One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the movie ‘Simon Birch’ where adult Joe, narrated and played by Jim Carrey, says, “Time is a monster that cannot be reasoned with. It responds like a snail to our impatience; then it races like a gazelle when you can’t catch your breath.”
Isn’t it so interesting how we spend our time? Isn’t is interesting how our perspective on time changes as we grow? Isn’t it interesting, how time came be your best friend and your devil either at different times or, yes, even at the same time? Time. Just the concept of it is intriguing.
When I was younger, playing with my brother and his friends or pretending the floor was lava and jumping from coffee table to couch to end table to love seat, I remember that I had no concept of time. It was ‘this is the time period my brother goes to school and I get to watch any movie or play any game I want,’ or ‘this is the time my parents feed me dinner and we eat in the living room watching the news or a sitcom, (most likely ‘Jerry Seinfield’).’ Time was whatever my parents made it out to be for me as a small girl. Time to eat, time to go, time to sleep, time to go to Grandma’s, time to watch tv, time to listen to music, time to clean, time to play with the dog, time to mow the lawn, time to, time to, time to; and I think that’s what time is to a lot of children. They don’t understand the concept of time like adults do, they don’t realize that it goes by so quickly or sometimes so slowly.
As I grew older, I came to the realization that time was more of a spirit surrounding us than a concept. It was more of a way of understanding the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years. Time was, well, time. It was while I was in junior high school that I all I thought about when it came to time was, well, that it was time. It’s why the clocks were ticking and I was going to certain places at certain times. Time was a schedule. A schedule of events that I had no control over.
In high school, time changed for me. It was no longer a schedule of events, no longer a table of contents reading what’s to come next; gosh no, it was a bomb, ready to explode at any moment. My cousin had been killed in a car accident just four months after he had graduated from high school. Time was no longer inevitable and withstanding, to me, time started to become precious, valuable. I tried not to take any second for granted.
Funny though, how time brings you to this realization, and then over the course of a few years (which of course is time) you realized that what you had believed you still believe, but you hadn’t been living by it. Time gives us a reality check, sending us back to our original beliefs and making us swear we won’t ever let this fade out of our lives again. We will live every moment like it’s our last, damn it, even if it’s the last thing we do! Guess what? We let that slip away again until time gives us another reality check.
And that’s the thing, time gives us reality checks, makes us relook at ourselves, our lives, our perspectives. It helps us change a few things about us along the way, but it always comes back to give us a reality check when we’ve strayed a little too far from where we should be. It’s an angel like that. It keeps making us check in.
In high school, I had 10 people in my life die, most of whom were only a few months from each other. Sometimes there was a large gap between one death and the other, but usually it seemed as if I were attending a funeral or wake about every three to four months. Time was hard on me. Time was testing me. And I wasn’t about to fail.
To stay alive, I didn’t party in high school. I made my own memories with my own set of friends, and we had such an amazing high school experience together. And when I first entered high school I thought, “live through this, make memories, it’s going to drag because I just want to be done, but just keep making the memories.” “Time raced like a gazelle,” and before I knew it, it was February of my graduation year and I was making every other afternoon trips to an OSF hospital to visit my grandmother who was ill. My favorite grandmother, the one who helped raise me; the one who knew some of my secrets, the one who considered me more a daughter than a grand-daughter. And then, after one week in the hospital, she passed.
That night, time slowed down. In fact, it wasn’t until May when things started to seem to speed up again. My grandmother died, my best friend; she was gone and I couldn’t even understand how to live in a world that she wasn’t in. The next few months passed by slowly. And then came prom, which went by quickly; and then senior week, which again went by quickly; and then graduation.
Graduation was a blessing and a curse for me. In one way, finally, I was 18, legally an adult, graduated from college, and onto something new, some new, great, big, wide adventure. And in other ways, walking up to that podium, knowing that my grandma was not in the stands, felt like it took forever to do. This had been a huge life moment my grandmother and I were looking forward to sharing together with my mom. I know exactly what would have happened that night if she were alive: after we would toss our graduation caps in the air, my grandmother would immediately go to her car and wait for me and mom. My mom would have met me at my locker, where I was storing my car keys and purse, and we would have laughed and chatted about this huge life moment. We would have met grandma on some street where she was parked, and as soon as I’d get into the car she’d say, “let’s go get some ice cream!” and she’d drive us to Dairy Queen or Steak’n’Shake or wherever she decided to go.
Instead, I met my mom at my locker, we made sure to get a picture of her and I holding my diploma together, and then Mom went home and I went to IHOP with a few of my fellow graduates. We stayed there for hours, laughing, chatting, naively believing we’d be friends forever no matter what. And then we all went home to our parents, and waited for the next day.
It has been 12 years since I’ve graduated high school. And in the back of my head I always kept my concept of time hidden. I made memories, but didn’t live each day as my last; I had plans, but never really followed through on them. I worked and made money, spending it on junk instead of experiences. I met the love of my life, and instead of getting our own appointment and then getting married and then getting a house and pets and a kid, we moved in with my mom, became buried under debt, and are still trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
When we got married, our pastor had asked each of us what we wanted from each other. My husband, being the romantic that he is (not), said he wanted me to never change, to keep being me. I had asked him for his time, for experiences, for a life filled with adventure. I asked for his time, and he vowed he would give it to me, and yet there are days, weeks, months even when we’re off doing our own thing rather than experiencing life together.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t experienced life together, of course. We took a road trip to Texas and Myrtle Beach. We’ve been to Maine, Boston, New York City and even toured Chicago on our own. In New York City we experienced Time Square together, Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, New York pizza (supposedly the best in the US, but let me tell you: that’s a lie). We’ve stood on the street where the Thanksgiving Macy Day Parade takes place, been to Rockefeller Center and Central Park, paid our respects at the 9/11 Memorial sites. We’ve hung out in Battery Park, ridden on an old wooden escalator, walked the streets of Brooklyn.
We flew back to Texas, where we saw the Alamo, the San Antonio Riverwalk, swam in the Gulf of Mexico, stood on the spot where JFK was shot, better able to picture the grassy knowl, the distance from the window where the shooter was, a better idea of where and how the parade was set up to work out. We went to see the Dallas Cowboys Football Stadium because it was one of the buildings my husbands father helped create. We went to Austen, Texas to go to our very first expo together.
On our five-year wedding anniversary, we flew to Europe. We saw the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Novella, the Pantheon, climbed the Spanish Steps, had a beautiful dinner next to the Tiber; we experience the Vatican museums and all the beautiful artwork inside, we stood in the Sistine Chapel, experiencing Michelangelo’s art with a sense of gratitude. We went inside St. Peter’s Basilica, saw a mummy (wasn’t expecting to), and then went and saw the Colosseum. We went inside, we walked the whole perimeter, we were educated on the true originations and celebrations that took place there. Across the street was the Roman Forum and we went there too. We saw where people believe Julius Ceaser is buried. We saw buildings that could have been churches, museums, schools, houses; it was incredible to say the least.
We took a cruise and saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa, walked the streets of Nice, France, swam in the Mediterranean Sea and sun-bathed on the hot sand of Mal Majorca. The cruise line stopped in Barcelona, but we opted to stay aboard, where we had the swimming pool, hot tubs, water slides, arcade games 75% to ourselves. We played a game of Deal or No Deal on the ship, went to our first piano duel, our first Cirque de Soleil, and our first Teppanyaki restaurant. We went to Pompeii and we climbed Mt. Vesuvius, walked the streets of Pompeii itself, saw Mt. Vesuvius from afar; a true reminder of what the mountain really is.
We’ve had a baby, he’s four now. He provides most of the genuine laughter in our house. Sometimes I put him to the side so I can watch a show or do my job, and I know deep down that I’m losing out on precious time and experiences with him. Even as I write this, my child is not with me, but somewhere else, spending time and making experiences with someone else.
14 months ago, if you would have asked me if time was a friend or an enemy, I would have told you it was a friend. It gives us these times to experience, to live, to love, to make memories and generally beautiful days. I would have told you that time was precious and valuable and that you should spend it wisely. I would have told you it was inevitable, a beautiful and charming character who loved to dance with you in the rain and sled with you down the hill in the winter snow.
Now, I believe, time is a temptation of sorts. You wake up every morning and it taunts you; work or your son? School or a job? A job or be homeless? Make money to buy a house or to visit the worlds greatest attractions? Have a baby now or later?
Now? I believe that not only is time a friend and an enemy, a temptation filled with arrogance, or a gorgeous spirit riding out your life with you; I also believe that it can play the game against you. I believe that time knows things, and does not give you ample amount of time to react correctly. It does not share with you its’ plans, every next second is a mystery after all. I believe, last year, time worked against me; took my life and spun it around until I couldn’t stand straight, made me feel demolished, empty, not good enough.
14 months ago, I had plans to conceive while my husband and I were on that cruise from Rome to Pisa to Nice to Mal Majorca and Barcelona and finally to Pompeii. I had plans to broaden my family, because “we have the time to wait to months,” my husband and I agreed. And then the event happened. And again, time spun me around in circles, destroying the very beliefs on which I’ve laid my life upon. And I’m still a mother of only one child, because the medications I am on are harmful for a fetus in a mothers’ womb. My doctors say there is no timeline for healing, for being able to live without the medications. “You will heal one day at a time,” they say; and I’m mad because I should be holding a beautiful baby girl or boy in my hands right now; one that is mine and not a friend, cousin, or brothers’.
I still believe that “time is a monster that cannot be reasoned with. It responds like a snal to our impatience, then it races like a gazelle when you can’t catch your breath.” It is probably the one quote I will always believe in when it comes to the time. But I also believe that time is untrustworthy, breaks promises, unkind and feels un-appreciated. It sends us those wake up calls for a reason, and we strike them down consistently. Time is inevitable, true; but it is also destructible as well as a building block. Time is an oxymoron; it works for you, it works against you, and inevitably, it will betray you.