When was the last time you could not wait to leave the presence of another person?
Do you remember when? Do you remember who? Do you recall that feeling of, ‘I cannot wait to get out of here and I don’t really care if I ever spent time with this person again’?
Now what’s important here is not really who that human was. That, dear reader, would undoubtedly lead us down a path devoid of positivity.
And I have another path in mind for us today.
So go back now, and grab on to that feeling of being done, of wanting to leave this person.
Be there. Feel it. Watch yourself retract. See how your heart leaves the room? How your spirit drifts and your mind begins planning your escape, then your next move, then how you’ll recover from it all?
What I want you to do today is to consider its opposite.
Consider the feeling evoked by a recent email from my dad, marking the sixth anniversary of my mother’s untimely death at age 62.
“Six years without my Soulmate. Six years without your Mother. Even though she was in our lives from 32 to 48 years, it was not quite enough.”
Those words pierced me with the sharpest edge of their truth.
My time with my mom was not quite enough. Not for me, not for her. Not for my younger brother, who had 32 years with her, not for my oldest brother, who had 38. And not, heartbreakingly for my dad, who knew her almost his whole life, dated her off and on for six years, and who was married to her for 42 years.
Nope, it wasn’t enough. Not even close.
Wow. How lucky were we to have a mom and wife we could not get enough of.
This idea placed me into a whirl of awareness of the relationships in my life. How would they stack up to the idea of having enough time?
From a full glass perspective, I could count seven people in less than a beat of my heart I could never have enough time with. Then another seven more, just as quickly, who I felt the same about. And on, and on.
There will never be enough time with my Dad. Never enough with my brothers.
I’m still charting my map of my husband of 15 years — the deep lakes of his soul, the valleys of his heart, the jagged terrain of his brain, the twisting canyon of his behavior and the winding ways of his peccadilloes, and I’ve known him for 19 years.
It’s fascinating work of which I am deeply and fervently engaged.
And that’s it. That’s the crazy thing.
Despite all we “know” as humans — about science, about the universe, about medicine, about disease, about the planets, about our solar system, about our ecosystem, about animals, about technology, about economics, about business, about art, and about history and about thermal dynamics and nanotechnology — we seem to be endlessly fascinated with one thing above all else: one another.
To the extent that spending a lifetime in a chosen person’s presence — is not enough for us.
And there’s ugliness in that time, too. There’s depression. There’s frustration, and hurt, and anger, and ineptitude and selfishness and meanness. In any relationship of depth, in moments, there are all those things.
I think I used a type of this Not Enough Time idea as a rubric when I was a young woman: I suddenly began to realize that if I didn’t really see the guy I was falling for as “boyfriend material” or — in my later years — as “husband material,” it was sort of a waste of my time to continue.
My challenge to you: how many of your relationships would fall into the Not Enough Time category?
How many people in your daily arm’s length can you say, confidently, you would not have enough time with? How many are the Not Enough Time types?
And are the people on your Not Enough Time list actually in your arm’s length on a regular basis?
It’s not a question designed to compel you to judge yourself, just to give you a new lens for how you are using your energy, how you are giving your heart, in what relationships and with what people.
And here’s a final one for you: Consider if you are the type of person who others assign that Not Enough Time label to.
I can say, in my time considering this one, it’s a big, deep, jarring question. It’s kicked my life, and the investment of my energy, into perspective.
My mom, a regular person with her faults and foibles, who suffered from deep states of melancholy at times, and experienced a rough home life as a child, and who came from a small town and a middle class upbringing with not a lot, and who occasionally yelled at us as kids and admitted to screwing up here and there as a parent, is on a lot of other people’s N.E.T. lists.
I know because these people, her Not Enough Time people, contact me.
They call me on the anniversary of her death and tell me how dearly they miss her, voices cracking. They visit me in my hometown when they come through. They tell me, openly, how being around me connects them somehow, to her, and thus feeds the part of them that misses her daily. They bless me with the compliment that being around me feels a bit like being around her, that I resemble her, that I echo her at times.
They write me notes and emails and cards and call me on my birthday all with the clear desire or expressed intention of having vicarious more time with Judy.
Not a few people, but at least a dozen — the ones who reach out regularly. And I know there are probably a least a dozen more who don’t reach out.
So, if my perfectly broken mother could inspire that connection to others, so can you. And so can I.
And we can do it with the time we have.