I collect minutes like stray pennies. I tuck them into my pockets, uncovering them every so often then tossing them away without a care. Because it’s just a penny, after all. One cent. One minute. Sixty little seconds. I forget they add up, slowly, when I’m not looking. I empty them into a jar without thinking, until one day I realize the jar is full. Not only with pennies. Sometimes there are nickels or dimes. Perhaps a quarter. If I really dig into the jar and spill the coins across my floor in a sea of forgotten moments that have piled up, a dollar bill might peek out at me. Like missing afternoons and lost weekends. Those months that fly by when I did nothing with them. I stack up my coins and imagine the places they could have taken me. With crossed legs and hopeful eyes, I consider them, taking each into my hand and feeling the weight of their possibilities. Then, carefully, I put them back into the jar one at a time, and seal it up as I slide it into the back of my closet.
They add up, the minutes. We don’t always see it, because there seems to be an endless supply. There are always more, always tomorrows and next years, and we tell ourselves we’ll be responsible with them then. We deal in “eventuallys” and “somedays” and forget that one day when we reach into our pocket for that stray penny, that extra minute, there will be none left to have. Time can run out and it can be wasted and we never notice until it is too late.
What do I spend my minutes on? My too short evenings? My rare days off? When I have hours to spare, what do I fill them with? Do I use them well? Or do I toss them aside with the belief I can fish them out again, like the shiny coin in the bottom of a fountain?
I hardly know any more. If I were to compose a list of the things that fill my days and nights, I wonder how many I could do without. The time I spend watching Netflix. The time I spend reading or writing. The time I spend wandering around Target. The time I spend on my phone. The time I spend texting. The time I spend napping. The time I spend up to my elbows in the causes that tug at my heart strings. The time I spend on Twitter or Instagram – refreshing and refreshing. The time I spend choosing 140 characters or just the right filter. The time I spend speaking with the one I love.
And what about the other things, the things I can’t really put my finger on. The time I spend worrying. The time I spend caring about those who don’t care about me. The time I spend full of love and passion. The time I spend torn up when the depression seeps in. The time I spend with tears threatening because my loved ones are broken. The time I spend happy and filled with joy. The time I spend waiting and hoping for the dreams that crawl through my fingertips.
Each one is a coin stacked up in front of me, littering the carpet with my almosts and maybes. They aren’t free; they cost me something. They are worth something. Do I see their worth?
There is a little question that runs through my mind every so often, spoken by someone I can no longer remember, that goes “Will this matter a year from now?” And it stops me short, because I don’t always know the answer.
In one year, when the chaos of now has faded into a collection of yesterdays, will this still matter? Will this person matter? This tweet? This worry-filled evening? This out-of-date piece of technology? Will this relationship or friendship mean in one year what it means today? Will the fear and the joy and broken pieces of today matter?
We fill our minutes with the little things that don’t matter, things that aren’t worth our peace of mind. We give them away, or lend them to our loved ones. We hoard them and we waste them. And perhaps we always will. Perhaps what seems worthy today won’t be worthy tomorrow and we’ll never learn the difference. Life is messy and we’ll always make mistakes, but sometimes we can try to be better. We can let go of the things that cost too much and invest in the things that are worth the price. We can collect each moment and know we used them well. We can look forward and know we deserve a life well lived. Because instead of imagining the things we could have done, we can live the things we dream about. We can pick up the shiny penny on the sidewalk and put it towards the secret desires of our heart.
So will this matter a year from now? Five years? Twenty? Will you look back and know it was worth the space it took in your heart and your life? Because if you can’t look back on this something without regrets in the future and believe it in the depths of your soul, can you say it deserves your present?