The test of time

256px-Wooden_hourglass_3A few months ago, one chapter of my life closed, and as I prepared for the next one–whatever that would be–I found myself with time on my hands. While I looked for work, I punctuated my time off with a few freelance projects and being the stay-at-home mom (read: chauffeur) my kids never had.

And I had plans. Not necessarily big plans, but lots of little plans and maybe a handful of medium-sized plans. I would now have time to do all those things I could never seem to fit into my schedule. I would overhaul my house–give it a thorough cleaning, organize closets, empty the garage and attic of their extraneous junk. I would get back into prime shape, beating the streets on my bike and on foot. I would whip my landscaping into shape so my nosy neighbor would stop being embarrassed. I would teach my kids to cook. I would write more.

Now that my time at home has become finite–I’m thrilled to start a new job in just over a week–my to-do list is almost as long as when I started. My house looks only marginally better and I haven’t opened a closet except to take out the day’s clothes. I’ve made up for any extra running with extra eating. I haven’t been on my bike at all. I did pull weeds for a couple of hours one day, but only once. My kids think cooking is pouring milk over their cereal. And if you follow this blog, well, I don’t have to tell you what I didn’t do.

Here comes the epiphany.

This morning on the treadmill, I realized something that feels pretty profound: time won’t turn you into something you’re not; it can only highlight who you are. I’m not a great housekeeper, or even a good one. I hate yard work. I’m slowly crawling back into fitness, but that’s an attitude thing, not a calendar thing. So is pretty much everything.

The truth is, you make time for the things that are important to you, the ones you care about. It doesn’t matter if your schedule is packed or wide open, you’ll do what matters to you.

If I learned one thing these past months, it’s this: it’s worth way more to get to know yourself and figure out what’s important to you–not to your kids or your parents or your spouse or your friends or the ubiquitous “they”–than it is trying to do the things that you don’t care much about. It won’t always be easy to make them happen, but you’ll find that you’re driven to do it, and you’ll be a lot more fulfilled along the way. You should never ignore the things you have to do, but you should also never let them become your focal point.

If you don’t believe me, all I can say is time will tell.

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