Like most people who are on the “wrong side of fifty,” I’ve reached a stage in my life where time has become a precious thing. I know that I have more years behind me that I do ahead of me, which means I have to be more intentional about how I use the time I have left. And this time of year, with its ever-shortening days, can make it particularly hard to find time for all the extra activities that Christmas brings for those of us who celebrate it. I love all the baking, wrapping, decorating and parties that Christmas brings, but I really wish it came with a few extra hours each day just to deal with it all.
Since I have yet to figure out a way to find those extra hours, I try very hard to use the time I do have wisely. When I was young enough to believe I had all the time in the world, I didn’t think twice about taking on new commitments, but now I do. It may have taken me a few decades, but I have finally figured out that when I’m over-committed, I am also frazzled and cranky, and not pleasant company at all (just ask my husband). The key, I think, is to keep a clear set of priorities in my head of what is necessary, what is important, and what is just plain fun. Because if something I am being asked to do doesn’t fit into one of those three categories, then what’s the point of doing it?
The necessities are pretty much the same for most people, as they are the things that keep us going and our households running. What’s important to us and what is fun for us is much more individual, and requires some thought. For me, it’s important to spend time with the people I care about, to help others in need whenever I am able, to use the few talents I have been given, and to always find a way to be creative. My definition of fun changes as I age, but I still know fun when I see it, and sometimes what is important is also fun.
Last night I was lucky enough to spend time with my family walking around the “Garden Glow” at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was an almost magical experience with the beautiful music playing as we walked among the gorgeous lights, stopping now and then to take some family photos. Sure it was the weekend before Christmas and all of us had a long list of things we still need to do, but this was more important, and more fun, than wrapping the rest of the gifts, etc. It was time well spent, no matter how I looked at it.
There are times when I find the shorter days of early winter a bit depressing, and the chaos of the holiday season a little overwhelming. But then I realize that those things can also be a gift, because they help me remember that I must always be careful to choose how I spend the time I still have, and how important it is that I always choose wisely.