Tuesday, July 17, 2012


: an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment

It often feels like my time is not my own.  I live my life around appointments, lessons, performances and other obligations.  Even summer - a time that has typically held fewer activities and more time for inactivity (aka rest) - has been full.  I wouldn't necessarily change these things.  Our summer schedule has, I believe, been a taste of things to come.  With my children getting older and our city's school system gradually shifting to a year round calendar, summers are not what they used to be.  Even while we are homeschooling, our schedule is set for us in many ways.  Camps must be crammed into an 8 week period.  Opportunities for enrichment with other children are shrinking.  Travel takes valuable white space off the calendar. 

To be honest, I mourn this.  I love summers with my daughters - time to do fun things together, to stay in our pajamas all day, to do anything - or nothing.  I can still have these things - this time - but in smaller doses.  So I am trying to adjust and accept that time does not always move at the pace I would choose.

When my daughters visited their grandparents in Wisconsin earlier this summer, they came home with heirlooms.  A brought home a 1970s ladybug tunic and shorts.  B loves her cut off jean shorts and summer top.  You should see K model her father's old Brewer's jacket.  And they brought something for me: J's kairos cross from a retreat he went on in high school.

The first time I remember seeing this kind of cross was in Washington, DC in 1993 when J and I visited one of his high school friends.  I saw this necklace hanging in his friend's dorm room and asked what it was.  J's friend looked at him in surprise that I hadn't seen it before.  J shrugged while M explained it was a kairos cross.  If he gave me any further explanation all those years ago, it is gone from the mental stores I have available to me.

So when I opened the box with the cross in it, I decided to see if I could find out more about it.  Wikipedia to the rescue:
The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time in between, a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative nature.

I don't have a seminary degree.  I don't speak ancient Greek.  But here's what I think: We all live in chronos time, but not all of us live in kairos time.  Time will move on, whether we mark it or not, whether we spend it well or squander it.  That's why it's important to mark the moments of import and notice them. 

I've only had the kairos cross for a few weeks, but I've thus far tried to intentionally wear it when I need to be aware of time.  Not aware of my schedule, but aware of the moments that matter.  I don't know this, but I suspect that if I were better able to see, seize and enjoy kairos time, then chronos time would not feel like the burden it does.

All of these things are more heavily on my mind precisely because my life is so busy.  J and I decided about a week ago that we want to put our house on the market.  Having lived here for ten years, this is no small task.  We aren't exactly pack rats, but we have the blessing/curse of a basement.  The basement is a place best described as the locus of apathy and accumulation.  In all likelihood, there are items in that basement that have been boxed up since we moved here ten years ago.  I can assure you that when I come across said items, they will be discarded.  But it will take lots of work to get there.

I do think this is the right thing for us for now.  This is the time for this task.  But with school starting in ten days, I am feeling pressure to pack fighting a desire to create a quiet space to dream, pray and plan about our school year.  The pressure to pack will almost certainly win, meaning that our school year will start whether I am ready or not - and we will just have to do the best we can to enjoy the Olympics and learn while we enjoy.  (We are starting our year with a unit study of the Olympics, which does relieve some of the pressure to plan right now.)

The last two days have been particularly full.  I told a friend yesterday, "You know I'm overwhelmed when I keep fantasizing about not leaving my house for week.  And that's all I've thought about all morning."

It's unlikely that week will happen any time soon (or ever?).  The best solution I can think of is to remember kairos, to mark my time and pause to enjoy the right and opportune moments when they arise.

1 comment:

Chris and Tiana said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately too. Micah is probably our last baby, and I love the newborn phase. But he's been a hard baby who cries a lot, and it made me sad that I wasn't enjoying my favorite phase because it was so hard. So I've been trying to savor the sweet moments in between the crying episodes. It's been really nice to just sit and enjoy those moments because they really do happen, and they really are sweet. But it's easy to miss those moments if I get caught up and overwhelmed with the craziness of every day life. These years go by so very quickly!