Time doesn’t measure itself. We turn for the breadth of a second and suddenly a new year is around the corner, our resolutions once again overlooked, our skeletons still in the proverbial closet. It’s hard to believe that winter is already rolling in fast, and we have scarecely had a chance to experience fall. I’m willing to guess that even the trees (which should be used to nature’s clockwork by now) have been taken by surprise. The gold and red and yellow tints of their leaves have faded to a depressing brown, and the squirrels are busy darting from tree to tree, collecting their acorn stash.
We can’t do anything to stop time, no matter how often we “turn back the clock” during Daylight Savings. Time is the elephant in the room everyone goes out of their way to avoid, in an effort to try and sneak out the door without waking the beast. Time is the factor than no one dares to factor in, the element working against us even when it seems as though it’s on our side. The catch, of course, is that there’s nothing we can do to outrun it. It’s constantly there, standing over our shoulders and breathing its seconds and minutes and hours down our necks. Mastering time means finding that thing, that one thing, that makes it worth the effort. If we find what it is that makes us happy, that puts us in our element, then time becomes an aspect of our lives that we forget—just as we forget about the nights of our childhood when we insisted that our mother stay with us until we fell asleep, or the way we used to sit with our grandfather and watch the sun set over the river, witnessing the melting of colors in a pool of translucent reflections.
Forgetting that time lingers forever over life’s shoulder doesn’t guarantee that we will put our best efforts into our work. In order to create the best possible version of our stories, our paintings, our sculptures, our research—whatever it may be that makes us feel like we have a purpose in this world—we need to follow in the footsteps of perseverance. No task is more difficult than convincing ourselves that we must keep pushing, keep writing, keep painting. Or, as Ron Carlson put it, in the case of the writer: “You have to stay in the room.” Leaving the keyboard, telling yourself that you’re just going to get another cup of coffee and be right back, is the easy (the coward’s) way out. Staying in front of that screen, typing away even when your fingers feel like they’re going to fall off–that takes discipline. Unconsciously, we feel that we’re fighting against a silent enemy, a formidable element that will try to crush our efforts. Without giving it a name, (because that would mean addressing its presence) we know that time is there, so we push through, and we write, and we paint, and we sculpt, and we research, not paying any attention to the clocks that read things like 3 am because time, after all, is irrelevant.