Counting Up?

Is this hourglass counting up or counting down?

Season 15: 2017-2018
10X50m kicks
1:00

These were the notations written on the whiteboard at the swimming pool this morning.  So many things to count. The number of seasons, the years, the length of the pool, the repetitions, and the minutes. It made me think.

Why do we count everything?

It hit me hard.

Probably because lately I’ve been doing a lot of counting. I’m counting every day right now. I’ve been counting my last of everything at my current job. Every meeting gets harder. Every minute is bittersweet. I’m having trouble choking down the tears and staying in good spirits, while simultaneously telling everybody how awesome things are going to be without me. Telling them how excited I am for the great opportunities my leaving provides.

Yep. I’m counting.  I’m also counting the impossible number of hours of work I have left to transition my job. But why? Why so much counting?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we always have to know how much longer…how much more….how much further? Why do we encourage each other by saying, “make it count”?

Just maybe the counting comes from our desire for control and the counting helps us govern our own little worlds because, on a grander scale, we know we live in a world in which we have no control.

And why does most of our counting feel like a countdown…. number of dollars left in the budget….  number of laps left to go ….number of days left to live? Why do we always seem to count down? Why don’t we count up?

When I count up and not down, I am never done. There is always another lap to swim, another race to run, another skill to learn, another friend to meet, another day to embrace.

But, today counting up seems out of reach. I’m still stuck here counting down… desperately wishing I didn’t have to count at all.

My Life as a Web Page

What if my life was a web page?  By day I am a web strategist …so of course it got me thinking. What if my life was represented on a home page? Would it be a good design?

First, you might ask, what makes a good design? There is no perfect answer to this question. It depends on the purpose of the site. There are visual design principles one might typically want to apply. Use of negative space, or white space, is one, for example. It adds balance to the page.

Web pages are built on grids. So I started with a 16-column grid and separated it into boxes to represent hours in a day.  If I were to represent my average day, how would it look? I figured out the areas of my life where I invest my time each day and laid it out on the grid to represent the hours spent.

Then I added some visuals to represent the activities that occur in those boxes.

Did this make a good life home page? It’s not bad, I suppose. I have a lot of boxes, so that means I have some variety in my life, but do I like the size of them?

What I noticed was pretty obvious. The very small 15 minutes worth of nothing—the white space.  These are super rare minutes in my life, but I know what they are. Sometimes they are the  minutes when I contemplate life before my eyes shut for the night. The minutes I spend writing a blog or sketching. Sometimes it is the minutes in my car—purposely sitting —not getting out quite yet. Or excusing myself from my office and sitting in the “quiet room” at work just trying to breathe for a few minutes where no one can see me. White space. And looking at this page, I think more of it might be needed. The activities of the white space get relegated to the footer of my life page, the less used but persistent “links” of my life – the soul time where I can create things, walk in nature, or just be.

Unfortunately, I can’t stretch the page like I can in the digital world and and make more time and create more white space. I must make one box smaller to make another bigger. I’m pretty sure I’ve pushed sleep to my limit at this point in my life. So that leaves the rest to try to jiggle around.

Granted these boxes aren’t perfectly labeled. Life isn’t this segmented. The Learn box could sometimes be labeled Play.  It just depends on the day. And I do Learn at Work sometimes, or Work when I Give. But generally speaking, the time averages are about the right size and I’m not sure I like what I see. The Work box is a tricky one. It’s not really an option to eliminate it, but change it….possibly…. dare I say….shrink it?  Yes. This could be considered. Do I need different boxes than the ones I have here? Does this design communicate my purpose? Does it say who I am or who I want to be? These are the questions I must ask myself.

That’s what the new year is for, right? To evaluate. Some of these frames are in need of growing and others in need of shrinking and I’m determined to find ways to do a little website redesign of my own in 2018.

Stopping Time…or Not

earth

How on Earth can I get more time?

Today I woke up and wished time would stop. I need more time. Time for important things…like family and friends and healing and hiking and cycling and skiing and fixing things at home and petting puppies. Help! Can’t time just stop for a minute!

That led my mind immediately to the Earth’s rotation. What if the Earth stopped rotating and I, in turn, was gifted with a very, very long day. Wiping the sleep from my eyes I acknowledged this would change how we measure time, but it wouldn’t actually stop time. Darn. Plus I soon realized that if the Earth stopped rotating, I’d be dead. Like really dead. Like immediately dead. Like really immediately dead. Let me explain.

If the Earth suddenly stopped rotating and the day froze in place, everything that was not part of the Earth’s core would go flying off the Earth–trees, dogs, cats, buildings…oh and people. Whoosh! Like when your bicycle hits a curb and the force of the abrupt stop sends you over the handlebars. And that’s not all. Once we were all whisked into the atmosphere, we couldn’t even enjoy the fact that all the water would go toward the poles–two Arctic Oceans and one big swatch of land now ringing the equator like a belt. And just like that we kiss the concept of sea level goodbye.

As I turned off the alarm going off in my ear, I had another foggy thought. What if we just reversed the rotation of the Earth (magically, of course, to avoid the flinging of all things from the surface)? What would happen then? For starters, I guess the sun would set in the East and rise in the West. My back porch would be too hot in the summer. Bummer. And the climate would change. Florida might be more like California and vice versa. And all the storms would reverse direction.  Plus, it wouldn’t really make time go backward. And 99.9% of physicists agree, you can’t unscramble an egg once it is broken. There’s no going back. Darn. Foiled again.

I drug my tired, sore body out of bed and began to plan again how to use what time I have. Time I think I have, that is. We really don’t know the end of our timelines, do we? Time is  something I needed to ponder another day…too complicated. Feels like an infographic I need to create. Maybe tomorrow…if there’s time.

Controlling Time

young-family-pic

When I was little time moved at a snail’s pace, but it must have been racing by for my parents.

Tonight at dinner my 21-year-old son started to say words adult’s say. “How did it get this late? How did time suddenly change speeds? How is my cousin now married? How is time moving faster now?”

It made me both giggle and sigh. I felt bad for him. He is hitting the part of life where life is fast. And it made me wonder why. Why is life slow as a child, fast as an adult, and slow again when you are old?  First, I thought, that’s easy…it’s because we are ridiculously busy when we are adults. But then I thought, no, busyness has nothing to do with it. It is all about control.

When we are kids, our parents, teachers and pretty much everyone else control our lives. We don’t get to decide, not really. It’s why it takes so long for Christmas or our birthdays to come. We have to wait a long time to actually get something we want…something we hope for…and even then it doesn’t always work out the way we expected. We wait. We wait for a small piece of control—asking for something and then, if we are lucky, getting it—finally.

When we hit the adult world it is a sudden jolt. Suddenly we make all the decisions. We are in control of everything and we make a thousand decisions a day. Small ones, like breakfast. Big ones, like marriage. And with our hands on the controls of our own lives there are more decisions than time. It is probably why time in jail seems so long (I’m assuming, of course). Loss of control equals the slowing down of time.

So here’s the question. Is there something we can do to slow down time without losing control?

Vacation? That works sometimes when we give up some of the control to the housekeeping staff or the taxi driver. Or maybe those rare occasions we refuse to make decisions and spend some quiet time with our thoughts…but not thoughts about what we are going to do or need to do.

It just seems like it is hard to find the balance between control and loss of control—each of which is both a prison and a paradise.