Time Isn’t Meant to Be Filled

WORDS CARRY WEIGHT when there’s breath in between. A poem shines not shrouded in type, but when sparse like a tree in a desert, stark against the empty, pale sky.

Time doesn’t need to be filled.

A man-made construct, our minds play tricks; we believe we’re missing out, falling back, wasted — if each second isn’t used to move in conformity with the ticking clock.

When our time comes, we may wonder if we did enough.

But what are we really here to do?

Perhaps nothing more than watch time go. Flowers blooming. The rising sun. And notice how it opens us.

Coming from someone constantly listening, reading, watching, typing, my mind says do, but my heart says be.

In the morning I get up and I go, engaging in various pursuits.

I’ve built the pressure like fire beneath a kettle. I feel I’m not living up to my own expectations if I don’t keep up.

I love this shit, but I need to release. We all do.

In the night, in the darkness, I let go of the weight. The day’s been written.

I find clarity in moments of surrender. We mustn’t be anxious if not doing; this time is needed, and I allow it. Cherish it.

Let myself enjoy it.

The space between the moments is just as vital as the moments themselves.

Waiting for the train to take me home, I walk to the end of the platform in Kobe, Japan.

The tunnel opens upon a world of midnight blue; the earth, the night sky. I look up at the cold, lucid moon.

The smell of darkness after an afternoon of rain is sweet and damp, fresh from the intermittent storm.

It makes me happy to watch the sailing, luminous clouds, wondering what they’re telling me.

Simplify; go deeper into less.

In the doing we’re running from ourselves, our thoughts, the silence, when in that silence the answers are found.

On the train, I grapple with the notion that I’m wasting time if not using the space to sit and be.

I should read, study Japanese, write.

But I want to look out the window and listen to music. So I do.

We need time to chill.

To think.

To put the phone away and ruminate, for in that rumination we start to know ourselves.

We need space to breathe.

The train rolls from silence into energy, the city that’s become my home; Osaka: flashing lights, the river; and what I’ve gained is a chance to find myself.

I walk through the labyrinthine station.

Past countless faces and souls. I smile, happy because I’m here, alive with you, unoccupied time coursing through me like fresh air on a cool summer night.

I caught up with one of my best friends, ​Greg​, yesterday.

It nearly brought me to tears to have a friend to not only catch up with, but to discuss breakthroughs in our thinking, flourishing notions.

As it usually happens we’re on the same wavelength, striving to slow down seemingly in harmony, firing things up in unison.

He told me that for the past week he’s been asking himself the question:

If I loved myself truly and deeply, what would I do?

Greg is my co-host on ​The Dare to Dream Podcast​, one of the most driven, inspired human beings I know.

We both feel the weight to do, as if our worth is determined by how much we get done each and every day.

It’s because we genuinely love what we’re pursuing, but that doesn’t mean the pressure doesn’t weigh on us.

Instead of judging his days by how much he’s getting done, Greg told me he’s shifted to asking the question above, judging the fruitfulness of the day by how much he enjoyed it.

That is why we’re here. Not to endlessly do more just to feel worthy and productive.

But to enjoy these lives we’ve been given — the ups, the downs, everything in between.

If I loved myself truly and deeply, I’d allow myself to gaze out the window into the summer night and lose myself in its wonder.

I’d allow myself to rest when I needed it and work when I wanted to; I’d be there for the ride, so fucking proud of the progress I’ve made, so beyond grateful just to be in this skin, in this moment, in this life.

Because it’s not forever. Not this moment. Not our heartbeat.

If we don’t stop to grasp that, one day we’ll look back and regret not taking a second to pause…




Just be.

I return to the advice of the Stoic philosopher Seneca, who writes in Letters From a Stoic:

“What progress, you ask, have I made? I have begun to be a friend to myself.”

That’s a good of a measurement as any to judge how far we’ve come.

A friend doesn’t ask you to do more and more.

They want the best for you. They want you to be happy.

Time doesn’t need to be filled. All it asks is to be noticed.

  • Theresa Gasper
    Posted at 23:57h, 01 July Reply

    Life’s synchronicities. A friend asked on Facebook this week whose posters we had on our bedroom walls as teenagers. I didn’t reply but one was Vincent Van Patten. So when I saw your post in my Medium Daily Digest I thought, there’s no way. I couldn’t tell from the profile photo so I went to your website and the message was exactly what I needed to hear. So even if you aren’t the one I was looking for, you are the one I needed to find. I look forward to checking out your podcast.

    The VVP that was on my wall must be in his late 60s these days – are you by any chance related?

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 07:41h, 08 July Reply

      Haha that’s funny, I am indeed his son 🙂

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 07:42h, 08 July Reply

      But so glad the message is what you needed! The universe works in incomprehensible ways

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