I hope you’re blessed like I am with dear old friends, by old I mean knowing them for over 40 years. Usually there are two things that come up each time we get to be face-to-face. The first is we feel that no time has passed between the time we’ve seen each other, and the second is when we stare at each other’s gray heads and wonder where the time has gone.
Like many, I’ve taken time for granted, working, parenting, fixing, traveling, and on. For all of our lives, we’re constantly moving through space doing and getting things done. I’ve constantly complained about never having enough time, rushing through space, feeling exhausted.
Nowadays, besides my family, time is my most precious commodity. I’ve learned to respect time and to try and get the most of it to the best of my diminished capabilities.
It wasn’t until I read the work of the Jewish teacher and sage Abraham Joshua Heschel called “Shabbat ” that I learned the difference between space and time. If you’re not familiar with his work, you may have seen a picture of him walking arm in arm with Dr. Martin Luther King during the freedom March when he said he was praying with his feet. In the book, he put me back in touch with the true meaning of Shabbat. Its the seventh day when we’re told to rest. He says the first six days are for going through space, but Shabbat is about time; focusing on rest, reflection and rejuvenation. Mary Ann and I decided we’d take Shabbat more seriously and not run errands or feel obligated to get yet another chore done. Instead, we learned to take advantage of the morning, read, put the chore list aside, take the dogs out, have an early cocktail and a leisurely evening. Mind you, we’re not orthodox so our guidelines are a bit more lax in strict observance of Shabbat do’s and don’ts. Our engagement with Shabbat was all about respect for how to use time.
These days, I think more about how to make use of time rather than space. Much of it is not knowing how much time I have to use my fingers to type this blog, or speak understandably, or how long I can enjoy eating take-out. (I have to admit I have been ordering out more than I have before.) And I’m trying to write this blog as much as possible. I’m also finding that though Mary Ann and I love to have our friends and family visit, we also need to make time for each other lately. It’s all about time.
Soon I’ll be hitting two years since my symptoms first started and much has happened since. I’m wondering what life looks like for me in a year from now, but I try not to dwell on it, though of late, I’m being asked to make decisions unimaginable two years ago, each with its own impact on myself or my family. It is an in-your-face lesson in being mortal. We are all mortal and that’s the toughest reality I’m facing.
I don’t want to end this and walk away on a down note. There are two ALS folks who are inspirational. A young woman named LoLo who was diagnosed at age 14 and has already been a model and an actress. Her message is that living should never be diminished because of disability. Another is former 49’er Bob Green who, stricken by ALS has written over 30 books, some using an eye tracking device to type out the words.
There are decisions we have to make on how we use our time and take it from someone who has turned a cliche into reality by being hit by the proverbial bus that its not just time that’s precious but it’s how we use it. Do we just go through space or use our time to enjoy the rest of life with the goal to make ourselves feel we’ve truly had an unregrettably full life. We all need our own form of Shabbat.