Where are you going anyway?

My brother’s family used to have a large white rat and a mackerel tabby cat kitten. During one of my visits, the rat's cage was sitting in his office on top of a cardboard box, and his desk chair had been left with the seat facing away from the desk, but towards the cage and right level with it.

rat-wheel.jpg

The kitten figured out that it could lay on the chair, as if to pounce, and then extend its paw through the cage bars. The rat was terrified. In its panicked state it would hop on its exercise wheel and run as if its life depended on it.

The kitten would ever so casually reach its paw through the cage and swat the rat, knocking it off the wheel. It would land on its side on the bottom of the cage. The rat, now more terrified than ever, would hop back on the wheel and redouble its efforts trying to run away.

Again, the kitten would swat it off, and again the rat would jump back on the wheel and run like hell... and again, and again.

I laughed and stood watching this fiasco, probably longer than I should have, before I turned the desk chair around so the kitten no longer had a front row seat to the cage and wheel.

Even without the cat looming over it, the rat kept on running a good deal longer.

This story came to my mind when I was thinking about time and the funny relationship we have with it. 

How many times have I been the rat, thinking that running faster would save me from something that couldn’t actually hurt me? How many times have I not seen that stopping and staying still was a choice? How many times have I been running on a route that didn’t lead anywhere useful? How many times have I kept running just because I already was? 

We keep busy because we want to “succeed” we want to accomplish more, have more, and do more exciting things than our neighbors and friends. But at the end of the day, what does doing and having more actually get you? 

When our last days approach, will we be elated that we kept our teenage figure with all the dieting and exercising we did? Will we be counting the fancy cars and stocks that we accumulated and sad that we can’t take them with us? Will we still be living the thrill of all the exhausting, cram every second full, family vacations we took? 

Everyone will have their own answers to these questions, and none of them are right or wrong. It’s just useful to know which treadmill you’re on. 

At the end of my days I hope I will have touched some lives and made them better… the more the merrier. I hope I will have been an example to my children for how to live a truly rich, authentic life… one filled with love, laughter, acceptance, and kindness. I hope I will remember the sweet moments with people that were close to me… the shared joke, the special nickname, the tender feeling of a held hand. 

I hope that this is where my hamster ball is headed, and I hope that when it’s not I am aware enough to notice and redirect it. I hope that when all is said and done, my time will have mattered to someone.