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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Careless With Time


In the mid-1980s, I received a colorful hand-me-down Ocean Pacific watch that smelled of someone else’s cologne. Seeing the “OP” logo, my late stepmom remarked, “OP, you know what that stands for, right? Other people!”


Her joke represented the notion that only white people could afford such luxury and that black individuals apparently didn’t concern themselves with such frivolity. At best, her assertion was a sweeping generalization influenced by her subjective worldview.


I valued the timepiece, because no one else I knew had one like it and the watch allowed me to keep track of time rather than relying on other sources of information (e.g., mounted clocks within classrooms). Therefore, I valued the watch until it inevitably disappeared, as its whereabouts also remain lost within the annals of my mind.


Perhaps one of, if not the most, valuable elements of life is how we measure the passing of our existence. Time is an irreplaceable resource, one even the wealthiest among us can’t afford to renew. Thus, some people make themselves miserable in regard to supposed lost moments.


When thinking of time, I’m reminded of quotes from the late Alan Watts, the late el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (better known as Malcolm X), the late Stoic philosopher Seneca, and the late Joseph Campbell. For instance, Watts once stated:


We are seeing, then, that our experience is altogether momentary. From one point of view, each moment is so elusive and so brief that we cannot even think about it before it has gone. From another point of view, this moment is always here, since we know no other moment than the present moment. It is always dying, always becoming past more rapidly than imagination can conceive. Yet at the same time it is always being born, always new, emerging just as rapidly from that complete unknown we call the future. Thinking about it almost makes you breathless.


Watts reminded people that there is no moment other than the present. For instance, at no point within your life have you ever awoken and the current day was yesterday or tomorrow. It is always today. Moreover, there is no five minutes past or five minutes from now. It is always now.


Of course, the lesson of Watts isn’t something that negates my fondness for distant ownership of an OP watch, nor does it invalidate my assertion that some people are careless with time. Rather, I view the teaching of Watts as a foundational principle supporting value placed on time.


From an existentialist lens, I assign meaning to keeping track of time. This is because I understand that everyone will eventually die. On the day we do, it will be today. And in the moment that we no longer exist in this current form, it will be now.


Until that inescapable breathless moment, I value being flexibly mindful of my time and the time of others. As an example, in regard to clients with whom I use Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I attempt to be on time for each psychotherapy session.


In doing so, I model behavior for clients. In particular, I show that I’m not careless with their time through demonstration of the fact that I don’t attend sessions later than the proposed staring time of our appointments. Therefore, clients may learn to also value the time of others.


Of course, I don’t place rigid expectations on my clients by demanding that they must exhibit behavior learned from me. If they choose to be careless with time, and depending upon whether or not they show up beyond an agreed upon 15-minute late fee cutoff time for appointments, then I’m not self-disturbed by their behavior.


Even if a client no-shows a session and doesn’t respond to my attempts to make contact, I don’t upset myself with irrational beliefs about the undesirable event. Instead, I charge a no-show fee and carry on with my day.


After all, many people waste what time they have in life and I don’t want to spend my moments fretting about the behavior of people who are careless with time. When considering the measurement of time we place on tools such as watches, Malcolm X is credited with having stated:


I have less patience with someone who doesn’t wear a watch than with anyone else, for this type is not time-conscious. In all our deeds, the proper value and respect for time determines success or failure.


Apparently, Malcolm X experienced low frustration tolerance (LFT) with people who weren’t conscious of time. If LFT had a catchphrase it would be, “I can’t stand it!” In addition to demandingness I mentioned earlier, LFT is one of the four major irrational beliefs addressed by REBT theory.


Supporting my suspicion of his LFT self-disturbance, in a documentary on Malcolm X’s life the late activist’s former sister in the Nation of Islam stated, “I look at my watch or I show up late somewhere and I can hear Malcolm talking about not trusting a person who doesn’t wear a watch and who is careless with time.”


Although I practice high frustration tolerance and unconditional acceptance, I can appreciate that Malcolm X apparently had reverence for time. Regarding this sort of veneration, Seneca is credited with having stated:


It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. But when it is squandered in luxury and carelessness, when it is devoted to no good end, forced at last by the ultimate necessity we perceive that it has passed away before we were aware that it was passing. So it is—the life we receive is not short, but we make it so, nor do we have any lack of it, but are wasteful of it. Just as great and princely wealth is scattered in a moment when it comes into the hands of a bad owner, while wealth however limited, if it is entrusted to a good guardian, increases by use, so our life is amply long for him who orders it properly.


Considering this Stoic perspective, how have you ordered your life? Have you been careless with time? Suppose that up until eternity you’ve chosen to scatter the wealth of time. Oh, wait. You may not understand what I mean by “eternity.” For context, Joseph Campbell once stated:


“Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time! Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out,” and, “If you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. And the experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.”


Given this worldview, suppose that up until eternity you’ve chosen to scatter the wealth of time. Unlike the illusion of the past or future, with an absurd notion that at some distant point in time you will effect change, what can you do about carelessness with time in eternity – in this very moment?


If you’re dissatisfied with today, this moment, and eternity – as framed herein, you don’t have to self-disturb about how you’ve been careless with time while leading a life of meaningless suffering. You have options.


Just as I’m at peace with the OP watch existing only in my memory, you can accept lost time that is no longer accessible to you. Additionally, you can accept that whatever comes next in the measurement of time isn’t a matter about which you must self-disturb.


Of course, if you choose to upset yourself with beliefs, you can also be careless with time in that regard. Still, if you’d like to begin practicing rational living so that you no longer self-disturb with unproductive beliefs about squandered time, I look forward to hearing from you today.


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





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