Time Is Life


By Elena Greco

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Typical reading time: 4 minutes

May 14, 2022

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.
~ Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Time is life. What else could it be?

The way we fill our minutes and hours and days is called living.

Time is life. And how we use time is how we live life.

Questions arise: Are we using time as well as we could? Do we value our time? Do we value the time of others? Does how we are spending our time reflect who we want to be?

Time is money.
~ Benjamin Franklin

My time in the legal world trained me well to respect others’ time. For legal professionals, time is money. Literally. They don’t appreciate emails that do not need to be sent or emails that contain unnecessary words or calls that contain non-essential words because those things waste their time and therefore cost them money.

I don’t appreciate those things either. And yet every day I receive emails that did not need to be sent, that are a reflex rather than a thoughtful communication, that are sent because the sender did not read my email or did not follow the instructions they might have received. These things are disrespectful of me and my time. (Also, of theirs; more on that below.) Yet even after I point this out and request no unnecessary emails be sent, it continues. Why do you suppose people do this?

I’m not sure why anyone would assume that my time is not valuable. Although I’ve retired from the legal IT world (my survival job for 37 years), I do still work at my life-long professions of music and writing, and my time is worth a certain dollar amount. But more important to me, at my fairly advanced age, every day and every minute of my life now has incredible value. These are my last minutes on earth. No more of the “I’ll live forever” attitude that dominated my pre-half-a-century life lives in me now. As the top of the hourglass of life empties, seemingly more rapidly with each day, every minute has acquired value. I don’t give away those minutes lightly.

If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.
~ Bruce Lee

I suspect that people are disrespectful of my time, not because they wish me harm (although some perhaps do), but because they are disrespectful of their own time. They do not understand the value of time and are perhaps unaware that time is their life currency. It simply does not penetrate them that in taking my time, they are taking away part of my life. And in doing so, taking part of their own, as well.

The way we spend our time defines who we are.
~ Jonathan Estrin

Sometimes communication is not about the words. Meeting with someone, saying, “Hi! How are you?” often means something other than the words themselves. It often means, Here, have a small hug in the form of a fairly meaningless collection of words, ones we have agreed upon to substitute for a pat on the back. And those particular unnecessary words are in fact necessary for the value that they impart, the emotional value that they contain.

But many of the words we spend meaninglessly are quite the opposite of that verbal hug. They are an infliction of an often mindless assault on the other person’s time and energy.

One of the reasons for the mindlessness can be that the perpetrator is automatically having a kneejerk reaction. There is no waiting, no deliberate pause, no momentary contemplation of the best next step, no consideration of the effect of the communication upon the recipient. This can be and often is part of a compulsive personality, to be sure, and I believe it’s also partly due to the reaction that media has carefully attempted to cultivate in us. See something, react to it! Next link! Read something, react to it! The bigger and more frequent the reactions, the better media and commerce do. They have created a science of marketing that specializes in manipulating the reactions of consumers—that is, of us. They thrive on our kneejerk reactions.

There is a way out of this mindless assault on each other of endless unnecessary emails and reflexive texts. Contemplation and awareness are the key here. As soon as we are aware of our reactive tendencies, they become less out of our control.

Watch, the next time you receive an email that makes you want to grab the mouse, type furiously and hit send. Watch that compulsive reaction. Relax. Really relax. Take a nice relaxed breath, followed by a nice long exhale. Now think about the message you just received. How does it make you feel? Is there any anxiety there? Does that anxiety want you to send out a response immediately without thinking it through? Does sending that mindless response make you feel better?

With most compulsions, there is a slight bit of relief after indulging the compulsion. But it quickly dissipates. There is no real satisfaction. And the same thing happens a moment after you respond reflexively when you receive the next email and have the next reaction.

So the next time you have that seemingly uncontrollable feeling that you must immediately send a response, just … wait. That’s all. Wait. Do the steps above. See if you don’t experience life a bit more richly.

There is of course the opposite response, which is just as wasteful of the other person’s time, and that is not responding. If the sender inquires if you’re available at a certain time, and you don’t respond for two days, you have caused the other person to 1) calendar a follow-up to their email to try to get a response from you, 2) take time out of their day to do that follow-up, 3) spend more time trying to figure out what to do if they can’t get a response from you, and 4) probably experience some aggravation at having to work so hard to get a response that should have been received within 24 hours if the recipient has a modicum of manners. By not responding, you have taken more of their time.

Something I’ve always found challenging is scheduling a group of people, such as a rehearsal that involves multiple musicians and a venue, particularly when further actions with one person depend on the response of another person. In that case, not responding to a scheduling request inconveniences and wastes the time (life) of not only the sender but of other people. Invariably there is one person who gums up the works for everyone by not being respectful of the director’s or administrator’s time and, by extension, that of everyone else involved.

Time is life. I recommend that the next time you’re about to waste someone else’s time in some way, substitute the word life for time. By sending unnecessary emails, you’re wasting their life. By not responding in a timely manner, you’re wasting their life. It just might help you value the power of your own words and actions in a way you hadn’t considered. Because that time is your life, too.

Time is life. The next time you do something reflexively without being truly aware of what you’re doing, saying or doing things that don’t need to be said or done, ask yourself if you’re wasting your life. Every unnecessary action is a waste of your life.

Time spent with cats is never wasted.
~ Colette

Why does Colette say that the time we spend with cats is never wasted? Because that time is spent being fully aware of another, being in touch with love, being in touch with our true selves (because cats just have that effect). Most importantly, our minds automatically stop chattering around cats.

A cat would never send an email.

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