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Spend Your Coin Wisely.

Day after day of 80-degree temperatures, bright sun, blue skies, a gentle warm breeze. The beauty of the summer evening--the quietness, the peacefulness, the sounds of the outdoors. Watching the lightning bugs rise and light up the dark as if to say, "Look at me now--it's my turn to shine." Quintessential summer. And then, overnight, it all changed. It suddenly felt like fall. It looked like fall. It sounded and smelled like fall. The next morning, that unsettling feeling deep within my gut returned for its oh-so-familiar, yet oh-so-unwelcomed, annual visit. That feeling that takes me back to my childhood--the "summer-vacation-is-over" feeling.

Now mind you, I was one of those kids who actually enjoyed going to school, and truth be told, I have wonderful memories of my grade school years. I can still visualize the beautiful, carved wood banisters lining the stairways and the tall, heavy, dark wood doors of each classroom in Roosevelt Elementary. The smell of Johnny Marzetti lunch recipes wafting from the cafeteria! All good memories. So why that feeling deep within my gut? Because summer went by too fast. There wasn't enough time!

As a little girl, I remember my great-grandmother talking about time. With the exception of summer vacation, she would speak of how children can't wait to get things moving, to grow up, to be something--or someone--else. Teenagers who can't wait for the time to pass to turn 16, 18, or 21 years old. To drive a car. To get a job. To go to college. To get married. To start a family. Oh, the new world that awaits! "But," she said, "when you grow up, you will see that time goes by far too fast. You will want it to slow down. Make sure you appreciate and enjoy every single day. Do what makes you happy."

We often lament the lack of time. We wish we had more. We need more. If only we had more time we could ... Sadly, this is a pervasive sentiment in our American culture. The fact is that each and every one of us has already been gifted with the maximum amount available--24 hours in each and every day. We already have as much as we are ever going to get! So we need to stop asking and wishing and hoping for more. It's not about having the time. We already have it! It's about making the time. The wise will also make sure their time is well-spent. As American poet Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) opined, "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." Wise words then. Wise words now.

I have experienced a very difficult year. The losses and pain experienced by family and many dear, close friends has run far, wide, and deep. I am learning that time does march on. And I do believe time heals. I am thankful I made the time to be with those most important to me, especially during the last year, and in particular, when we needed each other most. I am thankful to have been able to walk away from some work-related responsibilities during this time. Not everyone is able to do so. I am also thankful that I listened to my gut that said make the time.

I admit, I struggled at times giving myself permission to detach from many responsibilities and activities during this past year; a career has a way of doing that to you. But deep down, I knew it was the right thing to do. I am thankful I made the decisions I made--that I didn't squander time. I'm thankful for each minute spent just being together, doing the most mundane of things. And in an odd way, I am even thankful for having had this most difficult year-of-years, for it has reinforced for me what is truly important and what makes me happy. I am learning to better control how my "time coin" is being spent.

I find it a terrible shame that in today's society, over-extending oneself is often seen as a badge of honor. I suspect many readers understand what I mean. I also suspect many readers hold a bit of resentment, too. I accept my inbox will never, ever, be empty! And that's okay. I know I can work extra-long hours to try to get on top of things, but I also know for every item I cross off my to-do list, three more will appear very soon after. More importantly, I will lose out on precious and irreplaceable time I could be spending with someone important to me. Doing something that makes me happy. Or happier.

Throughout the last few months, I have been awestruck that indeed, despite my burgeoning "I'm determining how my coin is spent" philosophy, the sun does keep coming up every morning, and the earth keeps spinning. Go figure! My computer has yet to crash due to an overload of unanswered emails. People really do truly understand when you tell them you turn your phone off at times reserved for "me time." I am finding many Monday morning fires are often extinguished by the time I learn about them on Tuesday. That saves me a lot of angst and energy!

And do you want to know something? By setting boundaries on how I spend my time, I find myself more enthusiastic about various projects, more engaged, more focused, and (perhaps) even a bit more productive. And dare I say it...finding more time in the process!

The school year has just begun. I already feel that childhood summer-is-over feeling lessening its grip on me. December holiday decorations are on store shelves. Families are making holiday travel plans. Before we know it, the New Year will be upon us. The time will fly. My to-do list, like yours, is long. It will never go away. Yet I'm finding peace by focusing on my priorities; learning to say "no;" accepting limitations; being kinder, nicer, and gentler to myself; and quite simply, doing more of what makes me happy.

You've already been gifted with the maximum amount of time possible in each day. A twenty-five hour day is not an option. What is most important to you? What is on your list of things that make you happy? Without a doubt, for most of us, the list is filled with family and friends. And rightly so. Do you know how lucky you are to have family and at least one friend? To you I say, make the time! What is on that list of things you would like to do but don't seem to have the time? Still hoping to learn how to play the piano? Make the time! What about professionally? Return to school? Find another job? Write that manuscript? Make the time! What about making time to do something for someone else - to volunteer your time and talent for a greater cause? We all have something to share. The personal and collective rewards of volunteerism are well documented. Plus, it just feels good--and right--to be part of something bigger than yourself.

I suppose there is always the chance that the earth will stop spinning tomorrow. But based on past performance, I'll place my bet that all will be fine. I'll deal with the messages on my phone tomorrow, not tonight. It's time to go share a Dairy Queen treat and watch the lightning bugs rise and light up the dark and listen to the resident crickets offer up one of their final evening serenades for the season.

Take time to discover what is truly important to you--what makes you happy. Don't lament time embrace it. Make the time. Focus on your priorities; learn to say "no;" accept limitations; be kinder, nicer, and gentler to yourself; and do more of what makes you happy. Cut out the noise. Decide how you want to spend your coin. All else will fall into place. It always does. This is a short journey; my great-grandmother was spot-on.

doi: 10.7257/1053-816x.2018.38.5.219

Lorraine M. Novosel, PhD, CRNP, AGPCNP-BC

Member, Urologic Nursing Editorial Board
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Title Annotation:Editorial
Author:Novosel, Lorraine M.
Publication:Urologic Nursing
Date:Sep 1, 2018
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