ALS or not, we must learn how to use our time wisely

We can't control how much time we have, but we can decide how to spend it

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by James Clingman |

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Have you ever really thought about time? What it is and what it means? When you take a deep dive into time, you’ll find there are two dominant stages: memories of the past and aspirations for the future. The present is the stage of doing, but it is divided between past and future.

Yes, time is an interesting phenomenon. It is also an integral part of our lives. While it may not be the most important thing in life, it ranks right up there with oxygen.

For patients with ALS or other time-centered terminal illnesses, who are given prognoses of months or years, time plays a major role in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. Jim Croce was onto something when he sang, “If I could save time in a bottle/ The first thing that I’d like to do/ Is to save every day till eternity passes away/ Just to spend them with you.”

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The thought of time running out obviously creates a sense of urgency. It also leads to impatience among those of us who are unable to physically do things for ourselves. On the other hand, running out of time prompts us to do positive things like getting our affairs in order and initiating more genuine experiences with our friends and family.

Winston Churchill coined the phrase “a riddle wrapped in mystery inside an enigma.” I will humbly take the liberty to add to this great man’s words by saying “covered by a paradox.” That Churchill phrase was not in reference to time, but it certainly applies in this case.

When I was diagnosed and given information on ALS, I thought I would only live for about six months. The doctor explained the disease in such a way that made me believe that the prognosis was a foregone conclusion. He said all I could do to add two or three months before my ultimate demise was to take Rilutek (riluzole), a therapy that can slow ALS progression.

I decided not to take it because that short period of time was hardly worth risking a liver problem, which he said was a side effect. After I finally saw a new doctor, who took the time to fully explain my prognosis, I started taking Rilutek. That was nine years ago.

I had no idea how long I would live, but I knew I had to be judicious with my time. I continued to write my newspaper column, wrote five books, and had many public speaking engagements until I could do it no longer, all because I used my time.

One of the responses that make me uneasy is “I don’t have time.” Truth is, we all have the same 24 hours each day. It’s just a matter of priorities. We cannot save time, we cannot stop time, we cannot slow it down, we cannot speed it up, we cannot make it up, and we cannot control it. What we can control is our use of time.

To my fellow travelers on the ALS road, don’t give in to the urge to say, “What’s the point of living with this miserable condition?” Don’t give up on yourself. You still have time to do something for yourself and for others.

I will end with another quote by comedy writer Robert Orben: “Time flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.”

Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.


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