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HOURGLASS

“Lost time is never found again.”- Benjamin Franklin.
How do we know how much time we have?  What do we do with the time we’ve got?

When I was 9, I spent Christmas vacation with my brother at our aunt, uncle, and cousins’ house in Canada. Imagine my excitement, flying for the first time without my parents! I wonder what they were feeling...Anxious about sending us off by ourselves? Or thrilled, to have the house to themselves?

I don’t remember much about that week...some winter sports, tobogganing, a cabin in the Laurentian Mountains for a few days. But I remember our last day. We were back at my aunt and uncle’s house in Montreal. The house had a “finished” basement and an “unfinished” basement where the washer and dryer were kept. They were separated by doors. You could go IN to the unfinished part through doors on one side and OUT through doors on the other side. It made for the perfect loop to play “tag”, and that’s what we did. My brother was 12, my oldest cousin was 10. I was 9, and my other two cousins were 8 and 5. Perfect. Around and around we went. Like children on a carousel.

UNTIL....My brother was on the ground. We figured he was pretending so we wouldn’t “catch him”. I can still hear the echoes of our young voices... “Come on!” “Cut it out!” “Get up already”.

The rest is a blur...ambulances, strange men, a flurry of activity, being told by my aunt to pray. I can’t imagine what that phone call was like for my parents...or for her. I remember, at the cemetery, my father turned to me and said, “As a parent, you just EXPECT that your children will outlive you”. Would he have done things differently if he knew?

Nothing was “normal” after that. Normal meant being teased by my older brother who would stick the mustard jar in front of my nose. Suddenly, I was an only child. How quickly life can change.

Adolescence was "interesting". Afflicted with frizzy, kinky hair, styled in an afro like a character on Mod Squad; needing to wear eyeglasses as thick as coke bottles, and not getting the message that pants that were too short were not “cool”; adolescence was certainly not the most magical time in MY life. My mother spent a good deal of HER time in psychiatric wards and my father spent HIS time trying to create a “normal” life for me.

I sort of got there for a little while. NORMAL. Somehow, I ended up as President of the Big Sisters club and Captain of the High School Kickline. For a while, things were rolling along smoothly. I thought I had it all figured out and I forgot to appreciate the elusiveness of TIME.

Two years later, my mother died. End of “normal”. Re-think TIME. She was 48 when she died. I’m 49 and I am still here. There is so much more I want to do with the TIME I have left. What would she have done if she had more time?

How do we know? How do we know how much time we have? The average American lives to be around 75 years old. That’s about 27,500 days. If we take our age, multiply it by 365, and count how many days since our last birthday, we can figure out how many days we’ve been here. Then, if we subtract that number from 27,500, we will know how many days we have left! Maybe we can even BEAT the odds a little with good genes and healthy living. But how do we know?

I used to work with a trainer. He was fit, healthy, ten years younger than me, and had EVERYTHING going for him. He trained high school athletes and was with students from Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego this summer when their car crashed head on into another car. His family recently took him off life support. John Adams. Thirty nine years old. How do we know?

I see life as a chapter book, and each of us has our own story. Some chapters are wonderful. Some are awful. We all have them. Winston Churchill said, “When you are going through hell... keep going”. I feel that when you are in a bad chapter...read quickly!  Hurry up, turn the page and get to the next chapter. When you are in a good chapter...read SLOWLY. Appreciate...every...word. Linger.

The bottom line is, we don’t know. We move through our lives thinking we have it all figured out, and we forget. We forget that we don’t know. Until something happens to remind us of how quickly life can change...or end.

Which brings me to the title of this article, "Hourglass". It comes from the song “Breathe” written by Anna Nalick.  “Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table and no one can find the rewind button”. I picture that hourglass. When it’s done, it’s done. You can’t turn it over and get back lost time. We all have negative emotions...stress, anxiety, frustration, impatience. It’s part of being human. But, when I’m in that place, I see that hourglass and ask myself, how long...how much sand do I want to lose? If this is all I’ve got, I want to spend as much of it as I can, living in joy.

I’m pretty sure that at the end of my book, when the sand in my hourglass runs out, there will still be a pile on my desk and a “to do” list on my phone, but it won’t matter any more. What matters is right now. We can wallow in or let go of destructive emotions, and unhealthy relationships. We can CHOOSE...and it IS a choice...to SAVOR everything and everyone who brings us joy. We all have bad and we all have good. We all WILL die. But while we’re here we get to choose HOW we LIVE, and what we do while the sand in our hourglass drops.

This article, "Hourglass" is the copyrighted material of Dayle Van Lom. Reproduction in whole or in part is forbidden without the expressed written permission of the author. © October 14, 2010

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