“The true harvest of my life is intangible – a little star dust caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched”
~ Henry David Thoreau
“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ e. e. Cummings
I picture human life as a giant weighing scale. It is a scale that has dozens of plates for things to balance on, instead of the normal two, like in the symbol of the Zodiac sign, Libra. In each plate is a particular activity that people spend time on, such as family, working (whatever “work” means to each of us), exercise, studying, reading, keeping in touch with friends, texting, e-mail, eating, prayer, daydreaming, television, sleep, laughing, getting dressed, thinking deeply, and all other things people preoccupy themselves every single day.
If you want to know how meaningful a person’s life is, you can look how balanced each plate is in his weighing scale, as well as what each plate contains. The diligent student has a heavier serving of Academics than that of TV. A monk pours generous servings of Prayer and Meditation on one plate, have lighter Socializing and Partying ones. The typical fashionista would probably have her Shopping plate overflowing. An unhealthy person forgets to name one plate as Exercise on his scale. The successful yet unhappy one has a greater serving of his Career plate than on Friends and Family. The unconditional mother always manages to have equally balanced plates for each of her children, but not without removing a few servings of Freedom and Travel. We strive to keep our plates evenly balanced, although no one will ever manage to level everything fairly. Balancing life is way more complicated than balancing shiny gemstones on one dish and bars of gold on the other.
Each person’s scale is different. We apportion our minutes and hours on our imaginary scales based on which plate is more important to us. Every day, each plate’s serving is somewhat different than the other. Sometimes, it’s too hard to choose where give out our precious minutes that we simply let the invisible hands of fate and chance do the difficult task for us. Once in a while, they are kind and intuitive. Occasionally, they give us surprises. Oftentimes, they backfire on us.
Daily planners and the iCal on our Macs only go so far as scheduling the things we want and need to do daily. The trickier task of choosing which things to do lie in our hands. When we identify which things are more important, then planning our days is easier, rather than scheduling tasks without considering whether this is really worth our time.
Many a person lets time trickle away like dripping faucet, where a miniscule drop of water drips every few seconds, that no one seems to notice, or maybe even care to fix.
How many times do we let moments fleet away, neglecting to ask, Is this worth my time? Why am I doing this again? How many of us do not consider that minutes lost would eventually amount to hours and days of lost time? I have read somewhere that the average modern person spends 500 hours a year in the car. I am quite scared to compute how many days that amounts to in one lifetime. The average person too, will spend 1/3 of his lifetime sleeping, given that he gets the prescribed eight hours of sleep. How then, will we spend the remaining 2/3 of our waking lives?
With these thoughts hanging, I wonder, what are the things that are truly worth striving for? Why do many people go through their days as if they would live forever? How can we make each second count? As of this writing, I am at a loss trying to find out this perplexing riddle.
American Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Annie Dillard once wrote, “How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives.” Indeed, each day spent wisely and happily is adding one colorful piece to life’s great jigsaw puzzle. We do not know how the completed puzzle will appear, but we can definitely make each puzzle piece as colorful, happy, funny, meaningful, wisdom-filled, and inspiring as we want, one day at a time.
Sadly, we won’t be able to back and remove the pieces already permanently fitted. On a brighter note, we are in charge of what puzzle pieces are within reach, right here, right now.
Regardless of metaphors, it’s eternally difficult to comprehend how every waking moment will add up to the bigger picture. Although I believe looking at the grander scheme of things, even through vague imaginary sketches, would help us gain a clearer view of the long path ahead of us.
We all spend our lives differently, and we all all destined to different kinds of greatness. One may live a full life by loving another person so deeply. One would write books. Another will create monumental art. Others build houses. Some become powerful leaders. If only everyone allots more time doing what they do best. If only each one of us aims just a little bit higher. If only all of us communicate better with people around us. If only we could save a few more minutes each day doing things that truly matter instead of letting it quietly slip through our fingers. If only…
Weighing scales and the essence of time aside, I think each human being all wants to have a healthy balance of the same intangible things: happiness, safety, contentment, a sense of fulfillment, a sense of self-worth, and living with integrity. What’s amazing is, all of these can be attained, all in unique ways. In all cultures. Class. Race. Age. Doesn’t matter.
I worry a lot about not being able to do my best, but I realize that what’s more significant is what meaning I make of each moment I have. It is not about the accolades, the status, the end results of each endeavor. Depth of life is more accurately measured by how we feel about the things that happen to us. By the love we give to others, by the lessons learned. Reflection also helps decipher this. Are we doing what we really want? Are we giving it all, and not holding back? Are we letting go, living freely and passionately? Are we seizing as much wonderful experiences as much as we can?
Although there is always a fine print in the unwritten code of life. That includes sacrifice, responsibility, discipline, hard work, and suffering, however painful these are to us. Besides, challenging tasks amount to something greater than what takes less effort to attain. Then, that is where motivation, determination, and perseverance come into play.
Soft lips kissed, a warm cup of coffee brewed, a prayer whispered, a few tears dropped, a book published, an idea formed, a word uttered, a penny saved. Little things are the stuff of life. We spend the rest of our lives trying to make sure we receive adequate portions of the things that matter. The balance of life. Quite intriguing to think about, isn’t it?
One of these days you’ll be
under the covers you’ll be
under the table and you’ll realize
all of your days are numbered;
all of them one to one hundred.
All of them millions.
All of them trillions.
So what are you gonna do with them all?
You can not trade them in for more.
Take every moment; you know that you own them.
It’s all you can do, use what’s been given to you.
Give me a reason
to fight the feeling
that there’s nothing here for me.
Cause none of its easy,
I know it wasn’t meant to be.
I know it’s all up to me.
So what am I gonna do with my time?
All of the moments you didn’t notice;
gone in the blink of an eye.
All of the feelings you can’t help feeling
no matter how you try.
~ Live Like You’re Dying, Lenka ~