How Will You Use Your Time?

Responding to cultural quarantine in a time of crisis.

I believe that time is a gift. It is a gift that I often waste, breeze through and forget to carefully plan. Sometimes I waste good time by working too much. Other times though, I waste it by spending too much time on social media, or too much time on the phone and then, time is the thing I lose. Perhaps most frustrating of all, I do not always do a good job of anticipating how much time a given task will take. Yet, I have also learned that time is precious. When I was a young person, even a young adult, I would often say, “I can hardly wait until________.” But now, I can wait. While I am tired of being cold, it is still winter in Pennsylvania in mid-March, at least temperature wise, and I do not want to wish my life away by wishing it was another season or time. Time is something I have finally learned to save and to savor.

picture of a yearly planner with a pen
Photo by Plush Design Studio from Pexels

How many sayings about time can you recall? “Time and Tide wait for no man (sic)”, “Time’s a’wasting” I asked that question of my Facebook friends recently and got a lot of responses, many were different from what I expected. Here are a few of their comments: “A day late and a dollar short,” “For such a time as this…” (From the story of Esther in the Bible, Esther 4:14), “time after time,” “How many times do I have to tell you___”, “Third time’s a charm,” and “Long time no see.” Poll your friends, make your own list, and see what you learn.

I had a friend years ago, who had a home made sign on his wall that read, “What is time for?” or, it might have read, “What is it time for?” Either way, it is a worthwhile question. As a pastor, I have a lot of freedom to set my own time schedule (except of course for Sunday mornings or if I had a Saturday evening service). I don’t punch a time clock, can choose my own day off, and while I do periodically report to a team about how I spend my time, there is a lot of freedom given.

Within that freedom though, there are certain expectations. Although denominationally, leaders are trying to be more realistic about time commitments, the average expectation for my 23 years of full-time ministry was 55-65 hours a week. And John Wesley, the founder of Methodism had some interesting things to say about time. Basically, ‘Be on time,’ ‘Do not waste time” and, ‘Spend the exact amount of time needed, but not a minute more; paraphrased, of course.

Every morning, since I have become a pastor, I have one important tradition or ritual. My second favorite ritual is sitting on the edge of my bed, clutching my pillow to my chest, while trying to make myself move. Wait, maybe that is my first favorite ritual. But before that, I have to ask myself these two crucial questions: “What day is it?” and “Where am I supposed to be?” As long as I give myself the right answers, everything is good. But there are times I wake up in a panic, Is it Sunday?

picture of an alarm clock with roman numerals and a bell on top.
Photo by Krivec Ales from Pexels

Please do not put too much energy into analyzing this, but, my recurring nightmare for 23 years has been that I overslept and arrived at church so late, that there were only a few disgusted people left in the building who were on their way out, and I had no reasonable explanation for my behavior! Fortunately that is not an every week dream, but I have lost track of the number of times it has darkened my door in 23 years.

But my chief concern in writing this piece is to ask you, not your favorite expressions about time, but how will you spend the gift of time in these days of chaos, fear and toilet paper purchase power? I say that, not belittling the enormity of the crisis before us, which is indeed worldwide, but attempting to look at the gift of time that is hidden in all of the closings. Please do not yell, or think me thoughtless, I realize that there are huge financial/economic issues tied to those closings. But one important reality is that many of you, like myself, can act as though you are “human-doings” and not “human-beings. ”

Picture of two people at a square table, one has a cell phone in hand.
Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

When those who work come home, those who cannot work are still there, and there are no distractions of meetings, games, events, concerts, dinners out, what will you do with the extra time you have been given? How often have you wished that you had more than 24 hours in your day, wished that you had more time to read, relax, visit, bake, write, build, play, opportunities to do good to those around you? In addition to all the things this crisis has handed us, fear and chaos, to name a few, it has also handed us a temporary gift of time.

In addition, although we have never been here before, we are not the first generation to face such a daunting challenge. We can learn a lot by studying how our grandparents or parents, made it through World War II, The Depression, and other major social disruptions. Many of us have gotten so married to our conveniences, that the basic skills of cooking, canning, gardening, sewing, baking from scratch, using hammer, nails and screws or heavens, “making do” by using things up until they are beyond repair, and an unheard of discipline, of not buying big ticket items until we have the cost saved up. But I think some of us are planning to rekindle those disciplines out of necessity. Not only is the bread aisle empty in our local grocery chain, so is the flour, and yeast!

Picture of a little girl learning to crack an egg into a bowl.
Photo by Elly Fairytale from Pexels

Some families I know are teaching their children such basic skills as a matter of course. But this thing that has happened, this awful virus with unknown potential and forced closings of schools, dining places, churches, non-essential businesses and gathering places, can bring couples and families together; perhaps in new ways. It is somewhat ironic that the tools of social media that have blocked real conversation, can actually be life-lines to connect with family and neighbors in the midst of self-imposed or government imposed quarantine.

This crisis will tell the world and speak volumes about who we are, depending on how we handle the challenge. Can we take care of “our own,” and still be mindful of the needs of our neighbors, the vulnerable among us? Will we be compassionate people or fear driven hoarders? Only time will tell.

I would love to hear from you. How are you handling time in the midst of crisis and social distancing? How are you staying connected to those you love and care about when you are not in the same house? Where have you seen acts of compassion? What opportunities have you had to show compassion?

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

9 thoughts on “How Will You Use Your Time?

  1. I have been very conscious of time during this pandemic. Not so much because I have so much more of it, but because it has made me realize the value of it and I am less tolerant of time wasting things that bring no value to my life. That might be a boring, worthless meeting, or a task that seems urgent but doesn’t really need to be done. I have spent more time with my husband, even if we are just watching something on TV. We’ve watched more documentaries that we talk about. I have spent far more time talking on the phone or Zoom with family and friends. That seems vitally important to me. I am valuing doing things I enjoy and tht are meaningful versus doing things that used to seem necessary like cleaning the house from top to bottom. It is just clean enough now.

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  2. I think your comment gets to the heart of the matter. This awful pandemic gives us an opportunity to examine what in our lives and practices have value and what do not. Thanks for reading. Michele

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  3. Hi Michele – I’m finding that the time factor isn’t a big issue for me. I retired last year and I’ve gradually learned to let go of that sense of urgency and to go with the flow more. Having a less defined schedule makes it easier to adapt when things like self-isolation get dropped on me.
    I think my biggest takeaway from this virus is the importance of family to me – and how much I miss actually seeing them in person. My kids and grandgirls live 2 hours away and travel restrictions mean no visits at all – Easter really brought it home and now I’m just longing for a hug and a little girl smooch.
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

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  4. Hi Michele, such a good question about how we are spending our time. Most of us would normally say we don’t have enough time in the day, but now with isolation we have plenty. I’ve found that I’ve been working to a schedule that incorporates all areas of my life: health, relationships, self-care, relaxation and self-development. I’ve been using this time in ways that are important to me. My daughter has been enjoying this time baking with her eldest grandson and being able to spend time together during the day every day. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and it is lovely to have you as part of our community. xx

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  5. Hi Michele, my word of the year last year was time and I looked at the various ways we make time, use time, waste time…it probably should be my word this year! You raise some great issues here and I think everyone now has a more realistic way of handling time, isolation time, quarantine time, family time. It’s not the same for everyone but we have all been impacted in some way from this virus and are learning new ways to handle things. I miss my family a lot but as we don’t live near any of them I am used to being ‘a fly in fly out’ grandparent. It’s not any easier with this pandemic as I now worry about them getting ill and not being able to be with them, especially as one daughter and grandchild lives overseas. So much to think about!! Thanks for the thought provoking post. #mlstl

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    1. Our family too, is far away from us, spread all around the country. Our oldest Grandchildren, a freshman in high school and feshman in college are in Pennsylvania. My daughter though is in Florida with her husband and 3 young children (ages 3-7) , my son and his wife in Seattle, WA and step daughter and her husband in the middle in Missouri. I am so thankful for Facebook visits! Have a blessed week.

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  6. I love your thoughts on time, Michele. You are so right – it is a gift. One of the best gifts we will ever receive. I am a retired teacher. When I taught full-time, my weeks were probably a lot like yours when you were a full-time pastor. I got to school by about 6:45 a.m., taught all day, had open lab after school and often got home at 6:00 p.m. or even later. Then I would eat dinner and grade papers until I fell asleep. I loved teaching and I miss the kids, but I am so happy that I have the time now to do more of the things I want to do. I get to set my own schedule! In this time of crisis, I am reading a lot, running almost every day, cooking, baking bread (luckily I have a sourdough starter that I have had for over 10 years, so I don’t need yeast, which all the stores are out of), connecting with friends and family, and working in the house and yard. All are satisfying in their own way!

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    1. That sounds fulfilling. And most people don’t realize how hard teacher’s work or what a struggle it can be. It’s a little like the joke that pastors only work 1 day a week. My husband has teased me with that over the years, but since he lives with me (and puts up with) he knows better. I am glad you have the time for choices that are meaningful.

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