Wasted Time

Keith Urban drives me crazy with all of his wasted time. I want to buy it back.  I know I had wasted time too but I at least regret it. At sixteen, time was tangible, staring, anticipated yet ticking unexpectedly by.  I didn’t feel time like I feel it now. It just was. I spent it. I almost always had purpose only because I had big goals. I experienced as much as I could in every day as I knew these experiences created parameters around my goals and gave me perspective for the next steps. I wanted to go somewhere, do something, be someone. There was a world to be discovered and I wanted to see it. Explore it. I wanted adventure!

Then I was robbed. Robbed of all that expectant time. Wheelchair life is the killer of so much time. My day to day living exhausts me. It’s my morning goal to make “getting ready” happen as fast as it can so living can begin. But sometimes getting ready and a load of laundry is pretty much all I can accomplish. It is my daily frustration and apparently, I voice this. I took Maxwell in for his fourteen year child check and the doctor asked, “Maxwell what do you wish?” Without a speck of hesitation, Maxwell responded, “Time. I don’t have enough time.” With awe, the doctor looked at me, open mouthed, for an explanation. I smiled and said, “I know doc. Seems to stare this family in the face. He gets it.” He gets it because, for fourteen years, he’s watched his disabled parents do what they could with what they had.  Sometimes that was quite simple, yet full of life and love. Sometimes, it was mundane yet necessary and meaningful. Sometimes it was cup runneth over joy because life is so much fun! He’s realized mundane life is a must and he, too, will spend precious time on the dull and practical. But he’s also realized extreme joy explodes when we’ve trudged through the mundane and somehow made it to the other side - with meaning. All of this full circle living is tangible, measurable yet, at the exact same fleeting moment it’s transitory presence leaves us spinning with questions of “how did I get here?”

In my crazy wheelchair life it’s ridiculous how much time I spend taking care of myself and my space. Yet, this ridiculousness won’t take care of itself so time is grudgingly spent on it. Want a peek into my wasted time? Here we go. I will forewarn you, this is also a rant.

Let’s start off down and dirty.  Did you know, about every three months, I have to dig and cut and claw all of the hair and strings that have collected in my caster wheels?  Not even kidding.  Gross?  Absolutely. Necessary? Just as absolutely.  I loathe this job.  I take a seam ripper that was specifically bought for this task and cut away all of the crap that has accumulated in my wheels.  Yes, this is not only my hair but others’ as well. Don’t even react. Breathe deep. It just is. I only do it after my wheels no longer turn and I feel as if I’m trying to push 300 pounds over carpet. I’m sliding. So I dig and then I DW-40. In fact, living in Minnesota with sand, salt, and wet nine months of the year, DW-40 has a spot in the front hall right inside the door. It gets used often.

Let’s talk about going to the bathroom.  I’ll save you most of the details but aging has apparently shrunk my bladder. Taking five minutes to go to the bathroom thirty times a day is annoying. Totally exaggerating but we’re going by what it feels like.  Not only that, more than a billion times, I’ve been in the stall and the woman beside me streams a couple gallons in rapid fire speed and is outta there while I’m still stranded making sure my chair is lined up, my brakes are on, so as not to bite it when I transfer. How do these people exist?! I’m wide eyed, lip curled and so incredibly jealous of other people’s bladders. ...Count your blessings, name them one by one… count your blessings, see what God has done...

How about the simple act of taking care of myself.  Taking a shower and getting dressed takes twice as long as an abled bodied person. If you want a demonstration, sit on a kitchen chair and put on your jeans sitting down and only using your arms. Forever.  Which is also why I don’t “do” my hair. It’s wash, add some leave in conditioner, maybe a pin or hat and go. Who has time? When I think I have time and I straighten my hair, the entire time, I’m thinking, what IN THE WORLD?! I am spending twenty minutes doing something that sets me closer to the fashion track, yet I’m still not quite there. TWENTY minutes. I just spent LIFE doing my hair when curly is how God made it.

What else? Let’s talk about picking something up off the floor.  Let’s say, a raw meatball that has somehow rolled off the cutting board and under the toe kick of the kitchen counter.  Happens all the time. And I roll my eyes pretty much every time.  Now see, since surgery I can only pick things up off the floor from leaning forward and to the right. Any other attempt will for sure send me spilled out onto the floor because of my rigidity. So my meatball cannot just wistfully be swept up and thrown.  Oh no. I tell the dog to stay a thousand times because apparently “stay” is an option in her Beagle mind, not a command. I wash my hands so as not to spread salmonella onto my wheels and thus all over the house, then maneuver my wheelchair so my right toe is close to the meatball.  I put on my breaks and finally, I can bend down, pick it up, say “all free” to the dog who will always lick the litter free floor in hopes of a morsel, throw it away and proceed to wash my hands again because I just touched raw meat and cannot wheel for fear of sickness. Breathe… I just picked up ONE thing.  It all takes a guttural forever. And I’m blaringly aware of the time that just took. Absolutely can drive me batty. And, this was actually pretty simple in my world. Imagine spilling sticky lemonade all over myself and/or my wheelchair. I can’t even describe. ...Count your blessings...

Talking on the phone. You phone people. Ah! Let me draw you a picture. I need both hands to wheel my chair, lest I go in circles. To talk on the phone requires one of two things.  One, for me to completely stop what I’m doing, sit at the table, stare at the wall and talk.  I don’t have time for this. My chair has already stolen any extra time I thought I had. I need to make up for lost time, not lose more. I need to do two things at once.  Not only that, sitting talking on the phone gives my arthritic elbows a reason to scream.  Yes, I am that old. OR, attempt to wheel around the house with the phone cricked in my neck which will either cramp my muscles and give me a headache or hang up on you. Also, not a stellar choice. So, I OFTEN don’t answer the phone.  I’m not being rude. I’m just carefully choosing how my minutes are spent. Therefore, if I’m engaged in conversation with you, with no physical productivity, that’s ALL I want to do. Invest my heart, words and attention into this precious soul. No distractions. My time with you in intentional and I’m all in. I’m highly relational and I adore my people... just not over the phone.

Food. I spend probably two hours every day making dinner. This would not take an able bodied person near as long as it takes me. So, this is a conscious decision to invest my elusive time into feeding my family. And it is worthy of my attention. To describe how I navigate my kitchen would take a novel so trust me, it’s unceasing movement.  But, in this task, I have no complaints. I have a high maintenance eating family. It’s my own fault, I know.  They like an absurd variety of ethnic choices, with at least three things to put on their plate. Bless them. I do enjoy cooking, and if I’m making meals every night, I want them inviting and colorful and delicious. Both of my children can be bought with food so I gladly put forth effort and hours into buying them coming back. I wholeheartedly speak their language, of comfort, filling foods. We dream, think, and debate around the dinner table. Great discussions are had while eating their choice foods and they will come back because of it. This is worth all of my devoted dinner making time.

Ah! Maybe I should also mention flat tires - on my wheelchair, not the car - that need to be changed, and brakes that need to be readjusted, and parts that need to be ordered.  Or how about the fact that my knees and hips are in a ninety degree angle fifteen to eighteen hours a day creating a muscle memory not in my favor. Answer: stretching. Twice a day. I’m also required to do shoulder strengthening so as not to tear anything shoulder related, specifically the rotator cuff.  Surgery on a rotator cuff would land me in a nursing home, completely dependent for three to six months. Maintenance is now necessary.

I say all of this and yet, it’s still relative, right? It’s not like my wheelchair life has given me choices around how I spend much of my time but even so, it just might be the most creatively spent time in the grace of which it’s lived out.  It is all still spent by me and it’s still expensive. My voluntary and involuntary events are still pounding out a life. Breathing. Laughing. Crying. Wishing. Praying. My position is prearranged but what I do now is determine. Determine attitude, reaction, planning, love.  What am I going to choose for my attitude when I’m cleaning globs of hair out of my caster wheels? How can I make this worth my fleeting time? This is what I do.  Because I am forever amazed at the complexity of people and cultures, I listen to a TedTalk or a sermon. Give me stimulating, other worldness that takes me out of this confinement. I still want to explore. When I’m waiting for the one elevator that serves the entire mall, I adore the sweet babies tired mamas are dragging around on their errands.  Mama’s are strong and babies are beautiful.  I acknowledge them and build life into their day. This will only serve as love. What comes from love? Good. Good comes from love. And good will be passed on. This is not time wasted.

Attitude. I’m always choosing my attitude and it is in my attitude that my story is lived out. Attitude gives me freedom. Gives me purpose. Gives me moments spent with quality. My life is always my life, with its issues and have tos. I will always have the mundane, and this alone is sad. But my life is always my life, with its influences and hopes. Adding purpose to my mundane gives me space to actually be alive. I spend freely and conservatively. But I am not a victim to time. We all are owners of time. My choices with time create - ugly and beautiful. And the sum of my creations will always equal the whole of what you see. We all have these time moments that add to the whole story. Just maybe colored a bit differently. Feel them. Get creative. Purpose them. They are ours to consume. And then they are history.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” Henry David Thoreau

Psalm 90:4 “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

First published on http://choose-presence.blogspot.com