It’s a cool October morning in the desert. Fall’s air drips with wishes and unfulfilled intentions. A quiet stillness lingers, the mountains lounge in the background, harboring a secret all of us seek to discover. The sun’s ascent into the sky seems slow, taking its time – a mindfulness intrinsic to nature. I pay attention to a pink cactus bud sprouting among the prickly green, my eyes gaze at the fragility and strength in the sky and to the purple petals scattered on the ground. One by one, I pocket these small wonders with the hope I can call on this calmness at the right moment.
To reach toward this stillness is difficult even though there are reminders everywhere. Sometimes I am unable to rely on my steady and true companions in nature. Part of my resistance is the ambivalence I sense during this time of the year. October is nearing its end in two weeks and another year is coming to a close in a few short months. I’ve said it before and I will say it again. The passage of time is a complicated place and as the years unfold in midlife, I contemplate all the of the tasks that are left undone – a manuscript which needs attention, unexplored cities that I yearn to visit and books and journals that remain untouched. There will always be time tomorrow, I tell myself. But in the last few weeks I’ve seen countless reminders of lives cut short – a young mom dealing with metastatic breast cancer, a boy’s life ending at twenty-five, and a father unexpectedly dying on a routine errand.
The truth is time’s spindle is not mine completely, but I control my choices. Evaluating each moment’s fragility is pushing me to retreat and consider my word of the year, pause. I don’t know how well I’ve practiced pausing. I’ve jumped to conclusions, squandered time on situations and people who don’t ultimately keep me full and wasted energy on fruitless speculation. It is my fault. I am not evolved enough to have the awareness to pause to determine how to protect my time.
In the last few months, I’ve decided to take a backward look into time. I know people talk about where they want to be 5 or 10 years from now, but at this current intersection, I’m focused on the areas where I’ve dedicated my time in the past and evaluating whether these pursuits were worthy of my attention. This exercise is meant to change past actions and perceptions – if I’ve learned anything at all, it is if you keep engaging in the same behavior it will most often yield the same result. It doesn’t require a seismic shift to realize what doesn’t add value to your life – sometimes it means possessing the capacity to keep your word – to yourself.
How am I reshaping the texture of time? I am saying yes to more time with my family whether it means an evening out with my husband or daughter, giving up Friday and Saturday evenings to help my daughter’s development in sports or her general welfare, choosing to spend time with only a handful of people whom I consider a part of my tribe and working on my craft, whether it means writing or reading or both. Part of this translates to embracing a quieter life, eliminating the noise of what doesn’t work and retreating to a refuge which works best for my personal contentment.
This choice sometimes means not fitting in or being left out or not being dubbed the “popular” person, but I’ve never cared to carve out my life to appeal to another person’s standards or dreams. To be honest, I’ve never understood spending time to mold yourself into being and becoming something you’re not in an effort to be included into a place or with people who don’t ultimately get you anyway. Carving out the texture of my life feels simpler now – it takes time’s markers to remind me what’s important. I slip sometimes and forget to yield to the universe and its beauty, but I’m learning – to fall, to pause, to get up again and to try harder for a life which thrums with meaning, depth and most importantly – filling it with the texture of what’s important to me.
As I gaze out the window, the sun is setting in the horizon. The desert sunsets always offer a vibrant set of colors and somehow the world makes more sense. I take a deep breath. I am surrounded by a set of books, the laughter of my husband and daughter in the adjoining room and a sense of fulfillment. I pause. This texture of time settles on my skin and doesn’t feel intrusive, but like a glorious welcome.