One of the interns who worked with me taught me a valuable lesson about time – what she called Time Optimism.
It comes in two versions. The first is the conviction that, although you are overbooked and overcommitted right now, sometime in the near future it will be different. You will have enough time to clean the garage, sort the photographs and put them neatly in albums, and take a real vacation. The second is the tendency to schedule events in your calendar for the shortest amount of time that they might possibly take. If it might take anywhere from one to six hours to clean that garage, you mentally allow one hour – and are inevitably late or harried for whatever you are doing next.
As a chronic Time Optimist, I’d like to think these habits are an expression of zest for life, an eagerness to do as much as possible in the time available. But the fact is that Time Optimism usually results in hurrying, compromising, inconveniencing, and disappointing the people around us.
Time Optimists don’t like to say “no” to anything. There are dozens of reasons why this might be so, but none of them change the fact that failing to say “no” to some things means saying “half-hearted” or “incomplete” to nearly everything. Saying “no” is actually an act of spiritual courage, a choice to invest one’s love and energy in the persons, actions, and causes that matter most.
Maybe there are other kinds of Time Optimism that we could cultivate. There’s the conviction that there is enough time – enough to find rhythms of work and rest, of solitude and community, of austerity and indulgence. There’s the recognition some human experiences take time to unfold – forgiveness, compassion, and maturity of faith. There’s the confidence that God is with us all the time. Those are the “optimisms” that can bring life into our lives.