“Know your fight is not within; yours is with your time here.”
Why would four generations of formally dressed people gather in a pub on a Thursday afternoon? If you can picture it, you can probably guess.
Two toddlers are alternately laughing about nothing and wailing about French fries. Their mother looks tired and sad. I wonder if it’s because of the person she lost or the little people she still has. Their father wrangles one of the kids while trying to carry on a conversation. A baby boomer eats quietly, while another gives her attention to her phone and the digital distractions it contains. And sitting at the end of the table is a married couple from the greatest generation. They trade the kind of sparse but loving conversation only possible after sixty years of marriage.
I came to the pub to take a break. I invited my wife, but she told me I needed some time alone. Wise woman. Life has been moving fast. Faster than I can handle, I think, and I entered the pub hoping time would slow down a little bit.
Instead, it expanded.
Into four generations.
As I watched them, I realized: time isn’t racing by; time is marching on, at the same slow and steady cadence it has since it exploded into existence. And, as I watched the subtle and sacred exchange of love and relationship amongst four generations, I realized: there is at least one relationship in my life with which I still need to make peace.
My relationship to time.
I’m always fighting with her.
I never have enough of it. I’m always trying to do one more thing and then running ten minutes late. I blame time for not being big enough for me.
When I was a kid, I always worried about the future, about death, and the next dreaded event on my schedule, like a big test or a big date. I wanted time to stop so the dreaded thing would remain on the horizon. I blamed time for bringing bad things to my doorstep.
In my youth, I’d lay in bed at night making an inventory of my regrets. I’d wish I could go back and do something over again. I’d blame time for not having a reverse button.
Sometimes, I encounter a moment so sublime I feel like the joyful ache of it will split me apart. In those moments, I want time to stop. But it doesn’t. The joy always slips away. I blame time for not cooperating with my ecstasy.
Other times, I want time to speed up. When I’m anticipating a summer week at the beach, I wish I had a time machine and could skip ahead. I blame time for refusing to quicken its pace.
Except sometimes it does. I mindlessly search the web and time suddenly slips by and I wish I had it back. I blame time for disappearing.
Time. She simply is who she is, and yet I blame her for so many of my problems. If I quit picking on her, I wonder what I would focus on, instead?
You and I
A day after I watched the family in the pub, I’m watching my oldest son perform in his school talent show.
He’s singing a song called “The Riddle,” and he’s singing it a capella in front of half of the school. It’s an ode to the passage of time and fathers and sons and the mystery of existence. I can remember the afternoon I heard it for the first time and cried because I didn’t know if I’d be up to the challenge of fatherhood. Now, a decade later, as my son stands on the brink of middle school, I’m more aware than ever of the inexorable passage of time.
The image of the family from the pub flashes through my mind—a family celebrating and mourning the passage of time—as I listen to my son add his own vocal beauty to these already beautiful words:
I guess we’re big and I guess we’re small
If you think about it, man, you know we got it all
‘Cause we’re all we got on this bouncing ball
And I love you free
I love you freely
Here’s a riddle for you
Find the answer
There’s a reason for the world
You and I…
Life has been full of drama lately. Some of it real. Much of it of my own making. Mostly, I have just been wrestling with time. Wishing I had more of it. Wishing I could slow it down and speed it up and pause it and reverse it. But a mourning family and a singing son reminded me, while I’m fighting with time, I’m missing the people in front of me. The kids who are growing up and the wife who loves me and the friends I’ve failed to reach out to and the strangers I strip of dignity by rushing by them.
Why do we need to make peace with time?
Because until we do, we can’t find peace with people.
When we quit fighting with time, we can let it be what it is, and we can settle into this moment. When I’m able to do that, what I discover is, there is a reason for the world. And the reason isn’t getting more done or having more fun. The reason is you and I.
Time is a container for the love we exchange. No more. No less.
We’re all just here for each other.
So let’s make time for that.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.