Monday, June 16, 2008

The Gift of Time

The first gift we give to others when starting a new friendship/relationship is time. You take time out of your day/week/routine to be with this person, in order to get to know them and nurture the relationship. Time is the most precious gift we can give someone else because it's finite and it passes so quickly. We can't stop it, buy it or take it back, so we make decisions all the time about how we will spend it.

You will often hear people make the excuse, "I don't have time for a relationship, I'm too busy". That may very well be true, but notice them change the minute they meet someone they click with and suddenly, they've found a way to fit the other person into their busy schedule.

The more new a relationship is, the more time it needs. Not that older friendships don't need time, but they can go for longer without requiring tons of investment. Many of us have an old friend we only speak to or see once a month or even once a year, but when we see each other, it's like old times and we pick up where we left off. That's because of all the time invested. A lot of people have friends like this who are from childhood because back then, we had no other distractions to take away from forging strong friendships. As we become adults, we have to deal with adult responsibilities and it becomes harder to spend a significant amount of time making new friendships. It becomes difficult also when we move away from our place of birth.

There is a solution if you are missing that connection (and true friendship is a valuable connection). The aim is to make a conscious effort into putting 100% of yourself into the time you do have with others. This advice goes for everyone, whether you're starting a new relationship or hanging out with an old friend, give of yourself freely and without distractions for whatever short time you have.

This means not taking time for granted. If you are on the phone with a friend, turn off the TV! Turn off the radio. Don't sit in front of the computer. Don't wash dishes. Don't start dusting the shelves. Just sit and talk on the phone and enjoy the conversation. (I know this is difficult if you have small children at home, but try your best and maybe call when they are sleeping.)
Give your full attention (and full time) to the conversation at that moment. I guarantee your friends with notice the attention, even if they can't place what is different.

Same thing if you're having a quick coffee with someone. Make eye contact with the person you are with. Don't distractedly look out the window, or at the newspaper or at the pretty waitress. I know it's hard, but try to be in the moment.

The important thing to remember is that time is precious and most of the other things that distract us from giving our full attention to the people that matter are replaceable.

I stopped at my dad's house this weekend for Father's Day. I had just done my groceries beforehand and had not anticipated staying long. I had milk and ice cream in my car and it was a hot day. Turns out Dad was also hot and wanted his air conditioner installed. Well, it took a bit more time than I thought it would and at some point I thought to myself, "oh dear, my ice cream must be melting in the car!" but I had to stop and think, "well, I can always buy more ice cream. How much time do I have left with my Dad?"

You can't buy another Dad, another friend or another good inside joke. You can't buy those deep belly laughs you have when you talk to your best friend. But you can always buy another container of milk, another newspaper, or another shirt.

Time is short. Spend it doing what matters, with the people who matter to you. Give it all you've got for the short time you've got.
It's that simple :)


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