My mother did not even speak the lesson out loud until a few weeks after the funeral of her mother but I heard it there first. Standing beside her slumping shoulders while bagpipes in the distance played Danny Boy, inhaling and exhaling the deep tragedy of the morning into their robust pipes.
“Time will be a lot of things to you,” my mother told me delicately. I want to say she told me this delicately. “But it will never be your best friend.”
I still knew even with her advice, Gaping and Big before me, that I would spend many years of my life trying to pin Time down to wring friendship bracelets around its scrawny little wrists.
Trust me, I know how to wring sweet juices from the concept of Time. My office is right next to Rachel Ray’s NYC studio; she juices up carrots and celery while I am right beside her, separated by a few brick walls, churning through seconds and minutes. I know how to be so efficient with Time that I can manage interviews within three time zones as I write several articles on different deadlines, all while catching up with friends via text message and slugging a monstrous coffee. I am beyond multitasking. I am as much of a pro with eight tasks at one time as Kate Gosselin is with her children (for the record: I happen to be Team Kate).
I can email you a spreadsheet in five minutes but have I carved out enough time to spread my fingers wide open so yours can fit inside?
That is the question that runs around like a rambunctious Gosselin child inside of my soul these days, riling up anxiety and more questions. Evolving into a gaping hole that you think the NYC transit lines should stop running trains for in order to do emergency construction: Am I doing this right? Am I living this right?
For this question, my friends, I believe there is no time. No time to mull over answers. No time to rethink. No time to process. No time to question. No time to fifty/fifty the odds or poll out to the audience.
Only time to shift what needs shifting, change what needs changing, live out what still needs living, and haul forward. Rip that rearview mirror from the side of the car and just look straight ahead at the two parallel lines that lead you home or somewhere like it.
Time can be such a showy, boisterous little thing. Teasing you with endless tomorrows before morphing ever so suddenly into something that you cannot catch with your butterfly net. Suddenly, so suddenly, you are down on hands and knees looking for minutes and seconds like lost keys in the mud. Like Pennies On The Ground. Like Sequins Left Behind on the Ballet Classroom Floor.
Don’t grow up too fast, you want to yell. Don’t leave me behind, you want to scream. Stay here, right here, for forever or an eternity or something like that. The Words We Never Seem to Find When All Signs Point to the Moment Being Right.
But when it slips, when its going-going-gone, then we learn the very lessons our mothers fed to us one morning as a stunning lady laid down to rest in a coffin below the ground.
Time will be a lot of things to you, but it will never be your best friend.
And though we cannot declare Time to be a BFFL to us, and it makes no sense to wage war on the hands of the clock, its better that we hold out for the things that time cannot touch. The moments that leave us believing we can rip clocks off the wall to stay, stay, stay for five more minutes.
Don’t curse the five minutes. Take it. Use it. Wring the life from it.
Make to-do lists combust and little boxes with color coding run together like watercolor paint left stranded in the rain.
Inch closer to the person that you so adore so they can suck the oxygen straight out of your solar system, because you said it all along: you wanted to be left breathless at the end of this.
Squeeze hands tight. Hug even tighter. Leave grandfathers blue in the face and little babies with swollen fingers from your love pronounced through touching.
And don’t look back, a good friend will tell you on a rainy Wednesday morning that we actually can never look back. All that we need is forward. All that we dropped must be abandoned for the moment that shines before us.
Perhaps we planted seeds in our coming and going, but there is no time to wait and see. We can hold some hope but not time.
Like I said, we are not waging war. And we aren’t declaring friendship either. But we should probably pay attention to Time this time around. Because whether we heard it or not, she promised she would run out on us and she also told us sternly that she doesn't make promises that contain the word "forever" inside of them.