Take the time

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Crawford
  • 21st Space Wing commander
In my previous commentary, I wrote about the importance of "outward" resiliency and the need to balance it with focus on yourself. Col. Jennifer Moore, 21st Operations Group commander, wrote an earlier article about the importance of finding the unique balance between labor and leisure that works for you and your family. This article is along the same vein, but based on some specific observations in my own life about time.

This past August, I drove across the country to Alabama. I drove more than 1,300 miles with my youngest of two daughters, helped her move into her dorm room and waved goodbye as she started her life away from home. I came home to the realization that Kayreen and I were empty-nesters. We were all alone (except for our cat, Tuli) in a house that suddenly had two fewer children and seemed a little more cavernous. I had two observations at that point: First, I was infinitely grateful for the time I had made throughout the years to spend time with my family. Second, pets like Tuli seemed to naturally grasp the concept of valuing these moments.

Many people spend their adult life trying to learn how to prioritize what's most important, juggling their various roles and responsibilities - and often adding new balls to the juggling act all the time. Tuli and other pets, however, instinctively put what's most important first. They don't know any different, and their blissful ignorance holds an important lesson for us all.

Animals appreciate the present. While my analogy is limited by the implicit differences between humans and animals, anyone who owns pets understands that they often become an integral part of the family and therefore a valued contributor to your dogma (no pun intended). If you watch a dog playing fetch with his owner, it is hard not to notice his evident pleasure in the moment. He is a bundle of slobber, tail-wagging and unadulterated joy for the time he has with his master. My cat Tuli will play with a golf ball in the living room for hours, perfectly content with the gift of time she has been given. Pets seem to have this uncanny and natural ability to place value on things that are important: not chewed up Frisbees or misplaced golf balls, but the peace of a quiet moment with loved ones.

Don't put off spending time with your spouse, children or parents. To put it bluntly, they won't be around forever. You and your spouse may grow apart if you don't make an effort to spend time together, and you will miss your loved ones when they are gone. Your little girl will go from a tiny newborn to a wobbling toddler, to a young woman asking to borrow the car keys faster than you can imagine. Don't put off family time for the future, or because life will be less complicated "next year." Take the time now to enrich your life, and those of the ones you love, with time together. Appreciate those moments. Remember that the Air Force gives you a generous supply of leave for a reason.

Pets also teach us about making the most of the time we have. The average dog will live for 12 years, while a chinchilla may only live a couple of years longer. As a pet owner, you can see life move in fast forward as they grow from puppies or kittens, to adults, to geriatric housemates. Their timeline is a powerful reminder that life is fleeting. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said at Cambridge in 1837, "This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it."

I think we can all learn from our beloved pets. In her simplicity, my cat Tuli has taught me to appreciate the memories I've shared with my daughters, as well as the present quietness of an empty house. When Kayreen and I enjoy a quiet Thursday night watching "Elementary," I am glad we have taken the time, and continue to take the time, to appreciate the moment. As we head into the holidays, I encourage you to do the same.