The Gift of Time

 

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Hampton Park, Charleston, SC

It is Spring break here this week and that has freed me up for writing and I am finally moving forward again on my fourth novel, I may even finish it this week. The gift of time from my teaching responsibilities I have consciously made the effort not to squander.

The old adage of all work and no play makes Julie a dull girl, nagged at me. As the week began I was talking with a friend whose’s first question to me was what are you going to do this week? I rattled off m plan to write, go to doctor appointments, take the dogs for their annual shots, etc.  Her next question was what are you going to do for fun?

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that if we aren’t working on something we are somehow wasting time. In our culture, it is un-American to be unproductive.  When I get exhausted from the pace, I sometimes wish I was European, where they seem to have a better way to balance.

After I got off the phone with this friend, I decided that if opportunities came up for fun this week I was going to take it. That night a post came through from a teaching colleague who had moved away and was in town for the week, inviting me to join her and others at a Tuesday afternoon happy hour. I immediately replied yes. Then I accepted a same day invite to join two friends for dinner. At the happy hour, I set up a coffee date at my favorite french cafe with another friend. Each day I have gotten an invite to join in or meet up for fun and I have accepted every one. I call all these invites a God wink, a nudging to do what I need to do to refuel and refresh. Isn’t that what Spring break is supposed to be about?

Unlike teaching, I can’t write for ten or eleven hours a day, I have tried to write for several hours a day breaking the sessions up with moving with housework or yard work and that works for me. The balance between sitting and moving is a conscious effort for health reasons for a writer. While your brain gets a workout and dare I say a drain, your body suffers from the sitting in front of a computer screen. My restless body cries out for movement.

Which brings me to the idea of being still. Another thing that Americans are generally uncomfortable with. After all, if you are sitting still how are you being productive.  I have been using a yoga DVD to improve my flexibility and at the end of each session, there is a segment of lying still and focusing in on your breath. At first, it was awkward, I wanted to just jump up and move on to the next task, the work of yoga was done. Now, I enjoy the time, after all, it’s sanctioned by the yoga instructor as part of the workout, so it’s not wasting time.

This same friend that questioned me at the beginning of the week is battling an aggressive cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation plus a barrage of doctor’s appointments. The gift of time means something entirely different for her. She is forced to spend lots of time sitting around and waiting for tests, waiting for treatment, waiting to feel better.  The finite nature of time in a human life has been brought to the forefront of thought.

Shouldn’t that be true for all of us, diagnosis or not? Our lifetime is finite, some of us with have more years than others, but none of us should squander the time we have been given. Does that mean we have to fill our days and nights with productivity? I say yes and no. Yes, make your life count, stand up for a cause, do work that makes this world a better place. No, because this life we have is not a full life if we don’t share with others, enjoy it and take moments to be still and reflect on it.

As this was one of my friend’s chemo weeks, she requested I bring her a strawberry milkshake, one thing that she can have that doesn’t seem to make her nauseous. Spending time with her has become a priority for me. She is ten years older and our friendship is like a big sister and little sister. She makes me laugh and is a sounding board when I grapple with life’s issues. I can only hope that I give her as much as she has given me. It was nice to take her one in the middle of a weekday afternoon. It was a beautiful out so we took our milkshakes a block over to Hampton Park, which sits outside the gates of The Citadel. We found a sunny bench to sit and watch our fellow park visitors. We chatted some and also sat in companionable silence. At one point she asked me what I was thinking about. I told her I was just soaking in the park and the sunny day, which was true, but I was also thanking God for the gift of time with my wonderful friend.

 

Bounty of Blessings

 

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My sideboard arrangement

Looking out into the world, we might find it challenging to find much to be thankful for. Politics and social upheaval in our country are overwhelmingly chaotic at best and downright frightening at worst.

We seem to have forgotten we are supposed to be the shining example to the world of how a society can treat its members with respect, dignity, and equality and thrive in all we do.  I’m not naive enough to think that we have achieved the goals to form that more perfect union, but I am hopeful enough that we as a nation are still striving for those ideals.

Forty-nine years on this earth has shown me that upheaval is necessary to create the growth and improvement towards those goals, it’s just painful to witness and live through.

So instead of looking out into the world and the nation, perhaps this year to reflect on what we have to be thankful for we should look closer to home. I find numerous blessings in my lowcountry community, my family and my circle of friends.

I am always amazed by the giving nature of my fellow lowcountry citizens. Whether it is a crisis here at home or half a world away, people in this community respond in droves. I like to believe that is true of the majority of Americans, it is the American way to have compassion for others.

My family is rather small and I had the opportunity this summer to re-connect with a cousin and I am so thankful we had that time together. I am blessed that my parent’s and so far the majority of the family members are still well and living full lives.

At this point in life, so many of my friends I would call family. If I need a sounding board or encouragement, I have been blessed with many to turn to and I only hope that I have been the same source for them. Friends truly are family we choose.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week I will focus on all that is right and good in my world, personal and beyond. I challenge you to do the same. Leave the politics and the social issues for another time. Over this year’s table let’s bow our heads and give thanks for the blessings each and every one of us have a bounty of to call our own.