Like many people, I am constantly wrestling with my relationship with Time. I like to think that I am better than I used to be, but I also recognize that there is always room for improvement. I used to think of Time as an enemy, a thief of Sleep and murderer of Fun, an adversary so powerful that the only ways to even try to fight it were to deliberately controvert it or to ignore it altogether.
Then I came to see Time more like an unstable girlfriend. Sometimes we got along fine, sometimes even fabulously, working together as a team, and I told myself that I’d finally found the way to live with Time, maybe even began to think about spending the rest of my life with Time . . . and then suddenly Time was throwing clocks and deadlines at me, screaming that I don’t pay her enough attention, that if I really cared about Time I’d always be thinking about her and I’d never lose track of her . . . Sure, I would get angry with Time for coming down so hard on me, but who can blame a man for just wanting to have a good Time?
But Time isn’t either an enemy to fight against or a partner to work with. Time is more like a child. Like a child, Time is helpless and ignorant; left to itself, it just toddles blithely along, knocking over whatever is left carelessly in its path. Time doesn’t watch itself; I do need to keep an eye on it all the time, although with practice I am getting more adept, learning to watch the clock out of the corner of my eye or even just to keep half an ear open to unusual screams or silences. And, as with my children, taking responsibility for Time is a forever commitment. No matter how frustrated I get, I can’t just decide that I’ve had enough of Time and I just need to be by myself for a while. Even annulment is ineffective against Time. Sure, I can arrange carefully for breaks, dropping Time off at the babysitter when I go on vacation, but even then Time will be there, at the back of my mind, so I never really leave Time behind.
Which is as it should be. I was slow to recognize how fragile and vulnerable Time really is, and like many young people I was reluctant to shoulder the burden of adopting Time as my ward. But in the end, that is the way we should all accept Time: as something to be fostered, nurtured, and protected. We are all the fathers and mothers to our own Times, and we should attend to Time with the same care, forethought, and aspiration with which parents attend to their children. After all, Time can be delightful and Time can be agonizing, but above all, Time is precious.
[Time warp: Originally published May 30, 2012]