It’s your birthday, and you receive a beautifully packaged gift.
My present is in a shimmery turquoise gift bag with silver metallic handles. (This person knows me well.) It is full of shredded dark blue tissue paper that will later carpet my floor in a post-lucky-dip-at-the-school-fete style scene. Nestled within this is a small box, wrapped up with a ribbon. Because this is an imaginary present, the bow slides apart with one tug of the ribbon. I wind it up for future use.
The box is heavy. As I open the lid inside is a silver shape. It is swirly and beautiful, and weighty in my hands. I know it made out of a precious metal that must be taken care of and treasured, lest it tarnish over time.
I wonder, what you would do if someone handed you a gift of time? If they said to you, ‘Here. Here is time – there are two whole hours in there. It’s just for you. Spend it wisely. Enjoy it.’
It would come from the luxury goods floor of the finest department store. These weighty pieces of time would be surrounded by silks. Time would be arranged in a beautiful fashion to entice you and persuade you to invest. Every person would prefer different shapes and textures, just as they would spend their time in a different way, special to them.
Remember the exhilaration of an hour in a soft play centre, and how you’d run exuberantly, making the most of each minute in there? You could barely stand to dash out for a gulp of Ribena before you bombed back in again, fearful of wasting a precious moment.
Recently I went to a talk that was, in part, about ways to spend one’s time, and the issue of ‘busyness’. During this talk, statistics were shared that the average person commutes around 40 minutes a day. A London commuter may commute 78 minutes a day. I worked out that I commute around 210 minutes a day. Within this time is approximately 42 minutes of fast paced walking – my daily exercise. Within a week, I commute 1050 minutes, walk for 210, wait for the train for approximately 50 and therefore have 790 minutes at my disposal.
Suddenly I felt challenged. When I began commuting I felt like I had been given the gift of time. Ridiculous as it may have sounded, and sceptical as others were, I had two hours a day given to me. I didn’t have to mark, or plan, my time was mine to spend however I wanted, providing I could do it in a 2 foot by 3 foot space. Predominantly, I have 395 minutes of sleep – at least. There’s nothing wrong with sleep and rest, but I noticed I was spending most of my journey asleep…
So more recently, I have determined to spend it better. I’ve read entire books, listened to Christian podcasts, watched Poldark and DIY SOS, and now I’m writing. Truth be told, on Friday I thought I would treat myself to a sleep. I settled down, shut my eyes, ready for an hour of bliss. First stop, still awake. Second stop, still awake. The guard came round at this point so I just gave up the whole idea. I glanced enviously at the man beside me, dead to the world with his headphones in, and then at the ticket he’d left open, because I am incorrigibly nosey. It said ‘Reading’, which thanks to my university days I know requires you to change at Basingstoke. As we approached and he continued to sleep, I eventually summoned up the courage to tap him on the shoulder and announce our imminent arrival. He was inordinately grateful to not have woken in Waterloo and my lack of sleep took on a whole different hue. I used the rest of the time to get writing. I want to use my time well, sometimes in rest, sometimes in productivity; I want to make a conscious choice to invest it well.
Remember the last time you suddenly realised that it was far earlier than you had thought it was, or you had far longer left than you anticipated? The frisson of excitement because of that timely gift! How quickly we lose sight of that, and squander time on things we care little about, disregarding it’s worth.
How much I could achieve in five minutes! Yet how many minutes do I fritter away on social media? How often am I too lazy to get up and ‘do’ for those five minutes before I leave the house? Those moments are precious, I won’t get them back. A minute can be a surprisingly long time (ask a child to keep quiet for a whole minute!) yet I’m all too easily dismissive of it.
I want to use my gift wisely, not by rushing around and being busy but by making the most of each moment. Sometimes the most productive thing is to rest, or to read, or to relax, but I want to invest my time, not simply let it pass me by.
If time was something you bought in money, how would you spend it?