In our age of Twitter-shortened attention spans, time is precious and elusive. We just don’t have enough time. Yet we can’t say we don’t waste time.
Last week, when my mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, I was initiated into a world of people fighting for their lives. It was also the week an earthquake shook Christchurch. Everyday, there were media stories on the search for survivors.
At the hospital, my doctor friend asked one morning, “what do you do with your time?” He said, “I know how busy you are with your work. But what do you do with your time?”
The movie ‘127 Hours’ tells the story of Aron Ralston who had to self-amputate his arm. It is now a famous story about an adventurer’s fight to stay alive. In a lighter but no less serious note, I saw how much every American Idol contestant wanted a chance to stay in the competition. It is just a singing contest, but to them it is almost life and death.
Suddenly, there are two contrasting worlds – while some are fighting for their lives, others are wasting their lives. Do we all need a cancer wake-up call? A life and death crisis to start taking life seriously?
What gives us the motivation and energy to fight? To fight for our lives. Or what we want in life. Someone said what you do for work should be part-time and your life should be your full-time job.
This week, I had this thought. Our full-time job is to be happy!
We need a resolve to be happy. It is a new discipline and mindset change – we must want to be happy first! Then find the ways to stay happy.
Happy people will not remain unhappy. They don’t wait for that dream job, the ideal love or the desired status. They tirelessly seek ways to keep learning and growing as joyous beings.
To feel alive, to feel passionate, we need to exercise the choice to be happy. Unless we strive to be happy, we cannot account for what we do with our time.
The idea of being happy is suddenly not as abstract as we make it out to be. Happiness is worth fighting for. In sickness and in health. This fight is not about winning. The fight to be happy is happiness itself. My wish for my mother is – to keep up her fight to stay happy.
“Oh you only fight the fights you can win? You fight the fights that need fighting!”
– Martin Sheen in ‘The American President’
“Old age is not for sissies,” Brooke Astor had famously said. Looking at my mother, as long as we are alive, it is inexcusable not to be passionate about life, or not to strive for happiness.
I have a feeling my mother has enough fight left in her to enjoy the time she has. While watching ‘Under The Hawthorn Tree’, she slept in the cinema and woke up with a smile. At the Botanic Gardens, she took her time to take in the beauty of the outdoors. Looking at the sculpture of swans taking flight, time seemed to stop for her. It was picture perfect.
What do we do with our time?
“The first rule of life is to have a good time. There is no second rule.”
– Brendan Gill