Befriending Time: MacGyver Style

clock with image of hand holding paperclip. text reads Befriending Time, MacGyver Style

Time is one of those concepts that would likely implode our brains if we ever fully grasped it. All my brain can manage to hold onto is a collection of little stories that secretly hold the definitions of time.

One of these stories comes from the show MacGyver, a 1980's American television program I loved to watch as a child. It was about a hunk of a man with a feathered mullet who always seemed to find himself in a room with a ticking time bomb. And yet, as the seconds counted down, he resourced any and all objects available to him (like a hair comb and a piece of pocket lint) to ingeniously escape the impending doom. 

The tiny miracles that took place in those excruciatingly small snippets of time completely astounded me. They challenged my notion of what is possible: both in good ways and in bad.

The unhealthy interpretation of the show can be seen in a psychological phenomenon I call the Inner Drill Sergeant. The shadow side here is the distorted belief that it can all get done, and must get done, or else we face doom. It’s a belief that has made its way into many parts of the world, and permeates the American work ethic.

Here in the US we always seem to be racing against a disaster. Seldom do we stop to reflect on what that imaginary impending doom is: will you actually DIE if you don’t finish your to-do list? Lose your home and starve on the streets? Be exiled for eternity?

A wise teacher once told me that any belief we hold that makes us feel bad, is inherently a false belief. And I don’t know about you but this one most certainly makes me feel bad: stressed, anxious and downright incompetent.

So then what is true here? If we hold the story of MacGyver in the light, what can it teach us about a newer and healthier relationship to time? Here are my takeaways:

Time is not the enemy. Like in MacGyver, the enemy isn’t the clock that he’s facing. It’s the “bad guys” that set this time bomb to begin with; the reason he is in this treacherous position. And sometimes, we are our own enemies. We set up and design our own lives so that we live at this frantic pace that makes us resentful towards time.

Time cannot be tamed. In our modern post-Industrial lives there has been a great emphasis on the skill of time management. The truth is, time is not something to be managed. It’s something to BE in and life is a question of HOW you want to be in it. In other words, we are not the ones in control here.

There will always be something you’re letting go of. This is something we just have to get comfortable with because there is no way around it. Whether it’s something you want to do or not, even in this very moment as you read this, you have already made the choice to let go of several things. But here you are with your choice made. And if you stop reading here, you’ll have made the choice to let go of this. We are always letting go.

When you can’t get to the things you want to, you can still seek to find gratitude for the passion, desire or excitement that you have. We are beings of longing… and how dull would life be without something to yearn for?

image of posted flyer with tear-away tabs that read, "time". Title of flyer reads "the more time you take, the more time you have"

The more time you take, the more time you have. We seem to have been raised with the opposite belief. When I watch MacGyver acting all cool, calm and collected while that bomb clock is down to its last seconds, I’d scream at him to “hurry up!!”. We believe that if we hurry up and move faster, we’ll somehow “beat” time. But in reality, in our hurrying we can cause so many more disruptions and delays than we ever meant to.

Test this presumption yourself in the next week. Each time you feel yourself rushing to beat time, slow yourself down with a nice slow breath. One of my tricks is to put on music that has a distinctively slower rhythm than the one I’m in, and then I’ll challenge myself to only move to that beat. This also makes it more fun. And speaking of fun…

woman seated in meditation in an orange room near an open door leading to a green room

Time is a playspace. The door to the playroom is the present moment. This magical playspace contains absolutely everything we could ever need in the present moment, paperclips and all! When you find yourself truly present in the here and now, all of the possibilities become clearer, like a room full of every toy you’ve ever dreamed of. When you have access to that many resources, miracles become your new reality. 

And while I hope you never have to find yourself in a room with an actual ticking time bomb, remember that Father Time is friend, not foe, and certainly NOT someone whose aim is to defeat you. Call upon Father Time and slow down enough to receive from him his generous gifts of more time. Let him support you in sorting out your priorities and deciding what to give your precious attention to. And finally, let yourself delight in this precious gift of time that we’ve been graced with while here on Earth.

 Oh and one more thing: NEVER cut the red wire. (or is it the white wire? I can never remember... 😬)

Adrienne Cress, Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Expressive Arts Therapist

Adrienne Cress portrait (1)

Adrienne Cress is an Expressive Arts Therapist, Coach and Educator. She is the Co-Founder of The Loveliness and has a private practice in Portsmouth, NH.  

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