I have this giant hourglass that used to belong to my grandfather. It reminds me of him: poised, stately, round, and steady. I’ve never actually timed it to see if it takes an hour for the teeny tiny grains of sand to fall through. But, I do know that once you turn the hourglass, you can’t rewind it. It’s not like a stopwatch. The sand moves in its own time. And in one direction.
As life does. Time moves in one direction.
I remember when I was younger hearing someone describe time as an accordion. How some moments drag on and on and on while others pass in a flash. Of course, you wish you could control the perceived pacing of each. Like, you wish you could fast-forward through the lonely nights, and slow down the first encounters. Skip the contractions and pause the newborn-hand holding your finger.
I’ve also heard that time is like a river. And I have never been more aware of the time/accordion metaphor than while rafting the Deschutes River. You see, there is nothing steady about it. Floating doesn’t flow to the beat of a metronome. Instead, you are at the mercy of the rocks and rapids. Channels and eddies. Often, you get thrown into a rapid with little warning or time to prepare.
Our guide yelled commands like “Paddle two!,” “Lean in!,” and “Now THREE!”
And without hesitation, we followed his directions – fooling ourselves into thinking we could actually control this inflatable raft. Adrenaline pumping. Water surging. Muscles flexing. It was heightened senses and insanely fun. (Which is why they call them rapids.)
But, how much did we actually control and how much was perceived control? What if it’s all an illusion? Because sometimes you can’t steer the raft where you want it to go. You don’t get the guy, or the job, or the dream house, or whatever. Despite your hardest paddling and line-picking, the current wins. You float along.
Looking back at the experience, the rapids lasted maybe five minutes out of a sixty minute trip. The majority of the time was slow. Unassuming.
It’s funny, isn’t it? We yearn for excitement, adrenaline, romance, and adventure. Yet, that’s not how life works. And frankly, that pace is not sustainable. Life is lived in the slow waters. The laundry and to-do lists. Netflix-binging and online bill pay. The headaches and broken hearts. Oil changes and emails.
And if we’re lucky, we’ll experience both types of life. The dull ones mixed with splashes of excitement. The slow water and the rapids.
With the illusion of control, we’ll steer. Paddle. Give in to the mercy of the river. And hopefully float through unscathed.