Stealing Time

When it comes to stealing time, I am a regular Jesse James.

With two kids and all the responsibilities involved with raising them, I have to view time like a commodity, a treasure I hoard away.

I go to bed early, so I can be up early, stealing time. That doesn’t always work out. Just recently, I grew too accustomed to that morning solitude, and I had to be, once more, cured of the cure, so to speak.

So, sometimes I sleep in. I sleep until my daughter cries to get out of her crib, or my son comes into our room, holding his stuffed bunny limply by his side, asking for pancakes. I only sleep in after being up stealing time the night before, mind you, doing something after they both were in bed.

One way or another, I steal time in order move my many projects forward.

 

This is the first week of my summer break from teaching.

Summer, for the teacher, is stealing a pirate’s booty of time. This is also the first summer that I’m not coaching football. I set all sorts of goals for myself, mainly writer related.

My wife is a great supporter. She needs to be. I spend all my free time doing something without pay. What’s hard to understand is how badly I need to do what I’m doing, how badly I need a higher purpose in my life that requires commitment. For me, it’s these non-toxic intoxicants that keep me from returning to the toxic ones. It’s hard for people to understand.

“Summer break begins!” She said a few days ago. “What are you doing tomorrow?”

“There’s a lot of stuff I need to do.”

“It’s summer. You should do what you want to do.”

“It is what I want to do. But I need to do it too.”

“Doesn’t sound fun.”

“It’s not always fun. But, it’s satisfying.”

And I got after it Monday. Submissions, cover letters, and, of course, writing—I was able to fill a few blank pages. Then I began setting up a community page here at the Miracle of the Mundane. A place to link up to all the awesome people who inspire me out there on the inter-web. It’s coming soon.

When I’m productive, there is an internal clock playing in my head. When you are stealing time, you desire to make the most of it, to not waste a second. I worked through lunch. I biked the kids into daycare and preschool to get some exercise in and fulfill the drop-off chore—two birds with one stone, I thought. I felt very satisfied at the end of the day.

Then Monday night brought the unexpected, as any good story does.

 

I find it remarkable how parents know when their child is experiencing a fever.

Even a slight one. If the child’s body temperature is 99 degrees, just four tenths above normal, I or my wife—especially my wife—can tell by feeling a forehead. When it comes to guessing what temperature it is outside, give me a +/- five degree margin of error. I’ll tell you if it’s in the 70s or 80s. There is a precision to the instincts of parenting that no amount of modern distraction can change.

Our two-year-old daughter spiked a fever Monday night. She was burning up, nearing 105 degrees. I took her to a pediatric urgent care at midnight. We checked her temperature throughout the night at intervals. She was up often. I stayed with her at home on Tuesday. I cancelled all the things I told myself I needed to get done that day.

 

I lost a day.

All that time I stole and stowed away for myself. Gone. But, with my baby sick, I didn’t have time to even think about it.

We were both on very little sleep. She was needy and I was accommodating. I didn’t think once about all the affairs I lined up to plow through that day. I held her, and read to her. She rested on me all day, completely still, except for her heart beating over the top of mine. We never went far without her clumsy steps staggering like a foal toward me with a, “up, daddy, up,” and my, “You want up?” and her, “yeah.” That puppy doggish, “yeah.”

She reminded me of something on Tuesday.

Every time I pick her up in my arms there is a moment when her little body succumbs to the laws of gravity, when her legs no longer have to resist it. She lets go of the earth’s pull and fastens to me, knowing that I will protect her from the spinning world. And each time she does that, each time she lets go, each time she yields, my love for her grows. It feels like she coats my heart with pain medication. Worries melt like butter. I share in her release of the world. And we sit there together, in a rocking chair, or at a park, or anywhere, burrowing into each other, hoarding our love away like squirrels stowing nuts for the winter.


It’s in these moments that time dissolves. My daughter steals the time I’ve hoarded, throws it to the wind to scatter like the seeds of a dandelion.


All the time I had fought so hard to create for my many self-important endeavors vanishes. I don’t watch it go. It’s gone before I care to look for it. She’s made off with all that time before I can catch her in the act.

These moments are breaks from the pull of the world; they feel timeless. And feeling timeless is a good reminder that time itself is an invention, a ploy to live our lives by the invisible hands of a digital clock, rather than the physical hands of our children and loved ones. Where the hands of time would strangle us, our hands cradle, embrace, heal.

I would give her all the time I ever stole, and every day after that.

 

 

22 Responses to “Stealing Time

  • Those moments are more important than any other moments.

  • This sentence: “My daughter steals the time I’ve hoarded, throws it to the wind to scatter like the seeds of a dandelion.” OMG, Mark. Amazing!! It’s the simple truths like these that keep me coming back to your blog!

    I also got to thinking how selfish a time-thief I tend to be as well. Perhaps it’s my addictive side, but the first thought I consistently have upon waking is: What do *I* want/need to do for *me*? (I wish I could type italics into comments for blogs!)

    Point being is that many of the thoughts you so skillfully recount in this post make me:

    1) Feel guilty for how much I still think about the Almighty Dan first, and;

    2) Realize that I’m not alone in the struggle and that the gift of stealing time reminds us all that we only have each day as pure gift—better not to waste it.

    As always, great stuff, man. – DDM

    • I love the ODAAT sense that you saw in this piece. I wasn’t thinking about the seize the day type of stuff, but now that you mention it, I feel like this post could continue on with that trajectory. Good call!

      I’m truly grateful you keep coming back to the blog, Danno. Your friendship and mentorship are invaluable in this thing. You’ve helped me more than you could ever know, although I’ll try and express it to you when and how I can.

  • This has to be my favorite post that you have ever shared here with us. This is so beautiful, so articulately puts everything into perspective, and that you grasp it all on a heart level…is so so very beautiful and touching. I love that you appreciate your life. That you savor that sweet girl of yours. That you serve her little soul when she needs you to. Really Mark, I am so touched by this one. She is lucky to have a dad like you, but I think you too understand how absolutely lucky (blessed) you are to have her. This post is like a beautiful painting.

    • Annette, that is so kind of you to write! I’m glad it sort of struck a chord with you and I appreciate you saying that about me being a good dad and all. Parenting is usually considered a thankless job, but not when people in the community are giving me such support! And, at a more basic level, not when we are getting the best stuff, the big-hearted love stuff, from our children. That is payback beyond measure. Thank you.

  • Really heartfelt, Mark! Thanks for sharing!

  • stepsherpa
    6 months ago

    A selfish reflection of time wasted in fluent crazy.

    What is my time anyway? Anybody? Doesn’t anybody do anything around here with their time? Did anybody make the coffee? Nope, nobody. I am nobody, I’ll make the coffee. I will be somebody.

    With usual blurred vision I lay in a dormant state with everybody. A winter’s hibernation fading into my nobody. Looking toward the door I negotiate the socks and underwear, one sneaker, dirty tee shirt, cat toy and the anybody..

    It’s anybody. The timekeeper. My good measure. My somebody will be anybody today. But nobody cannot care if I am somebody. I’m late and nobody cares about anybody. I have wasted everybody’s time as somebody who remains nobody. My nobody plus somebody is never everybody.

    • You are SOMEBODY. I hope that’s clear in all of this. Nobody couldn’t support me. Nobodies don’t have that in them.

      • stepsherpa
        6 months ago

        Nobody is selfishness, Somebody is willingness, Everybody is delusional.

        I have 2 daughters that right at this minute as my back hurts? Could very well be sticking pins in a mini me voodoo doll. One is definitely demon possessed by a college literature teacher with the ability to continually flip me on the grill until I am a emotionally charred slab. The Salem State poltergeist, I am convinced.

        Now..my son? My son is the most absolutely beautiful thing I have ever witnessed in my life. I stare at him as if he is the second coming of Christ. Or at least a big block 1967 Chevelle SS..but he is collared by his sister. He practices jumping in his spare time awaiting her instruction. I know how he feels. I myself was a jumper for over half my life. Ending only over the blunt force trauma incurred while beating my head on the ceilings and walls in an effort to somehow someday confirm her approval. Brain damaged I simply could no longer jump.

        She’s something, the winning ticket…The energetic cheerleader with the smile. Dark brown hair and blue blue eyes as if a special order from God..

        Later, the red convertible I sold my soul for that her boyfriend didn’t like. How could I be so stupid buying her such junk. I was at a loss and had no answer.

        To the emotional upheaval? the primal yell “you don’t know anything about her!” silencing a crowded restaurant at your birthday brunch.

        This is my life too. I keep forgetting with her, it’s easy to do. I’m co-dependent so, “DON’T GO IN THERE!” and don’t give up my pin number again..again.

        Today? Right now? I have made mistakes, and I have taken some big hits. Many times I have willingly overpaid with whatever I had. Tried to settle emotional insecurity with everything I had to offer and finding there is no deal to be made..

        Today.The one thing that is absolute? I take care of myself first so I am a safe sanctuary for my kids, and others really.. When and if anytime they are in any question of anything at all? I am here for them, to help them in their search for fresh answers to their reality and not settle for concentrate. They are never locked out….

        • This is the story of progress, more than it is the second coming or vintage Chevelle.

          We are men of extremes. And then there’s this middle ground that we’ve never walked on. It’s the last flat track of the roller coaster that isn’t climbing to a peak or racing to a valley. That’s the miracle of the mundane stuff. I don’t think it’s a miracle for most. For most it’s mundane. But discovering that this middle ground is where I’ve always WANTED to be, despite what my crazy alcoholic thinking tells me, is the miracle. It’s tough because it doesn’t fill you with the rush. It only will if you let it.

          Appreciate your input, Sherpa. Always do.

  • Beautiful! It always amazes me how our own or a loved one’s sickness can magically melt away all the endless ‘shoulds’ that we spend our precious time on. I hope you are both feeling good and well-rested now.

    • Thank you for your well-wishes. It was a 24 hour virus of some kid. She was back at day care the next day. She needed some major TLC and I was like, beyond ready to give it to her. Normally, she’s not a touch-feely snuggly kid, so I usually take advantage of those moments when I she is nestle-willing.

  • Man, do I understand this. I remember the first time my oldest (now ten) ran a high fever. He’s such a crazy bundle of energy, and that day, out of the blue, he just collapsed on the sofa. Even though his energy can drain and irritate me, at that moment I just wanted him to leap up and tear around the house. I stopped everything. I watched shows he wanted to watch. We looked at books. When he slept (and this kid never has napped willingly), I slept. Writing and music production stopped.

    Great entry, as always. I hope you get some writing done today.

    • Wow, Robert, that’s it exactly!

      What a scary moment with your son. You handled it beautifully, all we can do right? Just be there and make them the priority. Then you make them the priority and the love seeps in. You realize that their joy is your greatest joy, and, at least for me, I get out of the drudgery of being me. It’s usually miserable, ok, always miserable, when I’m all wrapped up in self. Hard to get out of that place. Kids are a big help. Especially when they need us.

      Thanks for stopping by with the comment Robert.

  • Times like this, when the time you stole is given to another in love, mean the most. As you so beautifully write.

    • Thanks. Yes. It’s that reminder that I’m not living on my time anymore, but hers. Appreciate you dropping by and leaving a note!

  • I live and die by my To-Do list. It’s a carry over from my profession where I still type up and carry my list like a treasure. I panic when I misplace my list. Same at home – I write up a list on index cards daily. I plan my hours. I plan my time. Everything is planned, because I have so little time. I need my sleep, so I don’t get up early like you did / do. I nap. A lot. (as you know!) I wish I could survive on little sleep, but I’m an ogre if I don’t rest. So I understand what you say here. And I am envious of your wife’s reaction to your summer off! Mind you, my wife will tell me to chill, but I rarely do. Only as of late have I started to take that advise. I am always about what I NEED to do rather than what I WANT to do. That’s martyrdom 101 for you.

    Anyway, fantastic prose as always. I am always in awe in how you piece your work together. So few words, so much emotional impact. Your followers love your work for sure, and I know why. Keep at it, Mark. I can’t wait to read the several books you will be producing.

    Paul

    • Thanks Paul.

      We are cut from the same cloth, my friend. I am happiest when I organize a to do list and just knock it out. It was so good when my daughter through a wrench in that operation. Guys like us, man, we need to chill out sometimes. Go off the beaten path, take a walk, as Sean Paul Mahoney says. I need to be constantly reminded to stop taking myself so damn seriously. That can only happen when I stop thinking of all the shit that I’ve convinced myself I NEED to do.

      Well, that’s really kind of you to say, about the books. We shall see. I love this blog. And I love the people who engage with it. The whole business is nothing like I expected it to be. You know the book world better than me. It’s a long road. But, I’m willing to walk it because, in large part, because you and others make it fun.

      I hope you’re having a great weekend, sir. Hope to speak to you soon.

  • Mark, our 3 daughters are home this weekend. Our whole family is together probably 3 or 4 times per year. It’s awesome to have adult relationships with adult children. But I digress (me me me LOL!) Your description of your daughter melting when she knew she was safely in your arms brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful memories! What a beautiful description.

    • I’m glad it brought back some good memories! I was laughing when I read about your newfound knowledge in Core Power Yoga! That’s awesome.

      Well, I’m following your path, man. All I want, truly, I think, is to have an honest and open relationship with my daughter. I want her to share what’s going on with her. The thought of losing her (emotionally even) is too much to think about.

      Me Me Me Me Me..too. We keep in good company, brother. Let’s hook up at the end of the month maybe? Let me know when you’re going to be in MD and a good time that will work.

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