We are on house-watching duty this week while some folks are away for vacation week. They have no pets, so it’s just watering plants, filling the bird feeder and collecting the daily newspaper.
The stack of newspapers has been growing as the days go by; each one taken out of its plastic sleeve and put
“Can I read the newspaper?” my daughter asks, taking the most recent edition off the top of the stack. We don’t get a newspaper at our house, so this is a new experience. I show her the different sections - front page, metro, entertainment. I explained how some sections just come out on certain days, how articles that start on the front page often finish somewhere to the back of that section, how some pages that look like articles are really just advertising.
“Why don’t we get the newspaper?” she asks me.
“I don’t know, really,” I reply. It is a non-answer; something I’m known for after 7pm. Don’t ask me to think too hard at this hour. I’ve answered enough questions for one day.
I could explain it to be a generational thing. That these days, we read the news online more often that picking up a newspaper.
I could suggest that the media focuses too much on negative news and sensational stories, and I don’t want it to become my worldview.
Or I could blame the information overload of our plugged in lives. I can’t possibly imagine soaking up even more information than what’s already being thrown at me while I sit at my computer working every day. All of these answers hold a seed of truth.
“It’s because we don’t have time to read it,” my husband pipes up from the next room.
I look over at the neat stack of papers. Clearly none has been touched with the exception of the section my daughter has recently pulled out. It makes me sad.
I remember my parents sitting down religiously after dinner to read the day’s paper.
It seems like such a luxury - to sit and unwind with the paper. There are so many other things to do.
That’s the trap we fall into – the trap of “so many other things” - believing that we don’t have enough time.
People, we have plenty of time. We have just as much time, in fact, as we’ve always had.
What has happened is that we have learned to collapse time by focusing on tomorrow. We have become very good at multi-tasking. We use our technology to put one foot across tomorrow’s threshold while we’re still in the midst of today.
Sometimes it’s simply a case of wanting to be prepared. But more often, we are so focused on what is going to happen tomorrow, next week or a year from now that we don’t allow ourselves to settle into the current moment.
Just look at the catalogs that arrive in your mailbox - new summer styles come out in February - even in New England. The back-to-school issue arrives at the end of June when the kids have had barely a week of summer vacation. And we all see what happens in the “seasonal” aisle at the grocery store. It’s inevitably three months ahead.
What happens when we slow ourselves down and take one day as it comes?
Time stretches out before us. We can think about what it is right now that we want to focus on. If it’s time to make lunch, we can just make lunch and not also try to send three emails and answer two text messages about a meeting coming up next week.
If it’s time to take the dog for a walk, we can just put on his leash and head out the door without trying to stop and throw a couple of things in the car or weed the flower bed on our way down the driveway.
Our perception of time passing will match our own pace. If we are racing from one thing to the next, time is racing along with us. When we choose to slow down (and it is always a choice), time unwinds with us and the moment expands.
What do you want to focus on today? What calls to you in this moment? Let go of all the other moments. Settle into this one, and see what is here for you.
As for me, I am going to go read a section of today’s newspaper.
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