Consider the hourglass – by Terry Howard

Hey readers, this narrative is for you personally. Each of you.

But before reading further, picture an hourglass and imagine you seated in the top. If not you, envision someone else you know and care about sitting there. And although this may be a stretch, visualize your city of residence, perhaps one that’s splintering along racial lines. Now further picture the sand beneath you slowly slipping into the bottom.

Hold your image for now. hourglass

Now in response to my rapid-fire writings on many topics, three great individuals – one a Georgia-based musician, the second a Seattle-based coffee entrepreneur, and the third a writer and playwright in Virginia – asked me, in different words, where I get my enormous bursts of energy from.

“Dude, what are they spiking your coffee with down there in Georgia? Asked one. “Please send me a dose of whatever it is that you’ve been injecting,” said another. “You’re like the proverbial bull in a China shop,” laughed the other.

“Hey friends, my clock’s running out,” I explained. That got a laugh and a “yep, I’m with you on that brother!”

I then returned to writing my forthcoming book and realized that time is indeed running out in scheduling interviews with some folks whose stories I need, many of whom are in their late seventies, eighties and early nineties.

But let’s step back to your hourglass.

“Timestamp” your life next to its beginning when it was full in the top. What filled it up during your early years – family, friends, schoolmates, etc.? What decisions did you make that impacted you and maybe the lives of others? What were some of your regrets, if any?

When I practised that thought experiment myself, I thought about friends, work colleagues, classmates, family members and others who are no longer alive, who have ascended to the bottom of the “glass.” I thought about how they got there and the conditions in life that put them there. The “why them, not me?” question tugged at me. I also pondered the decisions I made and thought about my regrets. I then shifted to thinking about how the hourglass plays out in other aspects of life beyond personal relationships and decisions.

So readers, ponder for a moment the glass stem that separates the top of the glass from the bottom and how we sometimes “widen” that stem in ways that hasten our flow to the bottom. Alcohol? Drugs? Poor diets? Not enough exercise? Too much Debt? Add a few of your own to the list.

Turning now to your personal bucket list, things you can do while there’s time. For example, 

– reaching out to and building a relationship with someone from a different cultural, racial, religious background than yours

– finishing that book you never got around to reading

– making that phone call you never got around to making

-issuing that apology you never made

– attending that child’s game/ballet performance you were always too busy to attend

– getting that colonoscopy you kept putting off

– visiting that dying relative or friend

– restoring the trust someone lost in you

– repaying the money someone lent you

– cutting up those credit cards

Pause and ask yourself…. “What else have I wanted/meant to do but haven’t? “

Questions for a thoughtful analysis:

  1. What are the consequences of constantly “putting stuff off?”
  2. If you were given a “do over,” a chance to correct something you did or said to someone who has passed on, what would that look like?
  3. What are the possibilities for using the hourglass as a prompt for setting your goals and developing a personal action plan?
  4. How might you use the hourglass as a teaching tool for those early in the top to avoid bad decisions that may hasten their flow to the bottom?
  5. As to the splintering city you may have visualized, since its current division has met a hopeful future, which way does it go? Does it sink to the bottom or forge ahead as a place that respects and values us all?

In closing and in parting, here’s one more question: no, wait, the engine warning light on my Jeep’s dashboard just lit up. I should kick myself in the behind for putting off getting that repair done months ago. So it looks like I have a huge repair bill on the horizon, darn it.

Terry Howard

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