The Jar of Precious Seconds

The Jar of Precious Seconds

I’m in touch with a great friend on an almost daily basis. We talk about what’s up in our lives, writing, ideas for things…whatever comes to mind.

I’m lucky to have this friend. It’s a rare thing when a couple days go by that I’m not reminded that I have a goal to write daily, or that I have other things I want to do. These are the things we talk about, and because of that, it’s rare for a couple days to pass without stepping back and appreciating the effort I’ve made in my life to use my time wisely.

The Jar of Precious Seconds

When my friend and I talk about the stresses in life we choose to ignore, we say, “I can’t let that steal my seconds,” or “I’m not opening my jar for that.” We know what the other is talking about. The Jar is a metaphor for the time we have before we die — each second of our lives.

This friend and I don’t believe in an afterlife; our time right now is all we have. Outside of the things that come with being an adult (day jobs, maintaining homes and cars…things like that), we get to choose how those seconds are used.

The Empty Jar

There will come a day when the jar is empty of these precious seconds. It could happen before I finish writing this entry…it could happen in so many more years. But…there will be a day that my time runs out. It’s not that I weigh everything in my life against every option, but…when I die — when my Jar of Precious Seconds is empty — I want the majority of those free seconds to have mattered

I don’t want to look back and think, “Man, I spent a lot of time arguing online with people I didn’t even respect.” I don’t want to look back on all the television I watched. I don’t want to think of all the time listening to people say really crappy things about other people, instead of talking about bigger things.

Seconds Ticking Down

We all get to decide what we want to do with our seconds, and if getting drunk and playing video games is what you want to do as much as I want to write novels, that’s cool. I just hope people understand that it goes both ways: I’d rather write this entry after working on a novel for 35 minutes on a Sunday night instead of watching Breaking Bad. I’m sure I’d love Breaking Bad, but without ever watching an episode, I know I like writing or going for a walk with my wife even more.

So that’s what I do with my seconds…

The Power of One Second

There will be a second in my life when I take my last breath. I was there when my father took his last breath (I was 22). I was there when my sister took her last breath (I was 33). Just like that, a life ends.

But until that second comes, we all have so many seconds at our disposal.

It’s a powerful life when you realize that most of us are fortunate enough to be in control of what we do with the majority of those seconds. Why people don’t do more with them is none of my business. I can only choose to spend my seconds as I see fit.

A Spinning Foundation

A Spinning Foundation

A couple times a week, I get dizzy and confused. It doesn’t last long, and I know what causes it (a benign tumor in my head). It’s a feeling I’ve known for over a decade.

I don’t like it, but what can you do? All I can do is plant my feet firmly on the ground and know the vertigo will eventually pass. As long as I think about my feet planted firmly on the ground, I’m good no matter how toppled space and time seem.

If it’s a big spin, I remind myself that I’ve been there before. Sometimes when it’s really bad, I think about how the planet is spinning and falling through the universe beneath my feet. (Probably not the best idea, but it’s a good reminder that I always win. If that doesn’t take my feet out from under me, nothing will.) Against the mass in my head, and the spinning of the planet, I’m grounded

And when the moment passes and I feel my feet are below me again, I trudge on, falling through time and space on a big blue rock, enjoying it all just a little more than before.

Time is Money, Right?

Time is Money, Right?

It’s funny: the people I hear who say, “Time is money,” the most are often the people who seem to complain about never having either.

It’s a bit of a throwaway statement, but if you really follow it, there’s some truth to it; although I prefer to think of it more as “Time is happiness.”

Your Money or Your Life

I rarely latch on to books that were suggested to me with a certain degree of hype. Friends swore to me that I’d love Getting Things Done, but it seemed like too busy a system for me. Others have recommended books about making money, but money has never been a motivating factor in my life beyond essentials. (The people who recommend those kinds of books to me are often the people chasing one get-rich-quick scheme to the next.) Somewhere along the way, somebody recommended Your Money or Your Life to me.

Like most non-fiction books I read, it seemed padded. I’d rather have a 100-page book that matters than a 100 good pages and another 150 pages of padding so it seems like a book. Your Money or Your Life was no exception to me, but it was still the book that put into words what I always believed: that there’s a lot to be said for putting a monetary value on your time

The quick version: is it really worth three hours in traffic 5 days a week, having to buy designer clothes, and deal with maintenance on a vehicle just to make an extra $15,000 – $20,000 a year? I know people who drive from one side of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex to the other every day, work overtime, and have little more to show for it than a state of exhaustion. Why not figure out what an hour of your life is worth in a dollar amount (the books suggests ways to figure this out), and take a closer look at what you might be throwing away.

Time Is More Than Money

To me, at a certain point, time is worth more than money. Once I have enough to survive and do something cool now and then, time to do things like writing this blog entry is worth more than time in traffic to be able to say I make $20K more than I currently make. When you factor in the time in traffic, wear in tear on a vehicle, and the effect on one’s health from always being on the go, the extra money isn’t worth it to me. I have time to maintain a couple blogs, do a weekly podcast, and still spend time with my wife and other people I care about.

While a little bit more money would be nice, it’s not worth trading the time I have. As a tech writer, I know I can make more than I do, but right now I work at the best job I’ve ever had. I work from home a couple days a week, my commute is roughly 5 miles to a neat office complex in the country, and I like everyone I work with. (No office politics — just cool people!)

I recently had to reschedule maintenance on a car bought in May because it still hasn’t seen the mileage necessary for maintenance. The dealership seemed surprised that in 3 months, the car’s only seen 1700 miles. There was a time I would have put 3700 miles on a vehicle in that same amount of time…

A Different Outlook

Once I really started looking at how lucky I’ve been to usually have time for things, I viewed little things so much differently. I won’t spend an hour on the phone with a billing department arguing a $10 charge and getting stressed when I can go for a walk with my wife in that time. Why spend an hour (or more) each day getting worked up and arguing with people online when you can use that time to write a novel, build something cool in your garage, or see someone you love? Why watch hours of news that’s not really news when the time can be spent in a more relaxing manner?

Maybe you really like arguing on the phone, online, or getting worked up about some news story that really has no direct bearing on your life, but I’ve known few people who genuinely like those things. We’re all different, and free to do what we want with the time we have, but once I respected my time more, I found myself cutting things out that made me feel buried. And because of that, I found even more time for the things I like doing — even if it’s spending an hour doing nothing at all.

You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion (About Everything)

You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion (About Everything)

I once worked with someone who was asked what they thought about a particular news story at the time. Their answer was simple and direct:

“I don’t care about that.”

It was a topic deemed important by most of the people in the room — myself included. It would be fair to say we were taken aback by the reply. Some of us commented on how clueless the person was, and others said it was sad that the person had nothing to say about the topic. Yes, we judged this person for not having an opinion about this news story — and some others. Sure, make the argument that an adult should know certain things…make whatever argument you want, but the fact still stands: we were assholes.

As adults, like it or not, we get to call our own shots
. Want to play video games all day? Your call. Want to juggle, take photos, watch movies, whatever — instead of tracking what’s happening in Syria…who am I to tell you that you shouldn’t?

I can now see that there’s something to be said for the honesty in saying, “I don’t care about that…”

A Matter of Priority

That moment at work was the first time I remember thinking, “What if this news story the rest of us deem important — maybe even vital — really means nothing?”

When I really think about it, I can think of only a handful of things deemed “important” that actually affected my life. Not to sound like it’s all about me…I believe it’s important to be informed of what’s going on in the world, if for no other reason than to keep a sense of compassion for others. So even though I make a conscious effort to not watch the news, I’m  informed.


Why I Refuse to Let You Steal My Time!

I don’t post anything political on my social media sites. Not because I’m not interested, but because it’s such a time suck. (That, and I respect friends with other viewpoints and don’t want to upset them, even though it’s “my right!” It’s also their right to drop me from their feed if I’m an asshole.) For me, it’s really a matter of priority: hours spent “debating” online becomes hours I could have spent writing. Hours spent watching 24-hour “news” stations is time I could have spent with my wife. Hours spent arguing in person is time I could have spent in the company of someone I really like, talking about the things that matter most to us.

When I look at it that way, I have an odd respect for the person who proclaimed, “I don’t care about that…”

This Weekend

It’s almost the weekend, and I have some ideas for things I plan to do. I will enjoy my time — even any time spent online because these days, I don’t feel the need to chime in with my opinion on things (or even drop a carpet bombing of facts when necessary to show how I came to my conclusion). I’m so much happier not feeling the need to be able to talk about everything just because it’s expected of us. Why be a jack of all chats and talk about everything when you can talk about the things that really matter to you and those around you?

I look at it like this: Sunday night, how do I want to remember my weekend…going out and doing things I enjoyed and relaxing, or spending time online arguing? Unless I truly loved throwing my opinion online for hours, choosing the latter option is a waste of time.

At the end of my weekend…at the end of my life…I want to remember the productive and happy moments — not the moments arguing with someone I respect, someone I once respected, or even worse: some asshole for whom I have no respect at all…

I don’t care about that!