At the end of each year, I often think of the mad rush that was the previous year. Did all of those individual days add up to something worthwhile? Am I a better person after another year, or just a slightly different one? Was this a good year overall, or a bad one? And most important, what can I do to make next year a happy and productive one?
Despite my well-meaning attempts at organizing my time, I still often feel like George Villiers, an English duke in the 17th Century who said, "Methinks I see the wanton hours flee, and, as they pass, turn back and laugh at me."
The quilted Christmas tree skirt that I started in September is sitting, unfinished, in my bedroom closet. (Maybe next Christmas.) I need to organize my magazine and newspaper clippings, some yellow and brittle with age, and piled in a confusing jumble. I need to do my nails.
These are the things I don't have time for. Every day is a juggling act, balancing work, children, husband, doctors' appointments, endless loads of laundry, and numerous phone calls.
Nearly everyone has the same complaint: "If only I had more time. There just aren't enough hours in the day." (I have a feeling that even if we did have more hours in each day, we would all be just as busy as we are right now.)
Our lives are already geared toward saving time. We start the day with Instant Breakfast and a vitamin, and zoom off down the freeway on the fast track to success.
We wolf down a carton of yogurt for lunch, and even fit in an exercise program like, "Thin Thighs in 30 Seconds."
The rest of the day we synchronize the schedules of other family members with the precision of an Army efficiency expert.
Then, ZAP . . . frozen dinner, into the microwave and on the table in 15 minutes. Later we can watch something we taped on the VCR, cutting through the commercials to save time.
What I usually remember most vividly, when recounting the year's occurrences, are not those daily, frenzied blurs of activity. Rather, I am filled with pleasure at the stolen hours, the lazy hours of time spent with loved ones.
I recall a rainy fall evening last year when I felt overburdened with work, and my two small children were underfoot and demanding my attention. Things were reaching a peak when the phone rang.
The call was about a good friend who had just had her first baby that week. The caller said the baby had had several complications the last few days and that the new parents were spending 24 anxious hours a day at the hospital.
I looked at my two healthy children, dropped everything I was doing, sat down in the middle of the living room floor and played whatever they wanted for the next few hours. We had lots of extra time for cuddling and laughing, even though the laundry stayed in the dryer for two nights, and we had frozen pizza for dinner.
One horrible weekend in June, when everyone was feeling particularly stressed-out, my husband and I realized we were scheduled to run in a 5-K on Saturday morning, attend a wedding reception at 1 p.m., and dine out at a fund-raiser the same evening. Sunday was also booked with various obligations.
So we did what any smart couple about to buckle under pressure would do--we went fishing with the kids. We sat in the summer sun, and fished, and read, and talked, and napped, and talked, and ate junk food and talked some more.
We all know Benjamin Franklin was wise and accomplished great things in his lifetime. His thoughts on the passage of time: "Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time; for that's the stuff life is made of." Or, "Lost time is never found again."
Experts on time management agree that goals are achieved, and time better organized, when we write things down. So there is a good reason to ponder and commit to those New Year's Resolutions.
But before you get hooked on the important resolutions such as . . .
--I will have all my children's Halloween costumes ready by Oct. 26.
--I will learn to make bread in my Cuisinart.
--I will read each magazine I subscribe to the same month I receive it, and if not, throw it away.
--I will floss my teeth more often than the night before I get my teeth cleaned.
--I will look great in a bathing suit this summer.
. . . think instead of some other resolutions for the New Year:
--I am not perfect, but I'm trying to get better.
--I need some time for myself every day.
--I have been blessed with good fortune, and I will do something to help someone in need.
--I will try to show my family how much I love them every day of my life.
--I will try to keep in touch with my relatives and friends, and keep them as close to my life as I can.
--I will stop and smell the roses, and carry the fragrant scent in my memory to lift me up when I'm down.
--I will finish that Christmas tree skirt.