“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.” -Emily Dickenson
If life on earth can be reduced to anything, it is the time we are given to inhabit it. Time is the one resource that is doled out to all of us equally and yet what we do with the hours of our lives determines not only the quality of our daily existence, but whether in the end we have left behind anything that makes life more beautiful, more bearable, more true for those who remember us. Yet, time is also an elusive resource. Everything takes longer than we think, except for life itself – which the deeper you get into it, the faster it seems to go by. I recognize this in my own life by the way a new season still catches me off guard, letting go of summer takes me clear to the end of October. Every time I unpack the holiday ornaments, I am dumbfounded by the spin of another year gone by.
Celebrating my silver anniversary this spring is yet another poignant reminder of the time of our lives. I can’t even believe that I am old enough to have a silver anniversary, let alone take stock of the thousands of days that I have spent alongside another person, who, even after all this time, remains a mystery. Mark Twain once said, “Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” Still, even after all this time, I am not sure I would claim to know a perfect love, just one that I can keep turning to.
Love and time is perhaps the most mysterious alchemy that we can blend with our days. It is true also that love vanquishes time. A moment can be an eternity, and eternity can be the tick of a clock. The moments of loving people, whether in throes of deep physical passion or lazy long walks in a sunny park are like a time out of time, when the illusion of time as past, present and future dissolves and our love encompasses all the time that ever was or will be. It is like a dream state, which is why falling out of love or separation after intense lovemaking carries the physical ache associated with withdrawal symptoms.
This is very different from the real time loving people in all of the complexities of daily living. Often our sense of time or lack of it is compressed, squeezed in between commitments to work, family, friends, hobbies etc. Many relationships suffer from the lack of real time that all relationships need to grow and flourish. Falling in love can take only an instant and our time in that treasured and intoxicated state of bliss gives us access to a belief in something bigger than ourselves. Yet, it is the daily work of loving in the trenches of the “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, and for richer or poorer.” that characterizes our lifetime and creates the heroic love that we all aspire to.
Choosing to use your time to love the people in your life is both incredibly rewarding and challenging. Giving our time is the noun that makes the verb to love a reality. Life is not really an inexhaustible well. The events that matter in your life, that make you who you are: watching the sun set with someone you love, lying awake at night to the sound of someone’s rhythmic breath, the utter sweetness of a small child’s hand in yours, those moments and even their memories might occur to you only a dozen more times. Recognizing that our hours are numbered, and being awake to the treasure of small acts that are the legacy of our love, is time well spent.