Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time Out

NOTE: This was written, but never published, back in 2006. Since it serendipitously ties in to both this weekend's SuperBowl and my Facebook Free February, I thought now might be a good time to run it. 

“Drew Brees, under pressure in his own end zone, throws the ball away – that’s got to be intentional grounding- Yup, flag on the play – and Chicago is awarded a safety, and will get the ball back – what an amazing turnaround after Reggie Bush’s electrifying 88-yard touchdown…”

I look up from the book I am reading for my psychology class to watch the replay – safeties are pretty rare in the NFL,  as are free Sunday afternoons in my world, which is why I am multi-tasking between watching the game, doing my homework, washing clothes, and cleaning the house.  It used to be I had time to just sit and watch an entire day of football, from the pre-game show to the evening recap – now I’m lucky if I can catch a quarter uninterrupted.

The dryer buzzes and I head downstairs to switch over the laundry. On the way back up I grab the broom and give the hallway a quick sweep before getting back to my book.  I have about 70 more pages to read, and an essay to write, before tomorrow night’s class.  

“Michael Lewis fields the kick, but is stripped of the ball…and the Bears recover! What a heads up play by the Bear’s Adrian Peterson. Saints coach Sean Payton has his challenge flag out and wants a review…”

I peer over my book to check out the instant replay – definitely a fumble – and after a few minutes, the refs agree.

“After further review, the ruling on the field stands – the result of the play was a Saints’ fumble with the kicking team recovering. Bears ball at the 30 yard line. New Orleans will be charged with a time out…”

I wish I had a time out…instead of feeling like I’m always out of time. It would be nice to be able to stop the clock and regroup – gather my thoughts and get ready for the next big play. But instead, every day feels like one long two-minute drill, where I’m constantly improvising and working under pressure. 

“Brian Urlacher tosses the ball into the stands as the final seconds tick away, and with that, the Chicago Bears are heading back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 21 years!”

This time I put the book down and stare at the TV in amazement – not because the Bears managed to win with Rex Grossman at quarterback, which was a surprise – but from the shock over what the announcer just said about it being 21 years since their last Super Bowl appearance.  Could it really have been that long ago?

There’s no way, I think, quickly doing the math in my head. He’s got to be wrong.  It had to be more like ten - I mean, I can still remember all the words to the “Super Bowl Shuffle” for crying out loud, so it couldn’t have been that long ago.  But it turns out it was. The ‘85 Bears played 21 years ago! I was only 15. That just seems so unbelievable to me. When I look back on everything that happened during my first 21 years, from learning to walk, talk, and drive to surviving high school, basic training, and college, it truly feels like a lifetime.  But the 15 years since then feel more like 15 minutes.  What happened? How could all of that time have gone by so fast?

I try to console myself with the thought that I still have plenty of time left – literally half of my life (so long as I live to be 74) - but left to do what exactly? I’ve already found a job I like, a family I love, and hobbies I take pleasure in, so what else is there left to do? I’ve always had rather modest goals for what I wanted out of life: to love and be loved, have the health to work and play hard, and enough money to not worry about spending it.

So maybe that means I get to spend the rest of my life just relaxing and enjoying what I worked so hard to get, I decide hopefully, and return to my reading…only to find more bad news.

In an essay published in the American Psychologist, the aptly named Edwin Boring is claiming that “On the average, men make their greatest contributions to knowledge between the ages of 30-45, becoming less effective, less frequently productive, as they grow older”

Meaning, if I want to leave my mark, I had to start now, because if the next fifteen years fly by like the last, I’ll be 51 before I know it

I know the older you get, the faster time is supposed to pass, but I don’t think it has anything to do with age.  It’s technology.  We keep creating these wonderful things that make our lives simpler, safer, and more enjoyable, but the downside is they’re also making our lives feel shorter. Sure, we’re living longer, but in what seems like half the time. 

I’m sure this is nothing new – it’s probably been happening forever. I bet my parents’ lives started zipping by with advent of television and frozen dinners.  My grandparents later years cruised by courtesy of cars and telephones.  And before them it was Morse Code, Pony Express, and Roman aqueducts speeding things along for everyone.

I know for my generation it started with overnight delivery, then one hour photo, and finally instant messaging. Thanks to technology, our lives are literally flashing in front of our eyes.  It used to be that things took time.  If you wanted to communicate with a distant friend, you’d could either write a letter (and then wait a couple of weeks for a reply) or you could try calling them.  But if they weren’t home, or you got a busy signal (remember those?) you had to wait and call back.  There was no voice mail, or call waiting, or even redial – you had put your finger in the hole, turn the dial, wait for the 9 to spin all the way back…it took time. Now we have Direct Connect. 

But the problem with all these time saving devices is that they don’t really “save” time, they just make things happen faster, which supposedly allows us more free time – but free time is, well…free, and we tend to be rather wasteful with things that don’t cost anything - which is how ten minutes spent checking e-mail turns into three hours wasted playing TriPeaks Solitaire.

And with all this “instant” everything, from instant credit to instant lotteries to instant oatmeal, there’s no more waiting. Granted, at first this seems like a good thing, for who really likes to wait – but – the reason no one likes to wait is because time passes slowly while you’re doing it.  Do you see where I’m going with this? The more we wait, the slower life moves, the slower life moves, the longer we feel alive.

That doesn’t mean you should sit around waiting for watched pots to boil and or grass to grow – just that maybe once in a while it might be nice to sit down and write an actual letter for a change. Or take some time to do something that actually takes time.  Stop looking to save time, and start taking time back. And don’t be afraid to wait, because contrary to what Tom Petty says, sometimes the waiting is the best part. 

Remember waiting for summer to start, or Christmas, or a much needed vacation? The anticipation made those months, weeks, and days leading up to them seem to take forever – and then the big day finally arrives and everything’s over before it even starts. In retrospect, the best part was usually the lead-up, the expectation, the waiting…

Very few things live up to our expectations, but the longer we wait for them, the longer those hopes and dreams can stay alive.  And if good things really do come to those who wait, then what’s in store for us? I’m not advocating ditching technology – I love my I-Pod as much as the next guy – I’m just tired of looking at time and seeing me running out if it.  So start taking your time before life passes you by.  And speaking of passing, good luck next Sunday Rexie, you’re going to need it!


  1. I better wait for some good things ;) This was fun to read.

  2. Only you could connect the internet to Roman aqueducts in three sentences.

    Oh, yeah, Go Packers!!

  3. I think I read a pitch for one of your books on ABNA boards???

  4. Let's go in reverse:

    Diana, most likely yes. Like Mariano Rivera, I only have one pitch (only mine is no where as effective as his) and one book, Alchemy, but ABNA is the most likely place you've seen it.

    Erica, I could have done it in TWO sentences, but that would just be showing off. Here's hoping Aaron "It's Not a Girl's Name" Rodgers and the Pack help you forget about Brett "Also Not a Girl's Name" Favre

    And Elisabeth, glad you had fun reading it,and I have to say, I've been digging through your past blogs and...Erica, shut your're def my new favorite blogger - No, Erica, it's not because she's cute. She's really funny. And insightful - Sorry, Elisabeth, please ignore Erica, she's just jealous