Aaah Friday, the end of another productive week of house building; Tom and his crew of two finally seemed ready to attach steel to the roof.
“Wow!,” I said. “Looks like you guys can relax for the weekend before you start tinning on Monday.”
You need to understand, Tom is polite. Winona County polite. Not only carefully choosing his words, but somehow even managing to control any negative facial expression. Still, I saw it. The slight cock of his head, half a degree off plumb maybe. The blip of an eyebrow.
“What have I done?” I thought. “Did I say something terribly wrong?”
I felt time slowing, as if my life were a movie where all action suddenly freezes, except for me. I fished down into the depths of my mind, so murky. “Must. Find. Problem.” With an exhausting effort, I squeezed and twisted my brain. Finally, mercifully, the water began to clear. I yanked on my thought line. Splash! Out of the water, it leapt high. I could see it. Clear reality. The magnitude of my folly revealed at last.
“Monday!” I shook my head. The movie ended. I turned back to my life. “It’s not Friday! It’s Monday!”
I felt dizzy, almost sick, as I explained myself to Tom. “It’s because of my friend Heather and her boys. They’re here to camp. I forgot it’s their MEA break at school and assumed it was the weekend.” Tom was great about it, actually, joking it off.
But I was far from great. I knew I had committed a ‘work world’ sin: mistaking Monday for Friday of all things. Yet that wasn’t the worst of it. Like the Star Trek android, Data, I was still struggling to recalibrate my internal chronometer. Time, I was discovering, is so much more than a flashing light on my phone, or an internal sense. It’s physical. Visceral. Soon my entire being remembered it’s Monday, both determined and resigned. I could have easily sat down with Heather, a former colleague at Medtronic, and gotten to work like we’d done for years.
I can’t say when I became dominated by time, but even little Mike was some kind of efficiency freak. “Best to carry the bowl of popcorn and the book I’m reading and this full glass of milk into the living room all at the same time.” This served me well throughout school and my long corporate careers at Seagate and Medtronic. Producing maximum output in minimum time impressed teachers and management. Oh blessed internal chronometer, light my way with your time display.
Fortunately for me, a new truth is surging upward, like prairie grasses pushing from beneath, cracking the hard surface of a silicon lie. For as I said goodbye to Tom and began walking up the driveway to rejoin Heather and the boys, I felt a tingle, growing to a thrill. My feet nearly floated off the gravel. I’d done it! I’d broken free! I’d achieved escape velocity from the most powerful and pervasive force of my life: Time.
Until my Medtronic severance money runs out, I’m off the corporate merry-go-round. Rather than Outlook Calendars and Gantt Charts, my life now pulses with the rhythms of the earth. Yes, I am here on the job site every day. But Tom has given me a great gift. He manages and worries about the schedule so much, I barely have to. I’m allowed to let go.
A bud unfurls. The leaf basks green in the light. Blazes red. Falls to earth. A bare twig rattles. The great story of life. And death. And life renewed. But is time the same for that leaf as for me? I’m beginning to have grave doubts.
I also wonder if time is really just a character in a story. A very engaging and useful character, but no more. And no less a fictional creation of my imagination than Amelan or Emo or any of the characters in my Corridor novel. Time the tool. Time the tyrant. Time my trusted friend, so predictably and reliably there. And least he was so on Monday? Or was it Friday?
This week I continue to revel in an inspiring comment from Brad, a long-time Medtronic friend. “I hope you do not have to go back to work ever again, and can enjoy Rah-dur. While I must earn money one day again, I don’t think I could go all the way back to work, especially with all the travel.
Unless it were time travel. A week ago I would have thought such a notion comical. Now I’m not so sure. I’m imagining what it might mean to float “weightless” in time, as an astronaut does in space. I’ve only engaged new life on the Land for three months? What will three years bring?
Maybe I’ll learn there is no such a thing as three years. Whenever that is, I hope you'll join me.