“Watching the clock,” “being on time,” and “not enough hours in the day” are all familiar phrases that highlight the importance of time. Yet, with the unexpected extra moments of these past days, I’ve noticed the empowerment we give to the clock. Quite honestly, many of us have become slaves to this dimensional construct. It’s as if almighty time owns us, monitoring our every move so that we remain productive and push ourselves to our utmost limit – all for the sake of time.
We’re all aware that there are only twenty-four hours in a day. Still, it’s human nature to meticulously keep track of the time, almost as if we’re searching to discover a few extra minutes, which of course never exist. How often do we find ourselves checking our watch, phone, or clock in our car to see “if we can make it on time” or “squeeze in one more thing”? More often than not, we scurry to keep up with the stopwatch that ticks in the back of our brain, pressuring ourselves to go faster, rarely stopping to pause.
The past few weeks have devasted our world. Illness, job loss, and fear of the future has affected so many. We are also experiencing a great deal. But, one of the less measurable effects is the unnatural shift in time. Life has simplified in some ways yet become increasingly stressful in others. Gone are our daily commutes, carpools to school, trips to the gym, and weekend getaways. Instead, we’re home – only outside to be in our yards or go for a walk or run. Our endless errands and wandering about have been reduced to necessary trips to the grocery store – where we now want to get in and out as fast as possible. And social distancing has kept us from friends, family, restaurants, stores, everywhere…
Yet, despite that many of the activities we crave are not currently available, we have been gifted with unexpected time. While this is a blessing for some, it can be quite uncomfortable for others. After all, how often do any of us take a moment to pause?
Too much time on our hands (yes, I know, a Styx song) can be scary. Our initial tendency is to move away from the pause and begin doing… go through closets, clean out the garage, make banana bread… anything to get our mind off of the coronavirus and the fact that we are stuck in our homes. The truth is that we are damn good at keeping ourselves moving, busy, and preoccupied so that we do not have to acknowledge the fears and uncertainties that surrounds us. Yet, the more that we bury ourselves in tasks, projects, and activities, the less time our mind can pause and feel what is. Perhaps this seems like a safer route, because if we stop to take a long look inside, we just might not like what we see.
This may be why meditation – carving out a regular time so that we can be alone with our thoughts – is so difficult. It’s not just the discipline of finding the time that’s the challenge, it’s the second part – being alone with our thoughts – that can terrify us. What if we don’t like what we find? Maybe, while digging deep, we will uncover aspects of ourselves – our shadows – that we’ve tried to bury, ignore, or forget. Yet, it is only when we shine the light on these shadows that they cease to exist. Light – or acknowledging what is – takes the darkness away and allows us to be with these hidden feelings and emotions.
OK – I don’t want to get too woo-woo on you, but this stuff is real. Quieting our minds, being open to what may be stuck inside, and then acknowledging it, well that takes courage. And it takes time.
Here’s the good news… we now have the time. So, are you willing to use some of it to look within yourself, see what is there, and allow your feelings to emerge?
This past week I had an unsettling situation occur. It was nothing Earth shattering, yet what transpired triggered me, strongly. However, because I had the time to investigate my reaction, I was able to pause, search, and feel. I was able to listen to what my body wanted to reveal.
There are many words I would use to describe myself, but angry is not one of those. Yet, I was, intensely. And the more I thought about what happened, the more fury that surfaced. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, I only slept a few hours that night, and as I laid awake, my anger transitioning to rage. But in the process, I learned a great deal. The day’s incident didn’t cause this uproar. No, it was me realizing that once again, I was failing to set clear boundaries and speak my truth. That is what had me so upset. I had discovered a sabotaging habit that has consistently held me back. For me to release this pattern, I needed to immerse myself into this emotion and feel it fully. Otherwise, this shadow would remain buried.
When I awoke the following morning, I felt oddly refreshed and no longer sensed the anger. The problem was still there, but I had worked through the emotion associated with the issue. Confronting the shadow of not speaking up and failing to set boundaries equipped me to have that necessary conversation. Ironically, the talk went extremely well, and the final solution evolved into something better than I could have imagined.
This social distancing/shut down is not yet over, so get ready for some more “unexpected time.” Sure, we can still clean out the garage, take those extra walks in the park, and tackle the stack of unread books. But it is also the perfect opportunity to use this extended pause to do exactly that… look within so we can do our work.
So, how are you going to use this gifted time? Will you focus solely on accomplishing in a “beat the clock” familiar fashion, or will you consider pausing, pondering, and allowing what is to surface so that you are able to better understand what makes you tick?