What happens to time? It’s not something you can capture, pin down, make up or
create more of. I know you’ve heard this before, but have you thought about it?
What do you do with your time? And who are you becoming with it?
Years ago, right around the time my brother and I were born, Paul Simon and Art
Garfunkel wrote a song called, “Hazy Shade of Winter”, in which they sing, “Time, time, time – what’s become of me? While I looked around at my possibilities…”
Years later when I was in college in 1987, The Bangles were asked to provide a
cover of this great song for the movie, Less Than Zero.
It took me a long time to build a real relationship with time. It took some very
important people in my life to help me better understand the concept of respect for
time – my own and the time of others. It took me a while to get it – years, in fact.
Recently though, time has really become something I value more than anything. I
understand more clearly than ever that time is my most valuable asset – more than
money, more than anything else. I can’t make more of it. I have to spend it wisely.
I have to choose where to invest it. If I don’t, it will still go by and I will lose the
opportunity to direct it for my highest and best good and that of others.
I’d like to share three experiences with you on the subject of time: one is about
me and someone I care very deeply about in my life whom I have known and who
has known me for years; the second is about my own behavior with the man I was
married to (when I was married); and the last is about a man I recently met who
solidified my conclusions about time and who inspired me to write this article for
you, my readers.
One of my dearest and longest friends is Helen. I’ve known Helen since I was 16
years old – for those of you counting, that’s more than half my life time. For years,
I showed up late for practically everything we did. Helen wrote it off and accepted
this character flaw of mine for many, many years. I never knew it. She never told me
Fast forward to where we are in our lives now: Helen is married with children and I
live on my own with two cats and run my own businesses. Both of us have our own
respective responsibilities and the various demands of our lives.
One night Helen and I made a date to meet so we could go to an appearance where
my cousin was playing with his band downtown late in the evening on the Lower
East Side. Helen had made sure that her family was set and in good stead before
she left. I was with my then-boyfriend and he and I had decided to eat something
before we met her. The upshot: we were late getting there to meet her and she was
standing and waiting outside at the place we were scheduled to meet.
I had texted her from the restaurant, letting her know we were on our way and
apologized. I arrived with my then-boyfriend more than 30 minutes after we had
agreed to meet. What happened? Helen was so frustrated and annoyed that she told
me she was going home. And she left. We didn’t talk for a few days. When we did, we
agreed that our friendship was important to both of us and we wanted to talk out
what had happened.
During that phone conversation, Helen really let me have it – but good! And I am so
grateful that she did. In her wisdom and frustration, she explained to me that for
years she had put up with me being late every time to meet her, no matter what we
were doing or where we were going. In fact, she also revealed that she would time
her own arrival to be later than the time we had agreed on since she could always
count on me being late. She told me that being late was rude and disrespected the
time of the other person. It makes it seem as though their time is less important. She
then said that if she could get it together to show up on time, what with a family and
all of the responsibilities she had, I certainly should be able to figure it out in my
world and show up on time too. It was a great slap of truth that I need to hear – and
listen I did.
And my response was simple: Thank You.
I didn’t argue with her. I didn’t defend myself. I didn’t say anything else. Just thank
We agreed to remain friends (we had already been friends for more than 20 some
years at that point) and I agreed that I would really listen to her and what she said
and look closely at myself and my behavior around time, especially around her. I
haven’t been in this type of situation with her since.
This sparked a look at my own relationship with time and how it has affected my
life, my relationships, my professional life and so much more.
Something in my life was somehow always more important than what I had said
I was going to do with my time. More significantly, I had no concept of how my
relationship (or lack thereof) with time was affecting others and my relationships
with them. Helen really popped this for me. I hope you too have a “Helen” in your
life who can pop this for you.
So as I thought about this, my mind wandered back to the time when I was married.
I realized that from the very start, I was always late to meet up with my husband – I
think I was even late on our first date. Something at the office was more important
to finish than meeting him. Imagine: if you’re that someone who says they want
to be in a relationship – a romantic one where someone else is going to mean so
much to you that you said out loud to the Universe that you wanted to spend your
most precious resource, your time, with them – and then you don’t value the time
you actually get to spend with him or her. I never thought about it this way at that
time. By showing up late, my true feelings about the relationship were showing. I
wasn’t as sophisticated with my understanding of my own behavior and time at that
time so I didn’t know this. I also had no idea of how this behavior was eroding my
What I figured out and began to understand about time and how I treated it and
valued it was this: we show ourselves and others what we value and respect by how
we use and choose what we do with our time.
Our lives are very short. We each have such a small amount of time. We cannot
create more and we cannot make it up.
Some of you may know this or feel this in a particular way if you have lost a loved
one with whom you wish had gotten to spend more time with.
A few weeks ago, I picked up the book The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom.
I was flying out from La Guardia Airport and I saw it
in the shop there among the other books (for those who know me, I can’t resist
browsing books anywhere!). I’m an admitted fan of Mitch’s and I enjoy his books.
But something about this one really hit home. It’s about Father Time and it’s a really
Right after getting the book, I didn’t read it right away – not even on that trip. I kept
it in a significant place in my home where I would look at it from time to time – until
finally I picked it up on a weekend and declared that I was going to read it.
Then on my way to meet a new man I was going out on a first date with, I brought
the book so I could continue reading it. He was a handsome man and someone
whom I was interested in getting to know better.
This past weekend, I had an experience that was so poignant with him – it bears
sharing in this blog. We had spent a phenomenal Sunday morning together on the
Upper West Side of Manhattan and he invited me to meet him in Brooklyn later that
afternoon for an event that he was attending – the installation of a new minister at
a church. I was delighted that he had asked me and I was intrigued as I had never
attended an installation of a clergy person before. He and I turned this into a great
opportunity to meet for an hour before the event ceremony so we could walk on the
historic and beautiful Brooklyn Promenade in Brooklyn Heights, not too far from
where the church was located, and then after the event we agreed we’d go to dinner.
A lovely time to share with each other indeed – one I was looking forward to!
I left the Upper West Side to get home to my kitties by noon and to take care of what
I needed to before I turned around and went back out to meet him. I didn’t arrive
there until nearly 12:30pm. We had agreed to meet again at 4. My time was short
and I knew I needed a nap so I could regroup before I went out again. In the short
time I was home, I managed to feed my kitties twice, go out to my mail box location
and check the mail, take a nap and get dressed for the evening’s plans. I chose of
my own accord to put off the emails and other things I had wanted to do for my
businesses until later when I returned home. It was a choice I had to make with my
time and I had to consider how it would affect others. I was conscious of it and I was
excited to meet up with this man again and share the afternoon’s events with him.
I struggled to get up from my nap and kept telling myself I needed to get up and go
so I could be on time. I got it together and even grabbed a quick snack for myself
before I left – dressed and ready to go. I felt good and it felt good to know that I had
done it – I had turned it around in such a short period of time to make it.
As I got off the subway in Brooklyn Heights, I had a spring in my step, a smile on my
face and I was laughing to myself – praising myself for making it on time. I arrived at
the spot we were to meet at 3:58pm – we had agreed to meet at 4.
He wasn’t there. I looked around on the benches to see if he had sat down. They
were empty. It was chilly – the wind was blowing on the promenade down by the
water. I pulled out my iPhone to see if he had texted me.
He sent his text messages at 3:26pm – while I was on the train underground on my
way to see him. He had just woken up from a nap and told me he was getting a late
start. He said, “Better meet you at the church at 5.”
I sent a text message back saying that I was there at the promenade and just saw
his messages. He texted me back saying that he was “leaving now – will make it up
to you.” He then sent a second text apologizing and saying that “we could walk the
Here I was, now faced with the fact that I was not going to have the evening we had
planned and that I was going to have to figure out what to do with this hour I was
originally planning to spend with him. My laughter and smile stopped. I was upset
and did some soul-searching to understand how I wanted to handle this experience.
I thought of Helen and what she had done for me. It was so important. I thought it
was a good beacon of how I could productively work through this situation for me.
I also thought about those phrases – the ones I used to use a lot too – “I’ll make it up
to you” and “We can do it later or another time”.
How do you make up time for someone else? I don’t think you can. It’s physics. It’s
just not possible. Once time passes, it and all of the opportunities and experiences it
holds are gone. They cannot be made up. They cannot be recreated. They’ve expired.
Then I looked at the beautiful views and the sunlight and thought, “We can’t walk
the promenade after. It will be dark and cold and these views will not be the same.
They’ll be different.”
So, I took photographs of myself on the promenade and posted them on Facebook.
You see, when I arrived there before I looked at my iPhone, the light from the
sun caught my eye as it was so beautiful. I had smiled and thought it would be
fun to take snapshots of us and post them on Facebook. So I did it by myself. The
experience wasn’t the same.
I sat on the bench there, looking out at the beautiful New York harbor, Brooklyn
Bridge Park, and the phenomenal skyline of New York City.
It was now 4:20pm. I had 40 minutes to kill. I looked up when the sun would be
setting to decide if I should stay outside in the blowing wind or go find a place inside
to wait for 5pm. The sun was setting at 4:48pm. The clocks had just been turned
back the night before and the sun was dropping behind the clouds. It was cold and I
was alone. I blessed the place I was standing and got clear that I needed to send an
email to someone for my business that I had put off until later. So I sought out a little
coffee shop to get some tea to warm up and see if I could get that done before I met
him at 5. I got both the tea and the email out before I headed over to the church just
When I saw him, he apologized again and then starting talking about the event as
he started walking forward to go inside the church. I stopped him and shared the
following with him to make my point about the time I had lost:
1) I told him that actions speak louder than words. I told him about Helen and
how she and others have helped me really understand the greater lessons
about time – my own and respecting the time of others.
2) I told him that time is important. It makes others in your life know that you
are important to them. When you don’t show up, it creates doubt, lack of
trust, and thoughts of whether someone is reliable or not.
3) I also shared that time is a valuable asset. You have to be wise about how you
choose to spend it.
I didn’t share with him all of the events I went through and the thoughts I had in that
hour while I was waiting for him to catch up to me in time. Years ago, I would have
been that pedantic person who really drove home the point. I didn’t want to be her.
I chose instead to measure my words and share what I could to let him know that
it wasn’t okay and to encourage him, like Helen did for me, to take a closer look at
what had happened here.
He responded that he understood that I was mad and angry and that I had every
right to be. He never thanked me, as I had done with Helen. I couldn’t tell if he had
heard me or if he really understood that I was doing my best to convey my point
with loving compassion and care.
It was a poignant moment for me. So I wrote this article for you, my reader, to
illustrate the various behaviors we all have around time. I think it’s important for us
all to take a closer look at our time and how we choose to use it in our lives and how
those choices affect others.
I do want to acknowledge here that I can appreciate that all of us struggle from time
to time with time and being on time. After all, nobody’s perfect! My point is this: it’s
not what happened that matters; it’s how you choose to handle it that does.
Instead of saying, “I’ll make it up to you” or “We can do it another time” which are
really some of those little white lies we tell ourselves and others in the hope that the
situation will simply shrink and quickly go away, think about telling the truth such
as “I didn’t leave myself enough time for traffic or subway train delays” or in the
situation mentioned above, saying “I forgot to set my alarm so I didn’t wake up from
my nap in time to meet you” is a lot more in alignment with taking responsibility for
what you didn’t do. It also infers your understanding that there is a respect for other
people’s life time at stake in these situations. Your willingness to take ownership of
what happened helps to bring the circumstances to light and your courage to take
responsibility for what happened makes the incident more palatable for the other
Time speaks volumes about your life and it also speaks volumes to others about how
you value and perceive their importance to you in your life.
Today, I dedicate this blog article to these three people – Helen, my ex-husband, and
the man I met last night for the very different evening I thought we had planned –
who, among others, have helped me to better understand, respect and enjoy my
time and the time of others.
We have only so much time – so spend yours wisely.