“I’ve had cancer. You can’t guilt me.” I remember my teacher saying that.  She was retelling the story of a conversation she had with her sister.  Her sister wanted her to do something time consuming and, ultimately, purposeless.  The invitation wasn’t about spending time together; I believe it was about recruiting extra hands for a project the sister didn’t want to do on her own.


The response from my teacher stemmed from her newfound ability to say “no” to invitations that cost her time she had no desire to spend.  She did not want to waste a day on a silly project.  She wanted to enjoy a day of life her way.  She knew how quickly the days could slip away, and she was in a better position to calculate their value than most of us.  When she passed away just a few years later from the cancer’s second round, I was glad she had spent her time her way.


It wasn’t that she was cruel or selfish with her time, she just defined her boundaries better after she was faced with the cost.


A few years ago I got tired of waiting for a travel partner to magically show up in my life.  When my family couldn’t be bothered to decide whether they would be having a Thanksgiving dinner or not, I got tired of them, too.  Instead of continuing to nag them into a decision, I let them know I would be spending my holiday in England instead.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.  In the end, my brother-in-law also came.  He was a great traveling companion and the trip was as amazing as I had hoped it would be, but the best part was that I didn’t waste my time on a dinner that may never have happened.


I became more conscious of my time after that.  I have an unfortunate habit of cramming too much into a day.  The only way it works out is to allot my minutes carefully and stick to the schedule.  I know roughly how much time I need for each person, errand, and job, including time for myself.  I also know how to keep my schedule flexible enough to adapt to the detours that inevitably arrive.  It’s a system that works for me.  I don’t nag anyone into anything.  If they want time I give it to them, and if they don’t I fill it with something else.  Doing something alone is much better than wasting time waiting for company.


Since I’ve moved home, however, I have been wasteful with my time.  I have tried to be even more flexible to accommodate all of the children who affect my schedule – nieces, nephews, children of friends, etc.  I have repeatedly said “it’s ok, I understand, life happens, don’t worry about it.”  When my friends have goals that coincide with mine, I tell them we will do it together.  When my family needs something done, I tell them I will fit it in.


I find that I am constantly waiting.  I am waiting for everyone to get their coats on.  I am waiting for someone to arrive. I am waiting for my phone to ring.  I am waiting for a text to arrive.  I am waiting for someone to tell me to go ahead.  I am waiting for it to be my turn.  I have waited until everyone else is ready.  I didn’t mind waiting because no one was keeping me from anything important. But now they are.


I have goals now.  I want to hunt them down and kill them.  I am ready to be precise.  I am growing resentful of the people around me.  I feel like I am waiting at the table for the scraps of time they have promised me.  I hate feeling this way.  Every person’s life is important.  There are reasons for the delays, the reschedules, the missed calls.  It seems callous to not take them into account.


But when is it okay to tell someone you love them, but you aren’t waiting for them anymore? My friends, my family, the guy I’m dating – they all mean something to me. I don’t want to cut them short or hustle them through, but I want my time.  I haven’t had cancer, but I appreciate my minutes anyway.  I could be learning Spanish, or finishing my quilt, or going to the gym, or picking up an extra shift at work.  More importantly, I could be sleeping.


I don’t need to sit here waiting for calls that never come or time that never arrives.


I am ready to buy another ticket to England.