Each year since reading One Perfect Word by Debbie Macomber, I have decided to focus on one perfect word for my life during the coming year. Sometimes I have changed words in the middle of the year, or whenever it felt necessary, but it’s OK. For each of us, needs change. Then focus shifts. Anyone who has ever had a sick child or loved one knows this, or anyone having to deal with sudden complications, plane flights interrupted, any kind of emergency. The list goes on and on.
What I am talking about here is more quiet things that occur in our lives. Sometimes it’s a small lesson, maybe a word from a stranger that causes us to realign our paths for the moment, and maybe forever. “That’s it. I’m done with that,” or “Yes. This is a new way. I’ll try this for now.” And we shift our focus. “It’s time I let go of that,” or ‘It’s time I looked at this in a new way.”
So it’s easy to see that the word TIME is my One Perfect Word for the year. It’s simply time for me to focus on time. To integrate time more fully in my life. We are only one month into 2016 and already I can see that time is a major focus for me. In the past I’d find myself rushing around, grabbing a water bottle, forgetting my weights, already late for an exercise class … or wondering who on earth left all those dishes in the sink when it was time to start dinner, in a messy kitchen, no less.
Now, with time as my focus, it is no longer happening. I arrive at appointments early and no longer race across town to get where I need to be at an appointed time, no longer fire off texts or emails to friends in the middle of the night or way too early in the morning so that it wakes them up. Just being aware of the time, living in harmony with time rather than fighting it, has made a difference. I feel calm, no longer rushed. I find myself at peace more often, a new experience for me. The word Zen comes to mind. I am at peace with the time in my life. Finally at what I consider to be a ‘seasoned’ age, I am losing my long-held impatience with the world. All in its time, I tell myself. There is a time for everything. It’s OK to wait. It will happen when it’s meant to happen. Let go. Worrying about when the mail will arrive isn’t going to make it arrive any sooner. Of course I always knew this to be true. But knowing something and living with its truth are two different things.
When I chose time as my one perfect word for this year, I did not imagine the ways it would affect me with such things as being on time for appointments or lessons, not rushing with my own plans, being early to meet friends for coffee. Little things. Being ready for a TV show with my cup of hot tea all ready, ten minutes before a show starts. What? Not ten minutes late? Or on time but still stressing about other things I wanted to do before the show started? Like making a needed phone call, touching base with a friend, writing a note, firing off a text. Always the feeling of leaving something undone.
No, the time I was thinking of as being my focus for the year was really more related to age. The age I am, the age my friends are, the age of their parents and loved one, having people die on us before we are ready to let them go, as if we are ever ready. But the words too soon kept entering my conversation.
I envisioned giving myself time to play in the garden without fretting about other things left undone, time to enjoy picking the flowers, rather than stressing about leaving something else undone just to go out and pick flowers in my yard, or even time to arrange my clothes by color in the closet if I wanted, and relishing that time, not feeling as if I were stealing it from some other task. My new focus on time is that whatever I am doing is the thing I am supposed to be doing at that moment, that hour, that week.
Part of this focus, I am sure, has come about because in late December my younger brother was given a terminal cancer diagnoses with little time left. A matter of weeks, in fact. I stressed for days wondering if I might make another quick trip to Georgia from Washington state. It’s a long trip, expensive trip, and the kind of thing we usually plan for, not do on the spur of the moment. I’d told him goodbye in October with a quickly-planned trip to Georgia, fearing the end was close. And now it was late December. Phone calls became more frequent with doctors, nurses, care givers, with frantic prayers and worrying about him dominating my thoughts. Another week went by. Then another week. At an exercise class one Wednesday morning I said to a friend, “I don’t know what to do. I’ve already told him goodbye,” and the reply was, “Go.” I came home and talked to a friend who was staying at our house. “Go now,” she said. “You need to go. Don’t wait!” I heeded her words and was on a plane the next afternoon.
It was his time. And in a way, my time, too. A time to sign my brother into Hospice so he would die peacefully, no longer raging against dying. Time for reflection. For prayers. For reaching out to friends, all who reached back in loving an caring ways.
So it is my focus for this year, for so many things I could have never imagined a few years ago. Just this morning I realized, after some personal hardships, it’s time for my husband and me to recognize that we have become survivors, each of us. One stroke, one job loss, ten days apart. It took more time than we could have imagined to crawl out of those twin pits of despair. Now we’re OK. It’s time to enjoy our lives again, after years of worry.
In years past I’ve had the word less as my one perfect word. That was the year I embarked on a great decluttering exercise, getting rid of everything I didn’t want to dust anymore. Another year it was the word balance. That was the year I began reading, knitting, and gardening more, each in its own space and time. So nice to restore balance in our lives. Another year it was the word gratitude, when I began to keep a gratitude and prayer journal. So many years. So many perfect words. And now time. It’s time to focus on time in my life, in all of her many and varied disguises. I look forward to meeting all of the lessons I am being given about time, all the lessons I still need to learn. Every single one of them.