Carpe Vita

Sorry about the length of time that has passed since my last post. I’ve been caught up in grading mid-term exams and tallying grades for my part time English professor gig here in Chicago. This has created a bit of a time crunch in my world, forcing a temporary focal change for the week. During periods such as this I inevitably find myself growing increasingly irritable and short-tempered, largely because I find days passing where I don’t have a musical instrument in my hands and I’m not writing. Instead it becomes a seemingly endless stream of passing judgment on other folks’ written work and analyzing what they can do to improve. Not a bad gig, but quite time consuming even when it’s part time. Now that midterms and additional papers are in the bag I can thankfully turn my frontal lobes back to what matters most to me workwise, making music and writing. These periods do, however, make me consider the whole concept of having or budgeting time, and all too often it does tend to seem like time is something we never have enough of.

Frequently we get caught up in the routines and expectations of day jobs, family life and then, when we’re tired at the end of the day, sack out in front of the idiot box (a.k.a. TV) to amuse ourselves until we fall asleep. We then think wistfully about all of the things we could accomplish, often relating to our dream jobs or dying dreams, if only we had enough time. Oh well, someday we’ll have the opportunity is often the next thing that comes to mind. In reality none of us really know how much time we have. We hope that we will have long healthy lives and some of us do, but many end up having lives that are all too brief in their passing.

Some years back Robin Williams was in a film titled “The Dead Poets Society” in which he plays an English teacher at a private high school for boys to whom he introduces the beauty and life in poetry and the ideas behind the phrase “Carpe Diem.” The concept of Carpe Diem, or live for the day, does come into play here but on the surface it might seem a bit on the shallow side until we really think about what it means and what it doesn’t mean. Carpe Diem doesn’t mean that we don’t make goals for our future, or plans that play out over extended periods of time. It has more to do with the concept of mindful living and being aware of how we spend our present moments, in essence what we do with our time every day of our lives.

In order to truly live for the day, it is vital that we pay attention to what is important to us and act accordingly. My wife mentioned an article she recently read where the writer stated that we make time for the things that are important to us and if they aren’t truly important, we won’t make time for them. I think he was partially correct in this. Yes, sometimes this is the case, but all too often we let moments, hours, days, sometimes weeks and even years pass without seizing or making time to become more than we are. Sometimes fear stops us, but sometimes it’s a pattern of behavior that we’ve grown so accustomed to that breaking out of it seems to be a superhuman task. Inertia can also be a powerful barrier to overcome, particularly when we’ve empowered it with negative self-talk and/or listening to too many naysayers in the crowd. Nevertheless, making time for the things that are important to us is what we need to do.

Having the ability to recognize when we’re veering off course from our daily goals is key to ensuring that we are indeed living according to our personal Carpe Diem credo. This in itself takes both practice and self-discipline. All too frequently we find that we have essentially robbed ourselves of time that could have been spent in a manner that left us feeling more fulfilled. Many of us get sidetracked either through chores around the house which suddenly become incredibly important to do right at this instant, or a mindless activity like a videogame where our intent was to take maybe a five minute break which somehow we emerge from an hour or more later. While this doesn’t mean that we don’t do our chores, and that we never play a videogame or sack out in a vegetative state in front of the television, it does mean that we must make conscious choices about how we’re using, and all too often, wasting our time.

So, how do we change? How do we make time for what we love, our avocation, the things that we were/are meant to be and to express the talents we have? I think that is something that each one of us has to answer for ourselves, but the first step for all of us is to reprioritize our schedules and accept that the bottom line is that we must make time. Then, at the end of each day, it’s not a bad idea to reflect on how that day went and what you accomplished that moved you a step closer to where you want to be, whether it is as a musician, artist, writer, or whatever your avocation is. This is not a time for whipping yourself, but rather to think in terms of today, yesterday, tomorrow and where or what you desire to be before your clock stops ticking. Ultimately you’ll know whether you’ve moved yourself forward, held or lost ground, but then that was today, this day, and only this day. Tomorrow is a reset, with its own moments to seize and your next opportunity to make time for what truly matters most to you.

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