Stealing Back Time

Not too long ago, I told you that time was like money, and that you should spend it wisely. And that’s still true. You should definitely think carefully about your priorities and how you will budget your weekend. But what about the moments when your time is abruptly taken from you? What about the moments you’re late or made to wait? Those moments are lost to you, and you wish you could get them back.

Well, lucky for you, I know how to do it. I know how to steal back time:

Read.

Yup, it’s that simple. Reading will allow you to fill your head with knowledge and fill the gaps of empty space in your day with productivity.

Take today for example. I cross a bridge to get to and from work, and when I’m really lucky, the bridge goes up, and I have to wait behind rows and rows of brake lights for it to go down again (usually about 15 to 20 minutes). Before, I would blast the radio and the A/C or heat to drown out the fact that I was going to be uncomfortably stuck in my car for a while. But recently, I’ve started to jam the car into “park” and whip out a novel while I’m waiting.

Gone are the moments where I’m staring mindlessly at someone’s back bumper. Instead, I’m gently cradled in a world of fantasy, with my eye carefully trained for movement in front of me. I’m actually excited when the bridge goes up now because I can take a few moments to get a couple of pages in. And as you can imagine, my ride home is a lot less stressful because I’m no longer wishing I were somewhere else.

Why does this work? Because a story, a magazine, a newspaper, or even a comic is easy to pull out in those dull periods of time during your day. It’s sort of like splashing water on your face: it rejuvenates you for your next task by creating a smoother transition: something to something, instead of nothing to something.

And I do this all of the time. I read at night, I read in the day. I even read and walk. I’m all like, Just walking? Pfft! BORING! SNORE! Let’s raise the difficulty level a bit!

Have I tripped occasionally? Sure! Do trees slap me in the face a couple of times a week? You betcha! Do I pull beetles out of my hair from walking to closely to branches? Hundreds of times! But I’m getting a full ROI on the time I spend when I have nothing else to do.

I mean, the fact that life is always going to give you something to wait for is a given. There will always be those quiet times where nothing is really coming and nothing is really going. And of course, there are always going to be times when you feel you could be more productive. But you don’t have to feel like your time is wasting away. Reading is, and always will be, the perfect solution for stealing it back, moment by moment, page by page.

The Sloths Are Never Wrong

In terms of what planet Earth has to offer, the human race isn’t exactly the star attraction. We aren’t the biggest (blue whales), the fastest (cheetahs), or even the laziest (sloths. But Americans are a close second.) And to top it all off, we are literally killing and destroying our planet.

So, what are humans good at? What have we evolved from monkeys and small amoeba to do? What does evolution have in store for us? Like, if Darwin wanted to win an award for best example of evolution, how would he market us? What would his tri-fold poster look like at the science fair?

Well, let’s see. We’re definitely good at war. We like to fight and dominate and oh yeah, kill. (No wonder “alien” races from outer space stay away!) But so do monkeys. So, that’s not exclusive to us. And we can speak. We have hundreds of thousands of dialects and even more slang words. But any dog can recognize a command in our native tongue, even if it’s just because our voices get a wee bit higher when we speak to them. Okay, then. Okay… a talent, a talent, a talent…well, we invented naps, didn’t we? Nope, it was the sloths again. Rats! (Yup, they even helped us to understand modern medicine with that whole plague fiasco. We really have nothing.)

But the thing is, we do. Humans are great at…adapting. And sure, we can’t change colors, shed our skin, or change our sex automatically (we’re still having a lot of trouble with that one, even though approximately half the animal population can do it, and 100% of the animal population is fine with the fact that the other half are able to do it), but we are good at keeping on.

We can get beat down and get right back up. We can have a complete meltdown that we don’t talk about ever again, but somehow, we are still whole at the end of the day. Somehow, we’re the only animal that experiences intense emotional trauma that we inflict on ourselves. And truly, we’ve made it through some of the worst phyiscal tragedies known to this planet. (Granted, we also brought those on ourselves, but you get it.)

So, don’t worry about the next time that you mess up or you didn’t get what you wanted. Because you are absolutely going to be fine. Actually, you were built for it. You evolved to overcome it all. And if that knowledge still doesn’t work for you? Take a nap. The sloths are never wrong.

When Life Catches Up with You

Everyone vaguely knows of the possibility of parallel universes. (Basically, parallel versions of our selves [based on the decisions we’ve made] are living parallel versions of our lives.) So, that one time when you zigged instead of zagged? There’s a version of yourself out there that is actually living the life in which you zagged instead of zigged, and so on.

And if that’s possible, I think it’s also possible that once in awhile, your life matches up with a parallel life, which no longer becomes parallel, and so becomes your exact life. (Still following?)

I also have another theory. I believe that sometimes you’re let in on the secret. Sometimes, you get signs that you’ve linked up with one of your parallel lives and are actually on the path that you’re “meant” to be on.

In general, these “signs” go by many names. Maybe just coincidences, as I’ve discussed. And maybe in the form of deja vu, when you feel as though you’ve been some place before, but can’t remember any of the exact details of it. In these terms, I think perhaps your parallel self has been there, and you are just sort of “lapping” him or her, so to speak.

But I think when it gets really weird for me is when I’m paying close attention to it.

So, picture me going about my daily life. And since I am not Hermione Granger, I don’t know everything about everything. In some cases, I learn about things that I’ve never even heard of before while out and about.

It happens like this: Let’s say for example that I’ve been living under a rock and I didn’t know what an armadillo was. And so all of the sudden I’m reading a book, playing a game of trivia, or listening to a song, and the idea of an armadillo comes up. (And remember, before this moment, armadillos were completely unknown to me and this is the first that I’m hearing about them.) Well, doesn’t it beat all when the anchorman on the news reports on a feature story about armadillos that night? It’s as if something that I’ve never even knew existed is suddenly so prevalent in my life that I can’t walk a straight line without noticing it. But you are probably saying, “Coincidence, right?”

Yeah, it could be just a coincidence if it didn’t happen so often. Just last week I noticed different ideas and concepts that I had never heard before in my life suddenly reappear in Jeopardy!, the news, in the book I was reading, and in a song I was listening to. It seems the universe wants to beat me over the head with something.

And my guess is that it’s just me catching up with…me. My life catching up with another life, perhaps the one I’m supposed to live. It’s as if to say, knew she’d learn about armadillos eventually, and now she has. 

Because that’s what it is, for me. It’s reassurances that I’m on the right path. It’s like when an actor or actress hits their mark perfectly from the script. It’s more evidence that there is a plan (made by someone, made by the universe, made by stardust, made by no one), and it may not be completely fixed, but there are checkpoints I can get to. And when I get to them, I can be confident that I don’t have to worry that I’ve been making the wrong choices.

Somehow, I’ll know that life was walking beside me all along.

Can You Give Me Directions to…?

Here’s a tip: If you see me walking down the street, and you are lost, don’t ask me for directions because that will make two of us. I seriously couldn’t direct you out of a paper bag if all but one side were sealed. In fact, I would probably point you in the direction you came from and ask if you’ve tried “that way” yet.

Honestly, I think it’s something about the spatial reasoning of it all. I know people who are good at Geometry who can sort of visualize the shapes in their head, but I can hardly pick a square from a rectangle, let alone tell you where to go when there’s a fork in the road.

And as irony would have it, time and time again, I find myself walking around my complex at work and being stopped by people that ask me for directions to offices that I either don’t know where they are or I know exactly where they are and I can’t explain how to get there. (Uhm, did you try going around the circle and then taking a left after you’ve gone around twice?) And do you know what happens as soon as I walk away from their car? I know exactly how to get to their destination, and I also know the easiest, fastest way to do it. (I must be the only person on this planet that can lose someone by trying to help them.)

This is a frustrating experience for everyone involved, and I used to feel really bad about it. Until I realized that giving directions is a lot like giving advice. You have to tell someone where to go without having the same experiences or knowledge as them. So, you try to relate what you’ve gone through, how you’ve gotten there, and how if they do blank and blank, they’ll arrive there, too. (Not to mention that you may not be telling them the fastest or best way, but it’s what you know.)

And even when they ignore you and your advice in favor of their own ideas and experiences, you still feel somehow responsible for steering them wrong. Almost as if you weren’t communicating clearly enough, almost as if your path was wrong, too.

But that’s not true at all. Because from the very beginning, that person was going to do what he or she thought was best to do, no matter if they had your blessing in the form of advice or not. If he or she was driving down a road that didn’t “look” right to them, they would take it upon themselves to try a different path, which would invalidate your “directions” entirely.

You are no more liable for someone not following your advice as you are for someone following it. In the end, it is entirely up to them in terms of what they do with your information, just like when you give someone directions. You can give them step by step diagrams, and it’s possible that it still isn’t going to bring them to their destination.

Now, if you’re thinking that this has been one thought-provoking conversation after a couple of people asked you for directions, Bailey, then you’d be right.

But I think there’s a real take-away here. It’s time to de-emphasize giving advice in favor of encouraging people to follow their hearts and seek their own truths.

Okay, okay, following your heart won’t get you to the mall, but it does work anywhere else a GPS is not required.

Writing Dail(e)y

Do you know why I started this blog?

That’s a trick question, by the way. Because I’m not even really sure why I started it. I mean, I knew I wanted to write more. And since I had the misfortune to not have a name that rhymed with something like “monthly” or “annually,” I suddenly found myself writing “daily” or “dailey,” as I like to say. Now that I have been blogging quite regularly, I’ve amassed a lot of posts, and of course, I’m proud of them.

But I can’t help but realize how ephemeral it all is.

For example, the entire structure of this blog is that I write something daily. So, after 24 hours is up, that particular post goes on to live the rest of its sad life in an archive. No more interaction or friendly banter in the comments. Heck, even forget about what I wrote.

And don’t get me started on the idea of a blog itself. What happens in about 5 years when blogging is obsolete and goes the way of most technological formats? Will I have to update my blog on a hologram soon? Will I have to print my blogs out and put them in photo albums for my kids so that I can reminisce about the good old days when you actually had to fly to different places in planes rather than teleport there? Will I suddenly be claiming that I had to walk to school, which was up a hill, both ways?

Of course, these are all my thoughts when I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Which is about every night around 10 PM, when I’m scratching my head, trying to think of something to fill the page with and only coming up with goose egg.

And at the same time that I finally get some inspiration is when I realize how completely magical this blog can be. I’m interacting with complete strangers (and mostly my mom) where once a day we both see eye to eye about something. That’s what hitting the “like” button does. It sends a message to me that essentially says, Yes, Bailey. You’ve hit a nerve in the human condition, and I need to recognize that. And for me? There’s no better compliment for what I do.

In the end, this blog doesn’t need to represent my legacy. It simply needs to connect me with one person in one 24-hour period to be successful.

Because our lives are not years, months, weeks, or even days, added altogether. They are moments and memories subtracted out and strung along. And while this blog may not be around for me to flip through like an old photo album someday, it still helps me to remember my moments in vivid (and sometimes nauseating) detail right now. And so a day or an experience is etched in my mind purely through the act of writing about it. And those tiny, precious moments will be my legacy someday.

I can’t thank you all enough for being a part of it.

Music I Grew Up On

What do Shakira, Avril Lavigne, and Alanis Morrisette have in common?

They’ve all been on my Ipod since around the 7th grade. And even though my headphones have changed (drastically), I am still listening to them and relating to them, on some level. Sort of.

Like, take today, for instance. I guess I really wanted to take a trip down memory lane because I turned on some Avril Lavigne. Way before her marriage to Sum41 band member or Nickelback frontman. I went back all the way to her first album “Let Go” and even her second album “Under My Skin.”

And at first I laughed hysterically at the fact that I remembered all of the words and where I was when I was belting them out about 10 years ago.

But especially while listening to “Under My Skin,” I was cringing too. Because a lot of the lyrics were really dark and angsty.

And I get it, teenagers sort of have that reputation, and I was a great sample representative of that stereotype, but I was simply relieved to realize that I no longer had those feelings anymore when I listened to the album today. I mean, I could definitely recognize what it felt like to feel like that. I could definitely remember why I could relate to what she was saying at some point in my life. But not anymore.

And sure, Avril definitely raised me. So, did Alanis. And Shakira. And certainly, Amy Lee from Evanescence, now that I think of it. These women raised me to grow up to become this really sassy, still angsty, dancey woman through their heartfelt lyrics and iconic tracks.

But now? I don’t have to listen to that music to feel like my feelings are being validated. And I think that’s maturity at work. Being able to listen to a song without feeling like someone stole my personal diary and is singing my feelings is a tremendous step in the right direction toward adulthood. (But that certainly doesn’t mean I can’t sink into a bubbling bath of pity every now and again by pressing play.)

The point is now I can start focusing on what I want to say instead of someone else singing it through my speakers. But the music I grew up on certainly gave me the courage to say it in the first place.

Life is a Currency

Did you ever notice that no one really knows what to do with life? Everyone wants to find the meaning of it. Everyone wants to know its secrets. Everyone wants to “live” it. But no one knows how.

So, we spend our whole lives trying to puzzle out…our lives. Who are we supposed to be, and what are we meant to do, and how much time are we meant to do it in. Questions, questions, questions. And yet the core question of our lives, especially when we’re in our mid-twenties, is what are we put on this Earth to do. What are we supposed to do with the time that we are given?

But I think a better question is how do you want to spend your life? 

Because everything is always so much simpler when you talk about it in terms of money (especially math, but this whole metaphor thing works, too).

So, think about life like it’s a crumpled dollar in your pocket. Think of it like it’s that last couple of pennies that you found in between the cushions in your couch. Think about life like it’s the money in your savings account that you’ve been hoarding since middle school. It’s exactly the same.

There will be times in your life when you’ll have to spend money on things that you’d prefer not to spend it on (baby showers, bridal showers, bills). And at the same time, you’ll have to spend time in life on things you’d also prefer not to spend time on (baby showers, bridal showers, bills).

And then, there will be moments that you don’t have enough money (or time) to do the things you want to do, but you’ll do them anyway, because you know that you are short on both but that these moments are important.

And in very rare times, you will be able to buy and spend the money and time that you want to, with even more fantastic results.

By viewing life this way, you suddenly take the pressure off yourself. Sure, sometimes it can be hard to know how to spend your money, and a lot of the time, you’ll get it wrong. (Why did I go to the store to buy salad ingredients and come back with French Toast Crunch?) just like (Why did I hang out with that group of friends because they left me drunk at the bar without money or a taxi?) But that’s life, too. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re, quite literally, going to pay for it.

The point is that if you treat life as you would your own money, you’ll find it to be a lot more precious and priceless than if you treated it as one big problem to be solved for x. It’s not necessary to have all the answers. All you have to do is spend your time (and money) wisely.

Finding Peace

If I told you that peace can be found in a quiet room, between a stack of books at a library, in a sunlit copse of trees, on a boat in the middle of the ocean, or perhaps even in the smell of lavender or coffee, you would probably believe me, right?

Because in our minds, these are peaceful things. They seem to invite us in, they are quiet and comforting, and, whether we realize it or not, we expect them to grant their effects instantaneously. For example, wrapping your hands around a warm mug of coffee on an autumn day with the steam rising in your face is going to immediately transport you into a relaxed, if not comatose, state, is it not?

But unfortunately, peace can’t be found in a thing. It can only be found within you.

How do I know this? Well, as you know, I’m struggling to keep my blood pressure down, and one of the biggest problems I have is that I keep thinking about how high my blood pressure is. Which, as you could have guessed, raises it further (maybe if I stop talking about it every night on this blog I would see a difference?)

And if you’ve ever been told not to think about something, then I don’t have to tell you that it’s all you think about. So, knowing that I simply need to calm down and stop dwelling are two different tasks. But nonetheless, I’ve attempted to seek peace to lower my BP. I’ve hummed my favorite songs, counted my breaths, and even tried yoga positions in the shower, to no avail. I keep telling myself, All you have to do is calm down. That’s it. If you just relax, you won’t have to feel this way anymore. 

Which is all fine and good. Except, telling yourself to relax is like trying to tell an elephant not to be so large. You can’t help the way you are made. So, I have also turned to the initial methods that I described: envisioning a calm ocean, sipping on tea or coffee, and smelling lavender to distract me further. Also to no avail.

Of course, we all have a hard time realizing that peace is simply inside of us. Because we think, If I can just set the kids down for a nap or If I just take a long weekend next week or If I just drown myself in good music and good books then I can become centered and stay afloat.

But my body knows that isn’t true, and so does yours. Because the more you try to ignore your problems (like blood pressure) with meaningless images of quiet rooms or trees or situations where you can “finally” kick back, the more you stress out by trying to get there, ignoring the present moment completely. If you stop trying to find peace, ironically, you’ll find it.

Why? Because you will already be living it.

A Firefly in the Livingroom

Do you think there is such a thing as coincidence? Or is life a series of well-timed, intentional acts?

There’s certainly plenty of evidence for the former. Lightning strikes, for example. However, you could also argue that lightning strikes result from storms, which are a scientific phenomenon that can be easily predicted. Maybe that’s one point for the latter. Of course, romantic comedies would also have you believe in perfect, serendipitous coincidence. But, romantic comedies are also shot on sets with actors and scripts. Looks like that is a draw.

But whatever your persuasion on this subject, I find that some events are simply more difficult to pin down, as either coincidence or fate, than others.

Take, for example, the other night. I’m walking with my mom around the neighborhood. We’re watching the sky darken with a storm, so we’re sort of hoofing it. We pass a corner when we smell it. Cigar smoke.

Okay, not entirely, unusual in itself. Actually, not really unusual at all, is it? Except for the fact that my grandfather (you can read about him here) used to smoke like a chimney stack. And his tobacco of choice was cigars. Add to the fact that I am always thinking about him around the summertime. At his old house, he had this beautiful porch where we could sit outside until the light died, unable to see each other’s faces but able to make out the red tip of his cigar. And of course, the fireflies that lit up the yard. He used to say, without fail, that they would arrive around the Fourth of July and then disappear shortly after.

So, when cigar smoke swept up our noses on our nightly walk, my mom immediately said it was Pop-Pop, stopping by to say hello. I agreed with her, and we rushed home before the oncoming storm could soak us.

Unbeknownst to us, we must have had a hitchhiker.

We walked through the door and plopped down on the couch, exhausted from our hurrying, but glad for it, as we heard the rain splatter on the window. Relaxing back, we heard a faint hum in the room. Looking over, we saw a firefly hovering over the coffee table. It hung in the air like a fairy and seemed suspended there. It was captivating and altogether strange.

Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who had seen it: our pet cat was all wide eyes and twitching tail. Not wanting him to eat our good omen, I captured the bug and took it outside. It sat on my hand for a moment and then drifted lazily into the air.

Now, you could say that a firefly followed us into the house and was almost eaten by a well-fed cat. And you’d be right. And you could also say that this was more confirmation of my Pop-Pop, who wanted to send us a sign that we’d recognize. And you’d also be right (at least in my book).

But isn’t that the beautiful thing? If it was intentional, then it was simply a memorable moment. If it was a coincidence, then it was also a memorable moment. That is, if my Pop-Pop sent it, then it’s meaningful, but if it simply attached to our clothes, then it’s adorable.

That’s why you can’t pin it down; it’s both intentional and coincidental. And I truly don’t see or mind the difference that I can’t answer my original questions. Because it doesn’t really matter. It’s all about what you choose to believe, and what “brightens” your day.

If You Have Something Nice to Say

You know when people say, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? Well, what do you do when you have something nice to say? Do we simply assume the opposite is true? Why are we encouraged to not say mean things, but nothing is said about nice things?

Well, in case you were wondering this like I was, I found out the answer today. Even though nice things can be rare because they are not emphasized, they still happen.

I was sitting in my car at a red light, like one does. There was a turning lane beside me, and I was driving straight. I was the second car in my line. Patiently waiting for my turn, I saw the green arrow come on for the turning lane. One car went, but the car that was even with me didn’t. I heard a couple of quick beeps, and I groaned inwardly and thought, why is everyone so impatient? The light just turned green! I looked over to see what was the hold up and saw a guy looking back at me. He had a backwards hat and a beard and I was about to groan a second time from some masculine comment when he gestured to his head and mouthed, “I love your earrings!” I laughed immediately and mouthed “thank you!” and gave him the thumbs up. He gave it back to me and drove off. And I chuckled the entire way to work.

Because of course he loved my earrings. They were in the shape of TARDISes from Doctor Who. Us Doctor Who fans are e v e r y w h e r e, and we are always nice to each other. Actually, nerds in general have some weird camaraderie thing, even when they’re complete strangers. Maybe because we can all relate to being shoved into lockers…

But at the same time, I recognize that he didn’t have to say anything. He didn’t have to hold up traffic. He didn’t have to take time out of his day. Actually, he completely ran the risk of me not looking over at him at all. And yet, he still took a stab at paying me a compliment. And it paid off. And made me grin a 3,000 watt smile.

So, I think we should put less emphasis on what we shouldn’t be saying (which is not nice things) and more emphasis on what we should be saying (nice things). (Maybe we should even emphasize gestures, like this guy.) Because there really isn’t anything better than a sincere compliment. And we don’t have to all have something common (like Doctor Who) to express our appreciation of someone else. Any little thing will do.

So, whether there is a person in line or in the car next to you, try to make their day a little better. I know this guy did that for me.