TAKING THE TIME IT TAKES
By: Lauren Anderson
When my grandpa and grandma passed away, I inherited all their watches. My grandparents were dapper to be sure, but also modest. These watches effectively had no value, but to me, they were priceless.
Shortly after I acquired these treasures, I decided to have a fashion moment and wear them all on one wrist on one day. The effect was pure bliss for this self-proclaimed Jewelry Power Elite, and it’s an understatement to say… I was feelin’ myself.
I especially enjoyed the fact that even though I was wearing about 7 watches on one wrist, not one of them kept the correct time. In fact, only one of them even worked. The rest had stopped at various points in my Grandparent’s life. Days and moments I never knew of them, now commemorated on my arm.
I love to wonder what happened on those days? What were they thinking? Where were they in life that necessitated that watch? I wonder how many times they got a new battery for this one, or wound the crown on that one? (Fun Fact: ‘Crown’ the official name for the dial thingy on the side of the watch! JPE in da house—REPRESENT!).
And how did the conversation go when my grandma convinced my grandpa to go digital that one time?
Wearing not one, but seven stopped watches on my wrist made me feel close to them, but it also made me feel kind of like a Time Lord. It also felt so beautifully ironic ya know? Like I was the knowing smirk of a college kid who thinks they’re above it all. Like, I was privy to the inside joke of the universe.
When I was driving to work with my windows down, and my watch-laden wrist out the window soaking in one arm’s full of sun, a man pulled up in the car next to me. He took one look at my wrist and of course, he asked me for the time. “Excuse me. Excuse me! Do you know what time it is?”
I laughed at the guy’s compulsion to make a Dad Joke between two cars at a stoplight. And then I laughed a bit harder because I had to cop to not knowing.
“I don’t know!” I say. “They’re all broken. It’s just for the look.”
Then it was his turn to laugh. I thought that was the end of our intersection at the intersection, But then he said something so unexpected, so out of the blue, that it has stuck with me this many years later.
He laughed, shrugged his shoulders and yelled through the window, “Who cares what time it is anyway? It doesn’t matter. Cause time always takes the time it takes.”
And in my memory he winked, the light turned green, and he sped away into the sunset.
But memory has a funny way of coloring things, so in reality, I think I said “What?” And he smiled, shook his head and rolled his window back up. Then we waited there awkwardly for another minute, and both tried desperately to avoid each other at all the lights that followed.
Time always takes the time it takes. Roadside wisdom from a stranger in a strange car. It’s a nonsense sentence in so many ways, but for some reason it resonates. And truth be told, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.
* * *
This week I got a nasty case of the cold/flu. It decided to live entirely in my throat, which made me lose my voice, rendering me useless for the final weekend of shows at my job.
Being an actor, I can’t just call in sick like a normal 9-5er. I had to have my director come in and play my parts as an understudy. Luckily he, and the rest of the cast are professional comedy geniuses, so I know the show was in excellent hands. But it didn’t stop the guilt.
Not only did this illness ruin my weekend, but I had to ruin his as well! And make things harder on the cast! And miss out on putting a proper end to an otherwise excellent run of shows….
I did everything right too. I rested, I slept. I drank SO MANY fluids, used my humidifier, steamed my throat. Nothing helped. I even went to the doctor and begged for some Prednisone to help bring my voice back– and I spent a lot of money only to be told– there was nothing I could do but wait.
It’s as if my my doctor laughed, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Time takes the time it takes.” winked and skipped away.
She didn’t of course. She just kind of sighed without looking me in the eye, typed something into the computer, asked me if there was anything else, and left.
So in between bouts of Nyquil-induced fever dreams, I woke up and waited. I waited and waited. I watched both Fyre Festival documentaries and waited some more. Cursing the time spent and wishing there was more I could do. Knowing there was nothing to be done. So of course, it got my head spinning…
There are so many things that I wish I could speed up. That I feel guilty about for not going faster.
The building of my career. The book that I’m currently inching through. The book that I’m FOREVER working on. The therapy that I just started. The re-organization of my apartment.
My journey into fitness.
You name it. If there is a thing I’m currently working on, you can bet I want to get through it faster.
Not because I’m in a rush to simply get through things either. I recognize that most things worth having are things that take some work. I don’t mind work. I don’t mind practicing patience. I’d say at this point in my life, I have even learned the value of the process.
But when the process is SOOOOOOO SLOW it feels like I’m standing still? Well, that’s when it gets tough. That’s when I start to grieve the time that feels mis-spent. That’s when the guilt sets in. I feel like I’m not doing enough, even though I can’t seem to do any more.
I question things. I judge myself. “Why didn’t you start sooner?!” “Why can’t you pick it up and move on?” “Why aren’t you better at this?”
Or I’ll scold myself, “You should be further along by now Anderson.”
Or in my head I scream— “What the hell is taking you so long?!?!?!”
And that’s just it. I don’t know either. Why are some things quick and some things slow? Why did one lesson take me years to learn when another came to me right away? Why are some things steady and some things come in fits and starts?
And as I’m lying in my sick bed, cursing the time it’s taking to get better, it dawns on me.
THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO.
Time takes the time it takes. No more. No less. Things take the time they take.
And usually when something takes longer than I hoped, it’s because there is usually more to it than I gave it credit. There was more I had to learn. More I needed to figure out. More information, growth, experience had to be metabolized.
Or in the case of my illness this weekend, my cold had to turn into the flu before I could start to heal.
Journeys take the time they take.
It’s like driving from Minneapolis to Chicago. It always takes more time than I wish it did. If I take a different route, I’m gonna get lost. If I speed too fast, I’m gonna get pulled over. If I never stop at a rest stop—who am I kidding? I can’t drive for 8 hours without stopping.
And just when I think I’ll be driving to Chicago for the rest of my life–boom. I’ve arrived.
Soon I’ll be having a hot dog and I won’t even remember the agony of the ride. Because I will be onto the next thing. And we have to decide if we want to see Blue Man Group again or more improv tonight.
Time takes the time it takes, and it’s okay for me to take that time. Because even if it feels so dumb and pointless and that I’m wasting it all, I gotta have faith that there are things at play, way above my pay grade. And perhaps I have to learn to trust the stillness.
* * *
I woke up Monday morning and my fever had broken. I knew I was finally on the mend.
I got up out of bed to see that snow had covered the streets around me, and Minnesota was preparing for the cold snap of the century. I kind of chuckle to myself, which of course turned into a coughing fit.
But I guess it was a good reminder that even if I think I’m standing still, the world keeps moving forward. And so will I.