The Convertible Time Hypothesis

Dear Daughters,

As you know, your mother surprised me last year by getting me the convertible I’d been eyeing for my birthday. I knew in that moment what a wonderful gift it was. (What idiot wouldn’t see that?) What I didn’t realize then was how my convertible would come to inform my view of time itself.

We’ve all been told along the way to “seize the day,” to “live like you were dying,” to “gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” This is good advice since none of us is going to live forever. (As I’ve noted before on this blog, “time is the real bottom line.”)

But most of us also have to reckon with a different truth: Seizing the day isn’t something we can actually do every day. We can’t live every moment like it was our last for the simple reason that most of them aren’t. We understand the appeal of “being fully present”—part of the time. But we have to spend other parts of our time thinking about the future, repairing damage from the past, and just maintaining ourselves in the face of decay.

We have to go to work. We have to get the groceries. We have to see the doctor, pick up the dry cleaning, and take the kids to school or fetch them home from practice. We have to get through the never-ending litany of need.

The question we’re left with, then, isn’t just “How would I spend my time if I knew I only had a little bit left?” It’s also “How can I make the most of the time I have no choice but to spend—all those moments it takes to keep my life, my relationships, my ever-dwindling future on track?”

It turns out that, for me at least, “drive a convertible” is one good answer to the latter question. Because driving my sporty little car tends to turn chores into mini excursions and sometimes even outright adventures. It enhances a lot of time that I otherwise have to spend anyway.

And that, in the end, is kind of a big deal. So big, in fact, that it led me to devise what I call “the convertible time hypothesis.” According to the convertible time hypothesis, any human life basically consists of three types of times: 1) inherently bad times, during which it may be all you can do to keep on going; 2) inherently good times, during which you should certainly stop and smell the roses (and gather their buds as ye may); and 3) convertible times, which are—you guessed it—convertible. It’s up to us to make the most of them, to add some adventure to the utterly annoying, some oomf to the ongoing ordinary.

Riffing on the work of a stoic Roman philosopher, Shakespeare once wrote, “there’s nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” I think that goes too far. Some times really are inherently bad or good; denying it seems disingenuous. But most of the time we actually spend is convertible. So we may as well put the top down, turn the radio up, and soak up the sunshine along the way. Metaphorically speaking, and sometimes even literally (though good luck getting me to share my keys).



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