Every day I wake up and promise myself I will live in the present moment; that the present moment is all there ever was, all there ever will be. I decide to move consciously through my day, work wisely, stop and smell the roses, prepare a vitamin-rich home-cooked meal, smile during a relaxed Shakespearean romp through my errands, and have loads of time left over for the important activities we all know are essential for well-rounded, civilized living.
Like grocery shopping, exercising, paying bills, managing kids, taking 36 different vitamins, doing spring cleaning, lawn cleaning, teeth cleaning, finding shoes that look good and you can walk in, applying 17 different face creams to reduce sun damage, seducing the plumber to fix the leaky sink, having a proper medical exam with mammogram, MRI, CAT scan, dexiscan, sonogram and ultrasound, seeing the new Spiderman to stay in touch with the masses, going to La Traviata to stay in touch with the intelligentsia, and bowling a couple of games to stay in touch with sweat, beer and cardboard pizza.
I tell myself to live in the present, but the truth is, four seconds later I hit the ground running and begin to multi-time time. While I do one thing, like answer 47 e-mails, I think about another, like how to improve the value of the dollar. This way, I begin my day double-timing time. Then there is loads left over for a family dinner, wedding, bar mitzvah, christening, 50th anniversary celebration, school book sale, holiday gift swap, Easter event, Passover celebration, old friends’ annual gathering, new friends’ annual gathering, and all friends’ annual July 4th barbeque.
But still, I need more time. And so, I’ve started triple-timing time. It goes this way: I do one thing, think about another, and then add one more little activity with any free finger. Like use the chainsaw on a dead tree branch, think about how to spice up a rutabaga soup, and at the same time, sew a tiny button on an old shirt.
This triple bypass helps me carefully select presents for all the kids, send Aunt Wanda her favorite pink lilies, tell a divorced friend the 50 best pick-up lines, scan seven news magazines to compare commentaries, get dressed-to-kill for a Saturday night fund-raiser, and have loads of time left over for a house sale, a yard sale, a bake sale, a crafts sale, and still volunteer at the local soup kitchen, grief center, senior center, and after-school arts program even though I couldn’t make a Japanese origami swan to save the life of a real one.
A quadruple bypass of time seems a bit risky, but time has been getting away from me. So I’ve been trying this: I do one thing, think about another, add an extra chore with a free finger, and then top it off with a background activity like a book-on-tape on my Ipod. This way, I study a foreign language to prove I’m not a dumb American, listen to a beach novel to just let go, revisit an old classic to appreciate true greatness, devour a macrobiotic text on the benefits of fish, and improve my gardening which is long known to be the quintessential hobby for slow, effortless aging.
There is one side effect of these bypass procedures which I should mention here. Every second carefully cut into four convenient divisions has the potential to demand as much as four whole seconds of recovery downtime. Downtime, as we all know, is a parasite that can greedily consume seconds, minutes, hours with wimpy colds, pulled groin muscles, embarrassing bouts of exhaustion, or just plain sloth, and the next thing you know, you haven’t left the couch for months. So the final result of the bypass could be that you haven’t gained time, you haven’t lost time, and you haven’t got any more time than you had before you started multi-timing time.
To compensate for this possible clinical set-back, I’ve decided I may as well smell some roses. Please send them to my sick bed. Meantime, I promise I will wake up every day and tell myself to live in the present moment, that the present moment is all there ever was, all there ever will be. I promise.
May 12, 2008