According to Matthew McConaughey—or maybe Einstein—time is relative. Having seen Interstellar over the weekend, I am again challenged to wrap my brain around what this means. (I think I need a brain yoga class—with so many things requiring me to stretch my brain, I’m in serious jeopardy of pulling a muscle.) (Also, in a completely unrelated parenthetical comment, I must admit that while McConaughey was piloting that spacecraft, I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d rather be driving a Lincoln.)
So…the relativity of time. While the academic version of it puts time in a fourth dimension, I just want to deal with the relativity of good old linear time today.
If you’ve ever seen the movie City Slickers, perhaps you’ll remember Mitch, Billy Crystal’s character, giving a brief summary of life:
In classic Crystal style, he is a huge Doug Downer for those innocent middle schoolers. It’s a funny bit, but at the same time—depending on how old you are—you can’t help but wince at the kernels of truth in his rant. For the 40s—my decade—he states, “you grow a little pot belly, you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud; one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother.”
Sigh. Thankfully, while the others already apply, the music hasn’t grown too loud for me. Just ask my son who occasionally needs to tell me to turn down the music. Mama still likes it loud. (And, no—I am not yet hard of hearing!)
There is another part of the movie that resonates with me, though, and that’s the desire to have a “do over.”
In the movie, Phil (Daniel Stern) is at a crossroads in his life and states, “My life is over! I’m almost 40 years old, and I’m at the end of my life!” Doug Downer, meet your brother.
If you happen to be someone who is exactly where you thought you would be at this point in your life, I commend you. God bless. I have a feeling you are in the minority, though.
Many of us, like Phil, aren’t exactly where we envisioned ourselves.
To cheer up his friend, Mitch offers this hope: “You remember when we were kids, and we were playing ball, and we hit the ball over the fence out of bounds, and we yelled, DO OVER?…Your life is a do over. You’ve got a clean slate.”
Of course, it’s not as simple as that, we all know, but the idea of second (or third, or fourth, or more) chances to create yourself anew is powerful—and scary. While it shines hope, it doesn’t necessarily come easy.
I’m in “do over” phase right now. And this is where the whole linear time issue fires up. Some days I feel like it’s simply too late for me to start over. How much time do I have left? (Doug Downer, meet your sister.) But other days I am well aware that all I have—and all anyone else has—is…today. Just today. So whether I’m in my 40s and trying to carve out a new life or I’m in my 20s, the one thing I know I have in the spectrum of my life is…today.
There is no difference.
True, if you create a timeline of my life, this new life chapter will be shorter than if I had started writing it earlier, but all I have is today’s page. There is no going back and editing. There’s only today’s blank page.
Every day is a mini do-over of its own.
If today was a piece of poop on a stick, tomorrow doesn’t have to be—and if it is, well then the next day offers the same fresh chance for change.
So if you, like me, find yourself struggling at times, wondering whether your life choices screwed things up or possibly made things better, remember that time is relative.
Within Mitch’s rant from the clip above, he says, “Value this time in your life, kids, cause this is the time in your life when you still have your choices.”
Sorry, Mitch, but I disagree. Yes, things get way more complicated with responsibilities and commitments as you get older, but…we still have our choices. The impact may be farther reaching, but…we still have our choices.
Hindsight may have us kicking ourselves that we didn’t make certain choices sooner (or at all), but that does nothing to help write today’s page.
This is something I need to constantly remind myself about. I am not too old for a do over. And if I make it to 80 and I want yet another do over, I won’t be too old then, either.
What matters is the DO in do over. Otherwise…it’s just…over.
So fill up today’s page as best you can. And remember, if you don’t like what you wrote for today, tomorrow offers a brand new page.