before the packing begins, before i rifle through the closets, deciding which hanger stays and which comes along, before i pack up the vials of advil and tubes of triple-antibiotic ointment (the potions and goos and whatchamajiggers one needs in a school year far from the roost), before all of that, i’ve been making like a physicist — or maybe simply someone with lessons to learn in the fine art of communion.
i’ve been stretching and squeezing the measured-off hours we think of as “time.” i’ve been deep-diving into the fractions and eddies that lie between minutes. i’ve turned time-keeping on its head and upholstered the day with moments that otherwise would have escaped me — unduly sacrificed at the altar of holy-cow-there’s-great-gobs-to-get-done.
at the urging and insistence of friends who won’t settle for virtual goodbyes, who won’t do with a storm of adios emails, i’ve been doing what i’m not so naturally good at, i’ve been discovering just how fluid the day can be, even when you feel harnessed by a long list of to-do’s, a russian doll set of to-do’s, with one list begetting another and another and always another (no wonder i wake up at 2 and then 3 and often at 4 in the morning).
i’ve been making time for friends. not just friends on the phone. or friends through strings of typed-out sentences. but friends in the flesh. friends who put down their busy lives, toss their to-do’s into the back seat of cars, click the lock and do not look back.
friends, face to face, side by side, smack dab in the middle of a day, early in the morning, or long after the fireflies turn off their blinkers and head in for the night.
oh, i know it’s not exactly a skill that demands extraordinary finesse. really all it takes is scribbling a name on the calendar, and, poof, a meeting is made.
but, truly, it entails allowing the hours to loosen up their tightly regimented marching step. it requires a bit of a mental leap to sink into the slow tempo, the enveloping gift of time spent together, in the telling of story, in the swapping of secrets and worries and gut-splitting laughter with the great good friends we have gathered, have come to love, over the undulations of years.
it’s been good for me — nay, great for me — this refresher course in friendship, in the stunning and cold-splash-of-water realization that none of us, ever, are really too busy to squeeze in the gift of time with a friend. time and space shared with a friend. whether that space comes in the form of an old wicker chair, or a kitchen stool, or the too-skinny sidewalk that goes on for miles and miles of unbroken conversation and footsteps.
in my gotta-get-it-done internal clock, i tend to picture a day as a blur without pause. truth be told, i leap, never saunter, out of bed every morning. i am often breathless by the time i get to the old butcher block counter, diving into the day as if a whistle’s about to blow, and i’ll get called for failing to make my quota on the factory line of household production, and whatever else screams for my well-honed cross-it-off-the-list skills.
a hundred times a day — or at least twice — i hear myself telling myself that this is no way to live, that really on my deathbed i am not going to be thrilled to have slam-dunked every to-do list put before my eyes. but does that slow me to a somnolent tempo? not often enough, really.
and so these days right in here — with less than two weeks till three of us climb on a plane (the fat cat counts as one in this high-flying equation) while the other two pack themselves and a heap of earthly belongings into the overstuffed car and take to the highways — it’s final exam time, an honest-to-goodness test to see if, amid a forest of calls that must be made, insurance policies switched, dehumidifiers rigged up to hoses, and lord knows what i’m forgetting, i can sink into the featherbed of friendships and do nothing more than savor the rare and wonderful gift of a dear friend’s hilarious stories, or her tears, or the three things keeping her awake through the nights.
making time — despite all the organizational doohickies the people at pottery barn try to sell us, and despite all the digital numbers flashing from our cellphones and microwave clocks — is an art that could be lost, at least when it comes to matters of the heart.
in the last few weeks, as one-by-one i’ve carved out an hour here, or a morning there, as i’ve gathered my friends within arms reach, or the squeeze of a hand, i’ve been reminded how essential it is, and how much more solidly my heart pounds when i see time not as a cage in which i’m bound, but as a deep and bottomless pool in which i can splash to my heart’s pure joy and content.
are you good at making time for what matters? or are you, like me, too hellbent half the time on sprinting through the days with little pause for plain old friend time?
More and more, bam, I see that we are cut from the same cloth–and
a tight weave it is. The to-do lists spin off into other to-do lists that turn each day into an endurance race. The “just-one-more-things” push back bedtime to after midnight (forget about reading), even though the alarm goes off at 5. Too-infrequent get-togethers with friends go into cascading rescheduling because of working late or having too much to do at home. (The sad thing is, my friends understand, because they have to do it to me, also. Summer birthday presents wind up getting exchanged at Christmas.) And I forget that on those occasions when I say to heck with it and indulge in some spontaneous “friend time,” my batteries are recharged. The muscles unknot a little, and even the pesky to-do lists get done a little quicker afterward.
I hope I run into you at the market before you depart. If not, just know that I am so pleased that you are stepping into a full-page Tasha Tudor watercolor landscape, to wander, explore and live in for a year. Of course, you’ll be sharing it all with us at the table. Take joy, my dear friend. Maybe even wear an apron–for gardening, or collecting eggs, or some such thing.
For me, it is the hardest thing about working from home … balancing time. Completely understand the anxiety of getting through the to-do list … It is a taskmaster until about five minutes into any time with a friend or family; then, I realize, the list will get done, and if it doesn’t, well, I wouldn’t trade the friend/family time. Whatever it takes to get the other stuff done will be worth it. But when you have a list like yours, with a very firm deadline, it can get frightening. Keep breathing, bam. Once you head east, it will all be okay. And we’ll all be here at the table, cups in hand, waiting to read of your settling in, your monastery visit, your wonderful study, and on and on, cheering you on all the way, with love and cyber hugs. Vaya con Dios, dear one!
can i just say how much i love knowing there are others here who understand the struggle, feel the tension between living in the moment and the looming overhead must-get-it-dones. life is like a big overstuffed armchair when those who surround you don’t belittle and berate you for your struggles, but rather look into your soul and whisper that they 1.) understand, and 2.) know you will find your way…..
and in the meantime i’ve had moments with friends over these past few weeks that i will never ever forget. and some fine rhubarb muffins, to boot. (thanks jcv!!!) xoxo
hee hee. How sweet to see you, and how amusing to see your cat eat cantaloupe. And what a great little gift you’re giving yourself now. Time with friends is life-giving to me! Here’s to making a whole pile of new ones in your new adventures.
Joan Chittister is one of those living sorta normal saint like women and a Benedictine sister…emphasis on \”sister\” to boot. In her book, Listen with the Heart, she says this about Time; \” Time is the ground, the centerpiece, the glue and the glory of life. But it is not so simple. The liturgical tradition has long divided time into two. There were we learned, as young novices, two kinds of days in life and two periods of the year. The days were either feast days or ferial days The year was divided into \”ordinary\” time and…well extra-ordinary time, I guess. I never heard anyone name it.\”
Bam, you are in \”extra-ordinary\” time right now…and that is special, like all those special holy days we had as children. Each moment this week is highlighted with a glow, a regret, an appreciation. What I love about you (I think all us table people would agree) is that you are sensitive to \”extra-ordinary time\” as well as Ordinary, and so you will move through this transition and adventure in a remarkable way. Wagons Ho….looking forward to the reports from the East.