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No Time Like the Present

July 14, 2015

By Angela Jeffs

This morning, answering a mail, I wrote: “Going south next week to see various friends and relatives to whom I’ve been promising visits for a looooooong time, having realised there is no time like the present.”

I had been describing how last summer I met up with a friend of 50 years in London and promised that I would come down soon to stay with her for a good long catch up. That was at a wedding.

In February I was at her funeral, feeling sad and bad not to have fulfilled that vow. The months had passed. I had left it too late. There really is no time like the present.

No sooner had I written it down, than the phrase pulled me up short. I sat and looked at it awhile, wondering how it had come into common use without a closer consideration of its full implications.

I suppose, like you, I had always thought it meant quite simply that there is no better time than right now to do something because life has a habit of throwing surprises in our way. Mostly the surprises are painless, but sometimes not. The result however is always the same: plans are put on hold…

I remember a well-traveled friend describing Damascus as the most beautiful vibrant city she had ever had the good fortune to visit. By the end of our conversation, I was as enthused as she and all geared up to go. But then my partner and I moved house, moved country, unpacked and set about trying to settle, and now it’s far too late. Syria is a ruin.

So there is this so-called regret, not to have gone to that part of the Middle East while I had the chance. Not going to see Catharine is another. And then there is my father, with whom I parted badly in 1962 and never saw alive again.

I say so-called, because there is no point to regret in itself. All one can do is come to terms with emotions and feelings (because they are different if only in strength and effect) and move on with wisdom: the wisdom of experience and consideration. Catharine is not angry with me. I know this. And my father forgave me long ago. I know this too. Damascus? On its own karmic path, as are all countries, cultures and societies. As are you. As am I.

Beyond this obvious interpretation of avoiding leaving things too late, there is an-other: there is no time other than the present. No past (historic, even the second I typed that word, now passed). No future (unknown). All we have is the time of right now, in this moment of tip-tip-tapping: me as the writer, you as the reader.

Outside it is raining (well, it is Scotland!) In the cottage, there is food in the kitchen, books to read, the fireplace stocked with logs. There is a man there who cares about me, as I care about him. As far as I know, my children are also safe, healthy and be-loved.

So, right now, in this instantaneous timeframe, all is well with my world. As far as my eye can see…

Time behind or ahead does not exist.  Or as the old adage goes:

The past is history,

Tomorrow is a mystery,

Right now is a gift,

And that’s why it’s called the present.

For those interested in the concept and passage of time and its management, English lecturer and author Steve Taylor offers a fascinating book : MAKING TIME: Why Time Seems to Pass at Different Speeds and How to Control It. (Sphere Books 2007)

Taylor, whose main interest is in transpersonal psychology, reached No. 31 in the Top 100 Spiritually Influential People in the World as voted by Mind, Body and Spirit magazine. He’s been on this list consistently for the last few years. Just recently he posted that he seemed to have slipped down quite a way, but thought it funny rather than a matter of concern. No regrets there.

I was consistently driven by regret for many years. Regret about leaving things unsaid, unseen, undone for years. But no longer.

Regret hinders healthy transition. Regret is unhealthy in itself.

There truly is no time like the present, the split second in which transition, like life itself, exists in perfection.

LABELS:   Angela Jeffs   Family   Friends   Future   Past   Present   Regret   Steve Taylor   Time   Transition  
About the author: After training in theatre and Laban dance, Angela Jeffs ( stepped sideways into London publishing. She worked freelance as an editor from 1973, then reinvented herself in Japan as a journalist and writer from 1986. She was a weekly columnist for The Japan Times for 22 years, and Japan Correspondent for Asia Magazine in Hong Kong from 1989-1996. Her book Insider's Tokyo, commissioned from Singapore, was published in 2001. Since 2005 she has been developing and facilitating a programme of therapeutic creative writing under the title Drawing on The Writer Within. Her latest book, Chasing Shooting Stars: A South American Paper Trail into the Past, can be ordered via
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