Harvesting Time

Wherever you are, be totally there.”  Eckhart Tolle

My father is 90 years old. He recently wrote an open letter to his family that started with the words:

“With so much time in my hands, I have decided to write…”

And write he did, 14 handwritten pages. A wise man, my father, he goes on to ponder:

“Most of us live uneventful lives, growing old and realizing that the world is passing us by. There is so much that is new and that I find hard to understand. I used to think that I was familiar with so many things but I must admit I was badly mistaken. The world has changed in my lifetime. I’d like to be able to say what I feel, what I have experienced, but it’s not easy to find the words to express all I have seen in my life. One of the few things I have learned is that time is so elusive. Some people have more time to do the things they want, some less. For some, time passes more rapidly, for others more slowly.”

Time is that abstract concept no one really understands, something having to do with quantum mechanics and physics and even astrophysics, all of which my father loves to read about. But for our purposes, let’s just say time is linear and is the one thing we can neither create nor destroy. Languages being such funny abstractions, in English we say we “make time”, but what that really mean is that we are making a conscious decision to do something specific during a given period of time. We cannot really “make” time like we make a painting, or a house, or anything else that is concrete and tangible.

Interestingly enough, we can barter, rent or lease our time. When we hire someone to work for us, we are renting their time in exchange for a service, whether it’s mowing the lawn in our suburban house, cleaning the windows in our high-rise downtown office, delivering that special package on a far-away loved one’s birthday, or babysitting so we can have a date night with our significant other. We can barter our time, like when we proofread our cousin’s next presentation at the medical convention and that cousin makes a home visit to check on us when we get sick.

When we engage in work for someone else, we lease our time to them for a certain period and under certain conditions we stipulate in a contract. While we are working for someone else and allow them to use our time for their benefit it is also our prerogative to establish how much our time is worth. At this point you may ask, how come not everyone’s time is worth the same? When you decide how much your time is worth, you have to factor in things like your education, your experience, your particular level of expertise in you field. What makes you better than everyone else? What makes you special? Since these factors will not be the same for everyone, the value you set for your time when you lease it to someone else will not necessarily be the same as the value others set for their time.

Of course, not everything we do with our time is going to be for material gain, although most of us do have to allocate some of it for that pragmatic undertaking. We do have to be watchful, however, of all the ways in which we decide to use or abuse the time we do have at our disposal. People who try to cram too much activity into a limited span of time will end up feeling like they will never have enough. Having more time or less time, having time go by faster or slower, like my dad said, has a lot to do with how much or how little significance we attribute to the minutes, hours, or days in our lives. How much of that do we spend engaged in the things we really like to do? Is it always our choice, our decision?

Do we play a musical instrument when inspiration strikes, grow a vegetable garden just because we like it, learn a new language to keep our brains engaged, or run a marathon because we enjoy the challenge? Do we go and give a loved one a hug on the spur of the moment and tell them how much they mean to us? It is always our choice to live in the moment and treasure it, or totally waste all of it.

Of course, living in the moment is easier said than done. We always seem to be thinking about the “next thing”: what to say next, what to do, where to go. When we are not being told to “learn from our mistakes”, which is essentially living in the past, we are being told to “plan for the future”, so we are rarely encouraged to be present in the moment. Except when something unexpected happens, stops us cold on our tracks, and forces us to take a cold hard look at what we have been doing with our time. Like when your mother dies. Or your child.

Time is something we never quite learn to harvest, to gather so we can nurture our existence with joy and fulfilment. Well, these are my two suggestions to start harvesting your time, if you are not already doing so One, choose who you spend time with. And then be mindful and intentional, savoring every second you spend together. Play or dance together, read or color a book together, laugh or cry together, or maybe just stare at a sunset or a cloud formation together, but make sure you are there and not on your phone texting or sending emails or otherwise absent even though your body is actually present. Two, if you are hurting, either physically or emotionally, give yourself permission and time to heal. Hurt is not our natural state of being. Don’t rush the process. Be kind to yourself.

My father ended his letter to the family with these words:

 “In spite of my age, I feel that the best is yet to come. There will be a time when I will see things more clearly and perhaps know myself and others better.”

 So, you see? It is never too late! Harvest your time wisely and share your bounty with those around you every chance you get.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Feature photo by Jonathan Petersson from Pexels. Body text photo by Mathias P.R. Reding from Pexels.


Janis Palma has been a federally certified English<>Spanish judiciary interpreter since 1981. Her experience includes conference work in the private sector and seminar interpreting for the U.S. State Department. She has been a consultant for various higher education institutions, professional associations, and government agencies on judiciary interpreting and translating issues. She worked as an independent contractor for over 20 years in federal, state and immigration courts around the U.S. before taking a full-time job. Janis joined the U.S. District Courts in Puerto Rico as a staff interpreter in April 2002 and retired in 2017. She now lives in San Antonio, Texas, embracing the joys of being a grandmother. She also enjoys volunteering for her professional associations, has been on the SSTI and TAJIT Boards, and is currently on the NAJIT Board of Directors. Contact: jpalma@najit.org

Read other posts by Janis Palma.

10 Comments
  • RAMON M DEL VILLAR
    Posted at 16:02h, 20 November Reply

    Dear Janis, your father was indeed a wise man!
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones! Stay safe!

  • Maris E Foraker
    Posted at 16:12h, 20 November Reply

    I always enjoy reading Janis’ contributions to the NAJIT Observer. This one has been the best…so appropriate for this ‘time’ we are living. After reading the excerpt from Janis’ wise father’s letter all I can say is that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

  • Judith Kenigson Kristy
    Posted at 16:32h, 20 November Reply

    Janis, this is lovely and so right! Thank you!

  • Maria Ceballos-Wallis
    Posted at 16:34h, 20 November Reply

    Wise words from both you and your father! Happy Thanksgiving Janis! Thanks for “making’ the time to share – it was certainly time well spent on my part.

  • Silvana Garetz
    Posted at 18:35h, 20 November Reply

    Totally loved it, Janis.

    Thank you for sharing your father’s wisdom. I shall harvest my time.

    My email signature will now include:
    “Wherever you are, be totally there.”
    Eckhart Tolle (author of the “Power of Now.”)

  • Terri Shaw
    Posted at 19:56h, 20 November Reply

    Thanks for the very good post, Janis

  • Yolanda Martinez-Ley
    Posted at 21:03h, 20 November Reply

    EXCELLENT post: I LOVE it so much that I will keep it forever. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Janis!!!

  • Jose L. Varela-Ibarra
    Posted at 21:36h, 20 November Reply

    Ramon, what do you mean “was”? I read it as the father is still alive! Janis, muy lindo tu padre. Get him my Live Happily Ever Now ebook at Gumroad. or email me.

  • Josephine Baldwin
    Posted at 22:51h, 20 November Reply

    WE have so much to learn from older persons; I do not wish to say “elderly”, because I do not believe in labels. Your father’s words reflect thoughts that are profound and matured throughout a lifetime of experiences, some pleasant, some not so much, but all meaningful.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and your loved ones!

  • Hal Sillers
    Posted at 22:53h, 20 November Reply

    Janis,

    As an “old farmer” who harvested many crops over many, many years, I truly enjoyed your analogy of harvesting time. Harvesting had not occurred to me in that context. I guess I was always caught up in the exigencies of the moment. I hope to do better.
    Just the other day, one of our sons aske me if I remembered when he was about 20 years old, I told him that he would turnaround one day and suddenly he would be fifty and not know how he got there, I said I sort of remembered the incident. “Well, Dad,” he said. “I’m 47 now and it is in my peripheral vision.” I wish we both would have had harvested more time.

    Great post, Janis. Thank you.

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