Con­sider the se­cret o’ life

Sackville Tribune - - OPINION - BY SANDY MALASKY Sandy Malasky is a re­tired health care ad­min­is­tra­tor and hospice chap­lain who re­cently moved to Sackville.

Au­tumn is my favourite time of year. With its ar­rival the world be­comes a glo­ri­ous ta­pes­try of bril­liant red, yel­low, and or­ange.

The gar­den be­gins a well-earned rest and the last of the sun­flow­ers nod like solemn sen­tinels in the newly chilled wind.

This is also the sea­son in most of North Amer­ica when we “fall back” and re­turn to the stan­dard mea­sure of time. In ad­di­tion to ad­just­ing all the clocks in the house, this ex­er­cise of­ten in­vites me to pon­der time it­self and the hu­man de­sire to ma­nip­u­late its pas­sage.

I got my first watch when I was 10 years old. It was a windup Timex with hands that moved and no glow­ing lights. Re­ceiv­ing that watch was ex­cit­ing as it rep­re­sented a step in be­com­ing a grownup, tak­ing my place in the adult world where peo­ple have things to do and places to be. I still wear a watch, al­beit one with a bat­tery, but the hands still move around the dial.

We are a cul­ture ob­sessed with time. How fre­quently does one hear, I don’t have time for that; I don’t have all day; Where do you find the time; You’re wast­ing my time; and, Time is money, so hurry up.

Pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally we of­ten mea­sure a well-lived life by how full our daily cal­en­dar is or our skill at multi-task­ing. The mod­ern world en­cour­ages us to en­gage in the busi­ness of “get­ting and spend­ing” hours (Wordsworth) as if the time we have each day is a com­mod­ity that can be traded on some cos­mic stock ex­change.

For a num­ber of years, I worked as a chap­lain with dy­ing peo­ple and their fam­i­lies where time was of para­mount im­por­tance. I sat with those whose lives were mea­sured in days, hours or min­utes and found great vari­a­tion in how they ex­pe­ri­enced them. As I re­flect on those days I am re­minded of the wis­dom found in a song lyric from Se­cret O’ Life, by James Tay­lor: “…the thing about time is that time isn’t re­ally real, It’s just your point of view, How does it feel for you.”

With some of those I cared for, time ap­peared to stop and they, as if re­born, were able to ap­pre­ci­ate anew ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one around them. For oth­ers, the tick­ing of each sec­ond struck like an in­dict­ment of missed op­por­tu­ni­ties to con­nect with and pay at­ten­tion to, re­sult­ing in fear, bit­ter­ness, and anger that, sadly, they car­ried to their graves.

There were times in my work when I strug­gled to find some­thing, any­thing, to say to peo­ple whose lives were ir­re­vo­ca­bly al­tered. The les­son I soon learned was sim­ple: it was my un­mit­i­gated at­ten­tion which spoke vol­umes in such sit­u­a­tions when words and hur­ried at­tempts to find so­lu­tions would have been sac­ri­lege.

Be­ing truly present takes time and re­quires pa­tience and courage. While this may some­times be dif­fi­cult or fright­en­ing, it en­ables us to reach the core of our be­ing, from which all joy, love, cre­ativ­ity and re­silience to deal with the chal­lenges of life are born.

Each day, in myr­iad ways, we have chances to give the gifts of our time and pres­ence. This may in­volve mak­ing a con­scious de­ci­sion to re­frain from adding the bur­den of im­pa­tience to the young woman deal­ing with a dif­fi­cult cus­tomer at Tim’s or act­ing on the im­pulse to call a strug­gling friend or rel­a­tive, rather than send­ing a quick text. We all have the same num­ber of hours avail­able in each day, but it is our choices that de­ter­mine the mean­ing and ef­fect of those hours in our own lives and those of oth­ers.

So, on this day make and take what­ever time you can to sim­ply be. Truly look at the beauty of the leaves while rak­ing them, ap­pre­ci­ate the shift­ing colours and light of the au­tumn sky, hold the em­brace of some­one you love a lit­tle longer and at day’s end, re­mem­ber this bene­dic­tion given by James Tay­lor: “The se­cret o’ life is en­joy­ing the pas­sage of time.”

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