Now that we have that lovely background music, a few thoughts on Time, and Space… I have recently been thinking a lot about the importance of taking the Time and Space we all need for a mindful and productive life. Recently, I went to visit my beloved grandmother in New England. She is an inspiration to me for many reasons, not the least of which is that at 96 years old, she lives on her own, drives (!) her own car, earns her own money by taking in tailoring for others, plays the piano, reads voraciously, completes a crossword puzzle every day at lunch and is a fierce competitor at Scrabble. She is also very aware of taking the time and Space she needs to appreciate and fully live each day, each hour, each minute of her life.
I am sure that, as a child, or young woman, she never expected her life to be what it is today. For one thing, she is baffled at the technology we use now, the fast-paced world of instant gratification. She asks me about email, and Facebook, marveling and wondering about how things can just come and go "over the air". My grandmother is also a wonderful letter-writer. She writes by hand, on paper, with a Flair pen, and mails each beautifully written missive in an actual envelope with an actual stamp. This email thing is a mystery to her. I marvel and wonder, too, but not for too long as I have to go...check my Facebook for the latest up-to-the-minute-too-many-things-to do-right-now updates. And we get frustrated when the future does not happen, or when don’t know what will happen, and we want it to happen right. NOW. Enter Time. And Space. Allowing things to just unfold, naturally, has become increasingly difficult. We do not tend to want to take the time to just be. Not to be and do. Just be. (sounds like ol blue eyes…do be do be do…) Taking the time to just be here now is crucial to all life. We are the only ones on this planet who rush about, trying to make something happen, trying to change the Future... who do not listen to ourselves. As Doris sang, “whatever will be, will be…the future’s not ours to see…que sera, sera…what will be, will be…”
In order to use Time for good and not evil, we must also give ourselves Space. On the same trip to New England, I woke up early each day (the teacher’s schedule is a hard habit to break!) and went for a run. Yes, I am still running, and my twitter/blogger friend was right….it is life changing. It gives me the Space and Time I need to just be. I ran looking at the mountains, feeling the 6:30 am sun warm on my face, listening to the early morning stirrings of birds and breathing in the fresh air. At that moment, for that half hour or so, I was just there. Not worrying. Not planning, or stressing, or anxious. Just being. Sometimes, when life takes over, and I find myself being too overwhelmed, too over-stimulated, too obsessive, I hear a little voice. Sometimes it is my own, sometimes a reminder from someone or somewhere else. It tells me to breathe. It tells me that everything will be okay. It tells me that some things just need Space and Time. And, as much as possible, I listen.
Sometimes, the reminder comes in a small package--a package about the size of a Kindergarten boy.
Yesterday, at school, (Yes, I said yesterday…It is July. And we are still in school. Bitter, much? Nah…) as I was picking up some of my first graders for their time with me, I noticed one of the more “difficult” Kindergarten children down the hall. He seemed to be in some sort of trouble, as his teacher and two security guards were talking to him. As I stood and watched him, he turned, saw me, and began to walk towards me. I did not move, but waited. As he got close, he opened his arms, and wrapped them around my waist. He buried his head in my side, and we just stood there. After a few beats, I took him by the hand and walked with him to my room. The other children I had with me seemed to know that he needed Time and Space, since they said nothing, but went about their business of reading their new chapter books.
I allowed the boy to choose what he wanted to do. He went straight for the large bin of mixed, dried beans I keep in the room. He has been invited to visit me before in just such circumstances, and has found comfort in running his hands through the beans (it really feels amazing- try it!!).
He sat for a while, quietly, hands in the beans, while I read with my students. Then, he came and stood next to me. “Excuse me? Can I ask you something?” I looked and him and nodded. “May I put my feet in the beans?” I nodded again and smiled. He returned to his seat, put the bin on the floor and carefully removed his shoes. Leaving his little white socks on, he slid his feet into the beans, and a smile broke across his face. He remained there for about twenty minutes, just being. Then, he removed his feet, put on and tied his own shoes, and carefully returned the bean bin to the proper place. Again, he approached me. “I think I am ready to go back to my class now.” I waited. “Thank you for letting me stay with you.” I smiled at him and watched him leave.
We all need to take the Time and Space to listen to ourselves. We all need to just be. Even at 96. Even at 5. Even me.