The Stuff of "Real Stuff" Hours (Part 1)

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. -- Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG)


My daughter slept-in this morning.  She slept way, way in.

All of my kiddos are fairly early risers, always have been.  You can find us all puttering about in the mornings by 7:30 A.M. at the very latest.  So it was surprising when half past nine came and went, Little Sister asking why on earth Big Sister was still snoozing upstairs.  I wasn't too concerned;  it's the first official day of our holiday break (yes, seven whole weeks of pure, unadulterated Thanksgiving and Christmas goodness with nary an exam or written paper in sight), and she still had a post-sleepover-with-friends-oreos-and-potato-chips hangover from this past weekend.

"Mom, I found out why she's still sleeping," said my youngest, after a wee, soft patter up and down the stairs again.

"Oh?  Why?"

"Her clock says it's only six o'clock."

A full three hours behind.  It felt naughty, the thought of a clock being set that far behind, missing (wasting)  that much of the daylight hours ... and also richly luxurious to be that oblivious to the actual goings on of the world around.  To still be safely wrapped in warm comfort, in your bed, while the sun lazily passes overhead through clear blue sky.  I will admit I was a little jealous of her.

I've been very lost in thought over the past few days, floating around in a sea of introspection, dwelling on my true calling and purpose, mulling over the meaning of my life.  Call it an existential crises (or a midlife "I'm turning 40 in 28 days" crises), but I am taking these thoughts very seriously, chewing them over with meaningful intention.

The lifespan of the average person is 71 years. If you're a guy, you can expect to live about 68 years. If you're a woman, give yourself 73. For now, let's bump it up for all of us to 75 years, just for the sake of generosity.

One third of that time is spent sleeping, so now we each have 50 years to work with, or 438,000 waking hours.

Of those 438,000 waking hours, you can expect to spend roughly one third of those "working". Whether your job is as a welder, an accountant, a stay-at-home parent, teacher, lawyer, doctor, or journalist, the average work hours add up to 60 hours per week -- more if your job demands more, but let's just say you now have 292,000 hours remaining for "all the other stuff", roughly eight hours per 24-hour day for what we'll call the Real Stuff.

Here's where the rubber begins to hit the road: take your age in years and multiply it by eight, then multiply that number again by 365.  Deduct this number, the number of Real Stuff hours you've already lived, from 292,000.

The number you're staring at is the number of Real Stuff hours you have left before your life here on earth is no more.

Now let me ask you this: how are you going to spend those hours?

Are you going to spend them with family and friends? Are you going to spend them staring at the T.V.? Are you going to play iPhone games with those hours?  Will you spend them on Facebook, gathering bits of intel about people you may or may not know on a daily basis? Are you going to spend them exercising? What about gardening? Taking photos of your kids dance recitals? Going on Vacations? Surely some of your Real Stuff hours will be spent eating, showering, brushing your teeth, picking out the day's clothes, driving to and fro -- but what about the rest of them?

It is this I have been pondering: what is the stuff of Real Stuff?  What are my priorities?

Is it acquiring knowledge or wealth or status?

Is it playing board games with your kids or kissing your partner?

Is it going to church or practicing yoga?

Is it laughing with friends over hot tea or taking prayerful walks in the woods?

What is it?  What are the top priorities in your life?

And are you spending your Real Stuff hours on those things?

I haven't been. I've spent many thousands of hours on social media, glued to my computer screen, glued to a television screen -- well beyond what is healthy or acceptable for mere mindful rest (because rest is just as important as the Real Stuff).  I have only 175,252 hours of my Real Stuff life left (assuming I don't get hit by a car in the morning).

I'm not trying to be morbid. I'm trying to be real.  I'm trying to be honest.  Because taking a cold, hard, calculating gander at what I am doing and what I really want to be doing is a valuable, valuable thing.

What are you doing -- right now, eyes pasted to screen, sitting at home or standing on the curb waiting for your bus to work, checking your laptop or smartphone?  What are you doing with your Real Stuff hours?

I believe we owe it to ourselves to figure out the answer to this key question, sooner rather than later ...

To be continued ....

Lauren BensonComment