complained that they never had enough time to get things done. She was also taking care of my grandfather, who was dying from stage 4 cancer. And yet, every moment you spent around her, she had this miraculous ability to be insanely present with you, beautifully mindful that you were with her and she was with you, and therefore the moments you both shared together had this timeless quality to them, as if time itself was standing still just so the connection between her soul and your soul could take place.
When my grandmother spoke to a person, she often looked them straight in the eye, never taking her attention away from them or from their words. Looking back, I realize that she listened with intention, which meant she also lived with intention. And perhaps, this is why, no matter how much she always had to do in a day, it never seemed that she was chasing time to get all those things done. As a matter of fact, Mama always made time to sit and be with you, in a way that many people who have far less free time than my grandmother ever had, do for the people that they love.
Experts say that when people are in situations where their lives are threatened, where they are in battle or about to have a risky surgery or barely surviving a terrible car accident, they feel life in a fuller way. Our bodies sense how close we are to death and lets us know that if we don’t feel life fully now, when death is so close, then that would mean that even in the last few minutes of life we had, we didn’t have enough sense to finally grasp what living was all about.
Every Sunday when I sit with my father who is dying from Stage 4 cancer, I think about my grandmother and how she used time not only to get things done, but to actually live a full and beautiful life. And so when he and I eat together, though we don’t talk all that much, we do pay attention to each other, sit with each other, mindfully, be with each other, mindfully, listen to music together, mindfully, listen to each other, mindfully, all the time, being as present with each other as our histories allow. Maybe this is why the year of Sundays we have spent together begin to have a sense of timelessness for me, a quality of infinite moments all wrapped up in the given moments we share together.
I am not saying that I have mastered the art of living fully in the moment, cause God knows that I have not. But I am saying, that if given the choice between a long life without truly living and a short life of truly being alive, that I know which one I would choose.
What about you?
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