You don’t have that kind of time

me on the beach

Can you guess what I’m thinking in this photo?

Yep, this was me looking pretty darn hot at 19.

a) This sun feels great.

b) I hope Jeremy’s thinking about me right now (we had just started dating).

c) I can’t believe how great it is to be on vacation after exams.

d) I hope I don’t look too fat in this. I probably don’t have the body for a bikini.

e) All of the above.

The correct answer is e.

Honestly, isn’t “d” just ridiculous? I mean, at the age I am now, I would love to look like I did in this photo again. How could my perspective have been so off kilter?

Why didn’t I just enjoy it at the time? I should have been wearing miniskirts and bikinis and tube tops every day. With 20/20 hindsight I think, “I would never think that I was fat if I looked like that.” But apparently I did. And I probably could do so again.

I wonder how many hours women have wasted thinking about physical shortcomings, reprimanding themselves, avoiding some kind of activity or opportunity because of some deep-rooted sense of inadequacy about their bodies?

A story Anne Lamott shared in Bird by Bird demonstrates this absurdity in stark terms:

“But about a month before my friend Pammy died, she said something that may have permanently changed me. We had gone shopping for a dress for me to wear that night to a nightclub with the man I was seeing at the time. Pammy was in a wheelchair, wearing her Queen Mum wig, the Easy Rider look in her eyes. I tried on a lavender minidress, which is not my usual style. I tend to wear big, baggy clothes. People used to tell me I dressed like John Goodman. Anyway, the dress fit perfectly, and I came out to model it for her. I stood there feeling very shy and self-conscious and pleased. Then I said, ‘Do you think it makes my hips look too big?’ and she said to me slowly, ‘Annie? I really don’t think you have that kind of time.’” –Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

There’s a sense of urgency in Pammy’s words. Instant perspective. Because although Pammy was the one with terminal cancer, Anne was suffering from a disease of a different kind. The fact is that no matter how healthy we may appear on the outside, none of us have that kind of time.

These days I’m measuring my thoughts and actions against Pammy’s yardstick. Do I have the kind of time that accommodates spending two hours beating myself up about wearing “mom jeans?” What about the extra weight I was hoping would be gone by the time I finished my 5K? Should I spend a day or two feeling bad about how I look in the pictures taken on that otherwise glorious day?

I still have thoughts that are a waste of time, but they are much more fleeting. I’ve fought hard to get to a point in life where I am living with more joy than pain. So these days if I begrudgingly give wasteful thoughts any of my precious time, it’s seconds. No more hours, and definitely no more days.

Thank God, I have much better things to do with my time.

What will you do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver

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8 Responses to You don’t have that kind of time

  1. claudia kaul September 23, 2010 at 8:13 pm #

    I totally relate. Thanks for your amazing honesty. It helps me to be more honestly with myself. And I love that Mary Oliver quote.

  2. claudia kaul September 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    And of course Ms. Lamott is spot on.

  3. Amy Haley September 23, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    Yes. You pulled a page from our Bible study the other night. We discussed how many countless hours we spent in the mirror wondering if we looked fat in an outfit. Honestly! I couldn’t count the hours I have wasted in shopping, worrying, changing into ever-more-flattering jeans, and being unhappy in my own skin. Jesus said, “Has anyone by fussing in the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion — do you really think it makes any difference? Instead of looking at what is in fashion, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?” (the Message). I need to get my eyes off of myself and what I feel like I’m missing out on and start paying attention to what God wants to give me. Time really is too short to be so self-absorbed! Okay. I’ve got it intellectually. I’ll see if I can walk it out.

    • Rachel Greenhouse September 24, 2010 at 7:03 am #

      Sister: I love it when we are thinking about the same things, though thousands of miles apart. Cosmically connected!

  4. carla September 27, 2010 at 7:54 am #

    I feel the same way when I see pictures of myself in high school, when I was convinced I was so fat. What a waste of time!!! I’m not crazy about my current weight, but I find that I’m less obsessive about my body than I used to be. More often than not, I’m actually kind of proud of it. It’s strong. It’s healthy. It built healthy babies. It might not look great in knits but I’m getting over that.

  5. Teri September 27, 2010 at 12:46 pm #

    Rachel, thank you so much! I find myself here all to often these days. Fighting internally to be comfortable in my (aging) skin. I know some older then me would roll their eyes at such a statement. However, I like you look at those old college pictures, and think what I wouldn’t give to have that body back!! I spent all too much time thinking I wasn’t pretty enough or skinny enough. You’d think I would learn, and yet the struggle seems eternal, because those same thoughts will still swirl through my head today if I left unchecked. I find myself wondering if I can conquer this ugly weed of insecurity in my life, would it dramatically impact my daughters life? I think it would and what a way to impact the next generation. Can you imagine a WHOLE life of being able to love your own skin from a young age, no matter what that skin looks like! Still walking it out personally is so hard. Reminders like this are so necessary for all of us. I love Amy’s comment. Wow, what a very “now” translation from the Message. Hits a little too close to home eh? Thanks for sharing your heart in such a honest way.

  6. Michelle September 28, 2010 at 2:16 pm #


  7. Aimee September 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I love your way of thinking and I love the Mary Oliver quote! Linking on my blog Thank you for the inspiration!

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