It’s not your time


Last updated 11/29/2022 at Noon

What is time? Maybe it’s a gift… or a curse? Or simply an hourglass turned over at birth? “It’s not your time” is a phrase I’ve heard in movies, from oncologists and employers. Hearing it could fill me with hope or deflate me with dread. Who’s in charge of loading the hourglass? God? Me? Maybe the guy in a bar reaching for keys after six bourbon-and-sevens?

Contemplating time and how it works hurts my head. Sundials, pyramids, and Stonehenge are positioned to track the sun’s movement. Ancient ancestors used the sun, stars, and planets to understand time, the seasons, and how to navigate when there’s no land in sight. Marking yearly cycles was the beginning of keeping time.

Life can feel fleeting or forever; sometimes painfully short or too long. Looking at a watch, time is tangible — tricky, seeming able to change cadence. Thinking back to when time began to shift and taunt has to be school. A clock loomed in front of me; an eye with dark hands circling and crossing over numbers on a beige classroom wall. The teacher’s voice droned. The clock arms moved with a sound sometimes louder than voices. So slow… painfully slow. Then the bell rang. Class was over. Time was up. We pushed away from scribbled desks and orange-plastic seats; grabbed backpacks stuffed with knowledge and sat down in front of another clicking Cyclops.

Time rules lives, grabs hearts, shifts perceptions of an hour, a day, a decade. Maybe it’s all in my head? What’s happening really can slow down or go faster. One thing I know for sure: joyous anticipation feels like forever, while waiting for the worst quickens unwelcome arrivals.

I’ve analyzed an hourglass. Two glass bulbs are connected by a narrow neck. The size of the bulbs and width of the neck affect the duration the sand will flow. A wooden stand holds it erect. No leaning one way or the other… so it’s fair, uniform. Starting the same for everyone. I’ve learned that idea is bogus…. Humans leave the blocks at birth in different places. Some have a short way to go, while others have to run twice as far and fast just to catch up to the others.

The contents of an hourglass are often sand, once-pulverized rocks lying inert on layers of time. Rain, wind, and human ambitions reduce stone into pebbles, then tiny grains… braille beaches for bare feet to read. Sand is what happens when rocks break, wear down, change shape. Time is like that. It becomes our perception. It exists and doesn’t. Eventually, it disappears; only relevant when we make it so.

Maybe no one’s in charge of the hourglass? Just another unsolvable mystery. A wise voice says, “Get going, live, breathe, hate, forgive, love, then break more stones and let them settle.” The beach is helter-skelter, callow, changing life. It’s messy, orderly; something not meant to fully understand.

I might as well say I’m in charge of the hourglass. That answer is just as provable as any. It might help me focus on what I know. My hourglass is running down fast. When it’s empty, so am I. The voice continues, “Be the person you were born to be, not what others tried to make you. Be!” Then, “Time’s up! You’re done! How’d you do? Feeling good about it? Or disappointed in yourself?” Then, “Surprise!!! There’s a bit more sand in the hourglass; make every precious granule count.”

The holidays are filled with anticipation that slows time down or speeds it up. Waiting to see the smile of a returning child can seem like forever. Worrying if a family member will “behave” at dinner makes their arrival fraught with what-if’s that hasten time’s orbit around the dial. Either way, time passes, love abides, and opportunities to try again will appear.


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