I can’t get this out of my mind. It revisits me nearly every day as I try to create my “to do” list. In fact, if it weren’t such a true reminder of what we all need to be doing, it wouldn’t haunt—or perhaps bless me the way it has.
I’m talking about an experience I had the day after Thanksgiving last year. A friend and I got together to grab a java, then go do some work on a few videos and photos for my website. We went to a Starbucks Coffee on her side of town, one that I rarely visit since she lives several miles away. I had ordered my usual Venti Decaf Skim Latte and was over at what I call the “chemistry counter” sprinkling cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla powder onto the nicely done cloud of foam that was resting gently upon my drink.
I could sense someone’s energy just behind me so I started to move to the side, apologizing for taking up the entire space. What I heard next still rings loudly in my ears. An older man’s voice came over my right shoulder saying, “Oh, no ma’am, please take your time. When I was your age I rushed through too much and missed a lot of my life.”
Ouch. I could feel his pain, but it immediately flared mine as well.
I went back to the table where my friend sat and shared what I had just heard. We had a short conversation about it as I spotted the man a few tables away from us. He was sitting alone, wore an ex-marine’s baseball cap, and was probably about 75 or 80 years old. He looked weathered but generally healthy. Throughout the time there, I would glance over at him just to see how he went about reading and drinking his coffee. I mostly wanted to see if he was fully taking in his day.
Why is it that we go through life saying that we wish we had more time, yet we fill our day with meaningless tasks—mindless t.v. shows, surf time on the internet, and any number of other things that won’t necessarily change or improve our lives? Why is it that our regrets are almost always about what we didn’t do rather than what we did? How did we get so lost in this human condition that our limited time on this planet doesn’t even enter our awareness?
I have to admit that this anonymous man made me think. And still does. In my book, Soul Health, I talk about the need to be discerning about every aspect of our lives in order to align ourselves for radiant living. I suppose I wouldn’t have written the book if I had it all figured out, but this brief interchange has changed me in a deep way. It penetrated my core and reminded me in a very profound way that there is a greater purpose to being alive.
I’ve always taken life very seriously, gleaning whatever I can from each experience. But this unnamed angel has deepened my awareness that time really is of the essence. We have all sorts of sayings and clichés about the word (“Timing is everything”, “Standing the tests of time…”, “Time flies…”, etc.), but perhaps the most profound is Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “Lost time is never found again.”
The funny thing is, a client of mine reminded me just the other day of the words I said to him a few sessions earlier. We were wrapping up the session and he asked me how things were going in the rest of my professional life. I told him about the many projects I’m working on and he said, “Ya know, someone with long, brown hair once told me about the word discernment…. something about picking and choosing your activity to make sure you get the most out of life….. I wonder if you know her.” I hate it when my words come back to haunt me. But the truth is, like the angel in Starbucks, even my clients serve as messengers of things I need to hear sometimes. He was quite proud of himself as he walked out the door—a gentle and wise man in his own right—but clearly gloating that he had gently nailed me about the goings on of my own busy life.
Time. An underappreciated word. Think on it.