The movement of the second hand on the clock heightens my sense that time is a scarce resource. I often feel like I am running out of time, like I am competing against the clock. One of my highest enacted values is accomplishing a task in the shortest amount of time, or accomplishing more things in the same amount of time. I set time goals for myself about everything. Even in reading for pleasure, I almost unconsciously set informal goals about when I will finish books. At work, I constantly make and update lists about what I will get done on any particular day. At home, I feel better when I get more things done in one hour. And the thing is – I am good at it. I do get a lot done. At work, I am recognized for my output. At home, I keep things functioning smoothly because of what I am able to accomplish. And so I had no incentive to slow down, to do less. Until I did.

At a certain moment in time, the spinning clock became a bellows inflating me with a particular kind of frantic meaning. My chest began to feel as if it were being pushed open to the point of explosion. And it was only natural when that feeling of overinflation went past a tipping point and I began to deflate of any kind of meaning, sinking me into depression. What I did, saw, and experienced, small or large, ceased to have meaning for me. My body itself felt like it was collapsing without anything to support its continued relevance. Thankfully, those around me who care for me encouraged me to seek help – medical, psychological, spiritual – and I took that help. Over time, with this help, I have been able to back away from anxiety and depression. Part of this journey has been examining my relationship with time and my sense of scarcity about it. 

In trying to accomplish so much, I think I am afraid that people will think I am worth less as a person if I do less. Unfortunately, I assess my own value by how much I can get done because I believe at some level that people’s worth is measured by their accomplishments. And I believe this because our lives are all short in the big picture, and I worry that I will only be remembered if I accomplish big tasks and dramatically alter the world around me.

If I practiced towards the wholeness of time instead of the scarcity of time, I would focus on human value coming from who we are, not what we do. If I practiced toward the wholeness of time, what I did would come from what people – myself or others – needed at the moment. If I practiced toward the wholeness of time, I would trust that whatever I can get done in a particular amount of time is what is needed, and that would be enough.

If I practiced towards the wholeness of time, I could feel the arrow of time bending back upon itself to twist into a circle. In addition to the short span of a human life, I would sense the cycles through which we move – the seasons of a year and of a life – and I would place greater value on their rhythm.

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