I am currently going through a journey called the spiritual exercises based on reflection from St. Ignatius. The journey is not hugely religious but more so helps to enhance your own spirituality through Bible reflection and prayer. Each week is a designated theme that allows you to grow deeper in discernment as well as a greater understanding for yourself and God.
A couple weeks ago was a reflection on the Two Standards, which boils down to good versus evil. What are the good things in life that allow you to feel fulfilled and what are the negatives that drag you down feeling empty? The Two Standards is a way of looking at the things in our lives that lead us down a good path and what tries to divert us down a dark road. But for me, the Two Standards wasn’t as basic as good versus evil. It was more of how I looked at my time.
When I first was reflecting on the theme a few weeks ago I was told to imagine a party one was one of great friends, great conversation and great memories, the other was gossiping, drugs and partying. Thinking of how fulfilling one was and how destructive the other was I asked myself: how am I spending my time?
That’s when it clicked for me. Time is on my side. We are all given the time to live a wonderful life, but we are merely given the time and we must make the use of it. That’s when I took a good hard look at how I was spending my time. Whether its staying in school and working on my Master’s, deciding to do an internship, or take a few trips this year and see the world, I could easily see how there were things I was doing that pushed me to be better and do better. At the same time there were things that were taking away from that. There were things like going out and drinking and dealing with hangovers, or laying in bed and binge watching TV that were robbing me of time. Sure, there’s times to go celebrate with friends, and retreat for a bit and have some alone time with never ending TV specials, but for the most part if you have to stop and realize the time you’ve wasted, then you aren’t accomplishing much.
I was reminded of this when I was out with my friend Brian who shared a poem with me called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. For me, it was the perfect reminder to my reflection on the Two Standards and what in my life was leading me to feeling accomplished and growing into the man I want to become and what was stealing time away from working at my dreams.
by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on the tombstone
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth
and spoke the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
All I know is hearing this poem was like getting a wake up call. Realizing everything I’m doing and what I have to potential to accomplish, I don’t want one second to be wasted away. So I’m spending my dash filled with inspiring, learning and loving filled seconds, minutes, hours and days. I’ve seen how lately I’ve wasted my days with pointless, meaningless nothings, and now I’m choosing to use the time I have and make the most of it. It’s a great life I’ve been given and I will make it the best story I can imagine.