October 2014

Being Better: Honoring Father Time

Author: Kitty Bartell

The expression, “since the beginning of time” brings to mind images of the six days that God took to create the world. I envision swirling turmoil as the pieces to His earthly puzzle fell into place on our planet. I imagine the universe steaming and heaving and exploding, much like scientists say occurred during the Big Bang. That being said, I offer a caution: I am not here to discuss evolution, the theory of creation, or the beginning of time in relation to the universe, and I guarantee that any references I may make to scientific theory will have flaws. What I do want to talk about is time, and how the specter of its modern incarnation hovers, ever-present, over our days, and robs us of peace of mind and of gratitude for the gift of time itself, often until it is nearly, or literally, too late. As we find ourselves immersed in the holidays, the most holy of time-thieves, my being better goal is to face Father Time head-on and bring a sense of peace and gratitude to the time I am given.

It wasn’t until Greek astronomer Hipparchus (c. 190-120 BC) first proposed dividing a day into 24 equal hours that tangible limits were put on the concept of time. It is strange to imagine the centuries that passed where farmers, philosophers, kings, pharaohs, shopkeepers, warriors, and stay-at-home cave-dwellers passed the days only marking time by the sun. We mark time by calendars, clocks, appointments, anniversaries, and deadlines—a much less organic approach, and one that has generated the nearly guaranteed universal response to the inquiry: How are you? …. Busy.

I have tried to strike “busy” from my vocabulary. It is a self-inflicted state of being that individuals wear as a badge of courage, marking them as survivors of their nearly out-of-control lives. It is rarely someone else’s fault if we do not have enough time in our day. It is not the fault of Father Time, or our spouse, or our children, or our family, or our friends, or our boss (okay, sometimes it’s our boss’s fault). Despite the knowledge that we are always—ever since Hipparchus settled the issue—given a mere 24 hours to accomplish it all: work, play, love, education, nourishment, rest. Somehow, we just cannot get a handle on it. I know that it is my fault if I say yes to one thing, knowing it will push the limits on the limited time the day presents; and the holidays are great time to say yes to what is meaningful and kindly beg-off from what will only push my limits.

My being better path will begin with a list of what is really important to me during the holidays. Because we are being better with a holiday orientation, I acknowledge there may be a few command performances over which you have little control, other than your attitude. Children’s plays and performances are a must-attend. Bring your video recorder and be prepared to start the standing ovation. Your mother’s request that you make your famously yummy pecan pie for Thanksgiving dinner should be viewed as an honor rather than a chore. Accept the accolades and pass the whipped cream.
At the top of my “what is most important” list is to make time for what is most important to my daughter and husband during the holidays. Already making an effort toward being better last year, I knew there would be more requests for my time and energy than I would have to offer, so I asked what was most important to them. As they did for me, the answers just may surprise you if you take a couple of moments to ask your loved ones what is meaningful to them—what makes a holiday special. My daughter wanted to decorate a gingerbread house, and as was no surprise, my husband’s request involved cookies.
Over the years, we have decorated seven or eight pre-made gingerbread houses with gobs of icing and mountains of Dollar Store candy. The roofs were almost always an intricate, shingled pattern of Necco Wafers, with snowy paths made of coconut, and trims and decorations made with licorice, candy canes, gum drops, malted milk balls, and any manner of sugary treats. Apparently, what I believed had gone by the wayside of childhood was still an important memory for my daughter. Last year’s attempt had a few hiccups, but we made a valiant attempt at something I would never have known was important if I had not asked. Despite a rather tragic, but amusing outcome, it was well-worth the time it took from my “busy” schedule.

In my opinion, when Sesame Street was casting the part of Cookie Monster, they overlooked the most logical choice: my husband. Naturally, his holiday request was for our family’s oatmeal cut-out, buttercream frosted, and sugar and candy-decorated cookies. At Easter, these cookies are shaped like bunnies and carrots; on St. Patrick’s Day they are shamrocks; on Halloween they are pumpkins; and at Thanksgiving, they are turkeys. For Christmas, they are trees, stockings, angels, candy canes, bells, and stars. Not only are the cookies divine, making them with my grandmother’s cookie cutters connects me to treasured memories and a little family history.

Sitting quietly, you can almost hear the grains of sand flowing through Father Time’s hourglass or the tick, tick, tock of Hipparchus’s 24-hour clock. It has been said that time is a thief, and that couldn’t be more true than during the holidays when we really, really, really, want to do it all. In the effort to find a little more peace this year and be a little better, I will honor time, express gratitude for my time here on earth, and make every effort to use it wisely. Ask the ones you love what’s important to them, and take time to answer that question for yourself as well. Your time will be well served.

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