Sunday, November 2, 2014

How will you spend your extra hour?

Good Morning.

For many of you living in the United States, this is the weekend when Daylight Savings Time ends. For our group members in other parts of the country and  the world who are unfamiliar with the concept, this means that we set the clock back one hour last night, so we essentially “gain” one hour of time this weekend. In the spring, we set our clocks ahead one hour so we ‘lose’ that hour. This adjustment in the clocks means that it will be lighter in the morning when I go to work tomorrow, but by 5:30 p.m. when I arrive home, it will already be dark outside. Before long it will be dark for my commute both ways.

These “time change” weekends really mess with my body’s internal clock and it will take a few weeks for me to adjust. After all, I already have a weird biological clock (no, not the “I want to have babies” clock; those days are long gone) because I wake up naturally so early in the morning. This morning, when I woke at the usual time (well, yesterday morning’s time) around 3:00 a.m., the clock today said “2:00 a.m.”  I’m sure I’ll be ready for bed shortly after dinner this evening.  Sigh…..as my friend lovingly says, “I’m a weird little duck!”

 It should come as no surprise that my thoughts this weekend have been focused on time. At this stage in my life, it seems that time is one thing that I have too little of and there are more things on my ‘to-do” or “want-to-do” lists than there are hours in the day to do them. Sometimes I think this is a bad thing; but most of the time, I’m grateful for this conundrum because my life wasn’t always like that. A few years ago when I was morbidly obese and unable to walk more than a few steps,  time just seemed to drag on and on,  and every hour, every day was filled with the same: physical pain, emotional heartache, despair and struggle. The same thing….day-in and day-out.  The seasons would change; the calendar would change; the weeks would tick away…but my reality was still the same: I was just getting heavier and heavier and falling deeper and deeper into darkness. Time would just drag on.  Not anymore! Now I never seem to have enough time to do the things I need/want to do! 

About 20 years ago, my Grandma Brinkmeier died on the weekend that Daylight Savings Time ended. As our family gathered at the hospital to hold vigil at her bedside during those final hours of her journey, I remember telling my Uncle Bob, that “It figures; one of the worst weekends of our life…and we have to have an extra hour of sadness.” It was just a flippant remark and we would grieve the loss regardless of the time displayed on the clock, but the comment does remind me that time means different things for different folks depending on the reality of their lives.  And so my thoughts this weekend have been focused on time; how I spend it and what it means to me.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I took some children ‘trick-or-treating” to the local nursing home. For the residents there, I’m guessing that “time” means little to them. Many of them don’t even know what day of the week it is or whether it’s day or night. Some can’t remember the years gone by or the names of their children. Some are just “existing”…..waiting and hoping to die and time just seems to stand still. For so many people....including some of you….this is how you spend your time. For those that are very ill or suffering physically or mentally…every minute of the day is painful. For those that are lonely or depressed….every minute is full of sadness. For those of you that are grieving the loss of a loved one; waiting for test results; struggling to get through college or raising children during a ‘terrible twos….or bratty teenage” period; or waiting for a special event, time seems to just linger. Maybe you have such physical pain that you seem to be continually waiting for the time when you can take the next dose of pain medication….or you’re struggling financially and you spend days or weeks feeling cold or hungry waiting for ‘payday” so that you can pay a bill or buy some groceries. Perhaps you are on a life-changing journey and you are waiting for ‘things to improve” or your efforts to pay off and it seems like it is taking SO LONG….especially in those weeks when the scale doesn’t seem to move. Geez….I’ve been on this weight loss plan for months….and I’m still in the same size; nobody has even noticed; I’m still so fat.  SIGH….

  I’ve been there; I know that life; and honestly, there were a lot of years when I just wished that my time on this earth would run out and God would take me to heaven because I didn’t think I could take much more.  What horrible way to spend one’s time…..and yet….for so many people in this world, this is their reality of time.   And so I pray today and everyday……Thank you, Lord, that those days have passed for me; may I always grateful for the gift of each day and make the most of every minute of life I’ve been blessed with….and more importantly, may I use my time to ease the pain, sorrow, and sadness for those whose reality of time is one of despair and hopelessness and spread the message that for many, but not all, “life doesn’t have to be that way!”

 Little steps….like recognizing that every hour in the day is a gift from God and being grateful….regardless of the circumstances; doing just ONE thing to improve the quality of life for someone else; or making ONE little change to improve your own health and well-being can make a big difference in your own perception of “TIME” and is a step on the journey of changing your reality of time from one where ‘time just lingers on…day in-day out….to one where it ‘flies by” much too quickly.

Many years ago, while taking 8th graders on a retreat to prepare for the sacrament of Confirmation, I did a little exercise about time. We were asked to reflect and answer the question: If you found out today that you only had 24 hours to live; how would you spend those 24 hours?  The answers varied greatly within the group:  some would go to church or get things right with God; others said they would spend time with their family and make sure they knew they loved them. Some said they would spend time with friends or watch the sunrise.  I think that one of my answers back then was “plant flowers.” I would plant perennials, tulips and daffodils, so that every spring/summer flowers would bloom and someone might smile and think of me. Today my answer is a bit different….but not much….and “planting flowers” is still a very big part of it, but not necessarily “physically” planting flowers, but more like ‘planting seeds of hope that life could be different’…doing what I can to make life better for myself and those around me. 

That little experience/activity was…and continues to be…a very powerful one because it helps me keep things in perspective and set priorities.  My ‘last 24 hours on earth” to-do list would certainly NOT contain:  washing my dishes; pulling the weeds; paying the phone bill; or getting my haircut; taking a nap; or worrying about my excess skin or the 20 pounds I’d like to lose eventually.   Although these (well all but the worrying one) are important ­­­to keeping a sense of order in life, they certainly are less important to me than making sure that those people in my life know that I love them; being right with God; righting wrongs; spending time with others; and other things that leave a legacy of love….of giving someone something to talk about at my funeral…. “ (Do you BELIEVE that Theresa said that……Do you believe that she jumped on a trampoline…..Did you know that she dressed up and went trick-or-treating or got up in the middle of the night to watch shooting stars…..and fed stray cats……or called people on the other side of the country that e-mailed her and asked for help?”) 

THESE…..are the things that I want to do in my last 24 hours. THESE are kind of things I want to do every day. This is the way I want to spend my ‘extra hour” of time during Daylight Savings Time and every other bit of free time I might manage to squeak out of a busy day.   These things are so much more rewarding and joyful than the reality of my life just a few years ago when taking pain pills, eating chips and junk food to dull the sadness or fill the emptiness, hiding behind a couple of hundred pounds of excess body weight to keep other from getting too close to me so that I wouldn’t be hurt again, or wishing my life would end was a way of life.

My life is so much different; so much busier; so much happier these days.....far from perfect….but so much better these days.  But none of it…not one single bit of it…..would be possible, first…without the grace of God that set me free….or second, had I not taken that very first step to change. At 428 pounds I was merely existing; secretly hoping that my time on earth would run out, praying that I would have the strength to get through the day. Today….. I run out of time each day to do all that I want to do!  Trust me…having ‘too little time” is much better than having ‘too much time.” I may not be alive today had I not begun this journey. I may not be alive tomorrow, because I know that only God controls the amount of time remaining my ‘hourglass” but I do know and believe that each day is a gift….and I want to live it to the fullest.  In order to do so, howvever, I have to treat my body well; feed it healthy food; rest and be active; and make choices all day….every day….that will help me keep this weight off so that I can continue to be as active, healthy, and happy as humanly possible, for as long as God chooses to bless me with breath.

My friends……today…. I ask you this same question:  If you found out today that your life would end in 24 hours; what would you do today?  Those things on your list are the very things that you should be doing each and every day (in balance…you still have to do those “be a responsible adult” things like go to work; pay bills; take care of business).  If you’re not feeling right with God….take the first step to improve that situation  If you’re at odds with someone and it bothers you…..give him/her a call or at least ask God to help you forgive him/her.  If you’re sad and lonely….reach out to someone who makes you smile or do something kind for someone else; that always helps takes the focus off your own misery. If there are habits, thoughts, or people in your life that are holding you back or robbing you of peace and joy….ask God to help you get rid of them.  If you’ve been blessed….first give thanks and be grateful; and then, share what you can with others…be it wisdom, love, laughter, or a helping hand.

 If your life is full of pain; you’re burdened by your weight or addiction; you struggle to find even a bit of joy or peace, do something today…..at least ONE LITTLE THING….to change the situation. There are likely many things in your life that you can do nothing about but I’m pretty certain that there are some things that you can do to improve your health and well-being….to make things better and easier.  Make a decision today….that next year….when it comes time to change the clocks back and you gain an extra hour, you will be happy about it and say, “GREAT…..one more hour….WHAT A GIFT….rather than, “So what….an extra hour of misery.”  YOU CAN….with God’s help….change your life….and that in turn, will change the lives of those around you.

Life is a gift…..a precious gift…..make the most of it and be grateful….and live today like it were your last because for many, it will be!