It’s such a simple word. No tricky spellings or meanings. It means exactly what it appears to. And yet, as humans, it’s one word that trips us up over and over again.
When I was young, I can remember measuring time according to an event. It’s six months until my birthday. It’s one week until school starts. In seven days, Santa will come.
As I grew, time was measured in experiences. My first kiss…my first car…my first job.
Time can be on your side, as Mick Jagger crooned or is can be a hindrance, as in Styx’s song, Too Much Time on My Hands. It can be a means to tell another how much you care, or how little you care anymore, as in the Guess Who’s lyrics, “I’ve got no time for your stupid games.”
Time can bring you forward, looking to the future in anticipation or take you back, reminiscing on the old days. I could list hundreds of songs that mention the word time or refer to it. Why is time so important to us? Is it because we have such a limited supply?
Now there’s a word, that when you add it to time, changes things. Are we the one looking forward to the spring dance or the one planning the dance, dreading what we might forget or what might go wrong. Are we the one excited for our first date or the one dating for the first time after a divorce or loss of a loved one.
You see, perspective can change time. I was watching a new Netflix series called After Life. It’s written by Ricky Gervais and stars him as Tony, a man who recently lost his wife to cancer. In the second episode, he meets a woman in the cemetery, sitting on a bench and talking to her deceased husband. Tony’s own wife is buried just a few feet away, so they exchange pleasantries. Having common grounds, they talk for few minutes, smiling at the other’s comments. Then woman comments that in the forty-eight years they were married, her husband never disagreed with her once. She’s smiling as she says it, in a light-hearted way. But when the camera returns to Tony, his smile fades slowly as he answers, “I didn’t get that long” and he turns and walks away.
How do you imagine the woman felt in that moment? Still hurting, yes. But for her, perhaps her perspective changed a bit. She had forty-eight years with a man she obviously loved very much. Does that erase her grief or loneliness? Of course, it doesn’t. But, in that moment, time shifted, and she might have thought, “I’m glad we had as long as we did”.
Please understand, I’m not putting a time limit on grief or telling anyone how they should or shouldn’t feel. I’m merely contrasting to make a point: perspective is everything.
A story I love to use to illustrate perspective is this: Two men are hunting in the woods, when they come to a clearing. Having walked around all day, not seeing any game, one man becomes restless. He tells his friend that he bets he can beat him to a little tree, just beyond the clearing and he takes off running. His friend shouts for him to stop but the man only laughs and runs harder. His friend drops to his knees, takes his gun and shoots his friend in the calf of his leg. The man hits the ground, screaming in pain. When he catches up to his friend, the man lying on the ground, withering in pain, asks, “Why did you shoot me?” His friend, kneeling beside him say, “I’ve been here before. You were about to run over the edge of the cliff.” Sure enough, just a few feet from where the man stood was a drop off. The “little tree” that he saw was actually a large tree on another hillside. Perspective my friend…it’s all about perspective.
Next time (lol…there’s that word again) things aren’t going so well, try to step back and view it within a larger realm. Think how it will effect you tomorrow…or next week…or year. You might be surprised.
Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
There’s something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight