Month: February 2012

5 o-clock late

Last Tuesday morning, I was still up at 5 o-clock late. That time in the small hours of the morning when you hazily realize you never went to bed and the sky isn’t quite as dark as it should be.

The daytime hours before had been stolen by an unexpected trip to the emergency room. Now I was back in my space. And suddenly it was tomorrow. They say tomorrow never comes, but last Monday in the small hours of the morning, tomorrow came—with a vengeance.

I had deadlines to meet, and Microsoft Word had just eaten two hours’ worth of work. None of my attempts at technological restoration, hitting the undo button, or digging into my computer’s history could resuscitate the lost project.

I resisted the urge to dismember my laptop and watch it try to defend itself against the garbage disposal. But, like the rest of the world, I had a deadline to meet.

They’re telling me I have more time than I realize. “Take a time inventory,” the experts say. “You’ll be amazed at how much time you’re wasting every single day.”

Time is money.

Carpe diem.

Live like you’re dying.

The more you can cram into a 24-hour period, the better. If you’re not working, you should be at the gym burning calories. Or sleeping the requisite seven hours a night. Or cramming as much stuff into your limited time as possible—and documenting it through some kind of LCD screen.

Because the world deserves to know you just spent the day hiking in the mountains before returning to civilization for after-dinner coffee and a bubble bath. Or that it’s 5 o-clock late, dawn is breaking, and you’re contemplating the deconstruction of whichever program just ate your work.

Why bother with 24-hour periods, even? The lines between today and tomorrow have been so blurred by a society married to its agenda that day and night almost seem like abstractions. Why concern yourself with days when you can fill each individual hour—nay, every minute—with productivity?

In developing areas like New Guinea and rural Mexico, time isn’t a commodity. Natives devote an entire day to each task like going to the market or plowing the garden. They don’t wear watches or hang clocks on their walls. They’re not worried about being late to a very important date.

They don’t have to remind themselves to stop and smell the coffee. They don’t de-stress with pedicures and stress-relieving massages. They don’t spend time and money on retreats that let them get away from it all. Granted, they don’t have thousands to spend on trendy vacations. But they don’t need them.

Sometimes when it’s 5 o-clock late and the dawn is making the sky lighter than it should be, sooner than it should be, I go for a walk to look at the night stars. I take in a last-minute glimpse before they’re absorbed back into another of those abstract divisions of time we call days. And, more vividly than usual, I’m gripped by the need to live not like I’m dying, but like I’m actually alive.