Where does all the time go?
“Be home by dark”, my Dad would say when we were kids. That was one of the great things about growing up in a small Southern town in the 60s. I could get on my bike and go anywhere in town without letting anyone know as long as I was home by dark. Of course, I realize now the protective eyes of the village that raised me were watching everywhere I went.
Much later, after I no longer had a curfew, my Dad’s parting words were a bit different. “Remember we start to work at six”, he would say as I walked out the door. He was really saying I could stay out if I wanted to, but I was expected to be at work on time regardless of when I got home.
It didn’t make so much difference then, because I was young and in shape. I could function at a high level with just a few hours’ sleep for days on end. I could bounce back with a good Sunday nap, ready to tackle another new week.
Time marches on. You have a family and time is another blur for a few years. You sleep when you can when there are babies around. You worry about your kids when they are teens. You send them off to college and worry without even knowing what they are doing or where they are.
Eventually, your children marry and have their own family. You worry a bit, but not in the same way. We are thankful they are happy, which lets us sleep a bit more at night. Grandkids come along, but you get to see them without investing too much of your time. Someone else is changing diapers, doing homework and being the soccer mom.
I guess I thought that I would get to this stage of my life and there would be more hours in the day. Granted, the years pass by fast, but I thought maybe the days would seem a little longer. There would be a few more hours to nap in the hammock, read a good book or contemplate life.
Instead I find myself hunting for that extra hour as hard as I did when I was a young man. I know I may not move as fast, but I would like to think I move more efficiently. I don’t stress as much about being perfect, but there seem to be more things than ever to work on. The “to do” lists grow longer, not shorter, even as the days on my life’s calendar steadily click away.
I write this article with four hours of sleep, preceded by a night with three of hours sleep. My body reminds me that I am not in my 20s anymore. My heart tells me, as does my wife, that I must slow down. Slow down and enjoy life.
That is one of the great paradoxes of my life. I enjoy what I do. I enjoy having a lot of irons in the fire. I am driven to finish more things, even as I start two more. Fortunately, I have a wife that understands that part of me though it puts a burden on her as well.
There is a finish line for me, as there is for us all. I want to slow down as I approach the red zone, but am finally honest with myself about whether that will ever happen.
In the meantime, I hope to catch a nap after all the many events of this week are over. After all, it all starts again on Monday.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com