In the 10 days that I haven’t posted, I’ve been busy with the stuff that life hands out to each of us from time to time. As I dealt with one thing after another, at the back of my mind, I was thinking about Time – yes, Time with a capital ‘T’.
24 hours; a full day. And it’s gone before you know it. As you haul your exhausted, tense, sore, pained body and mind to bed and think about your day, you find yourself compiling a long list of all the things you meant to accomplish today but didn’t.
To this list, you add the unexpected additions to your workload that cropped up during the day. Such as the house guest you can’t refuse, an aching tooth that needs to be attended to, the baby sitter cancelling at the last moment so you have to either arrange another one or not attend that important official dinner (with your partner) tomorrow evening…
Your list is burgeoning. In fact, it is bursting at the seams. When you wake up in the morning, you hit the ground running, taking phone calls, checking email, fitting in a workout, getting the kids organized, doing household chores, getting yourself out the door (or ready to work indoors), working … All the words you can think of end in ‘ING’. Yup! You’re DO-ing things all the time.
As you drive (driving), you’re thinking of the presentation you need to make. As you eat lunch (eating), you’re reminding yourself to pick up the test reports from the hospital on your way back home. As your child greets a tired you and you’re responding and listening to her, you’re thinking of how you can get as many things crossed off your ‘To Do’ List before the day is done.
No matter what you do, you bemoan not having enough time to do all the things you’d like to do, to meet all the people you’d like to meet, for as long as you’d like to meet them (Ah! But will they have the time? 🙂 ), go to all the places you’d like to visit…
Your life, interrupted – by lack of time.
Alright. Suppose you do have enough time to do what you’d like to do. What might your day look like?
Stop right here and write what your ideal day would look like. Include everything you can think of, and be sure to build in transition times. For instance, once you’re dressed, you don’t really dash out the door. You take a couple of minutes to collect everything you need to take with yourself, maybe check to see you have switched off the gas, shut the windows – all of this takes time.
My day would ideally look like this:
Sleep: 6 hours. Okay, maybe 7! 🙂
Exercise: 1 hour (I’m a far cry from here right now!)
Quiet Time: 1 hour (another far cry, and it will probably be small chunks that add up to an hour)
Personal time (bathing, dressing, grooming, eating, drinking water): 1 hour (minimum!)
Chores (Cooking, Housekeeping, Laundry, Accounts, Grocery shopping, Home maintenance): 2 hours
Transition time (from one activity to another): 30 minutes
Keeping track of what’s going on: 30 minutes (newspaper, social networking – I don’t watch any TV)
Relaxation (Puzzle time 🙂 ): 15 minutes.
Driving: 2 hours (this is something of a minimum for me, on most days)
Hey, wait a minute! I haven’t ‘done’ a thing – no ‘work’, no social stuff, nothing professional or community-related or fulfilling, no phone calls, and more than 14 hours of my day are gone!
I suspect your ideal day would also look something like mine, give or take an hour or two under one heading or another.
On top of this, I have a kid (as do you! 🙂 ), I have family members who expect (rightly) that I am available to them at least some of the time, that we spend time together to share what’s going on in our lives, I have clients to whom I have committed my time and skills, I want to write for myself (the blog, creative fiction, story-telling)…
There’s just one four-letter word that fits this scenario: O-U-C-H!
You turn anxious eyes towards your child, looking at how she spends time, ensuring she doesn’t waste her time. You try to teach her to use her time wisely, productively from the very beginning.
“You have 5 minutes to finish this project before we go for basketball practice.”
“Don’t waste time!”
“Read fast!” “Write fast!” “Eat fast!” “Pack your bag quickly!”
“Why do you take so long to get dressed?”
“Stop admiring yourself in the mirror – we’re getting late!”
And what is she doing? She’s got her eyes turned to you! She’s looking at how you spend your day. She sees you irritable from lack of sleep, but pushing yourself to stay awake so you can finish working on that document. She sees you listen to her tell you about her day as you’re trying to watch the news, cook dinner, and get a load in the wash. She sees you ‘help’ her with her homework while you change her little sister’s diaper, sew a missing button, tidy up the living room, and fix an appointment with the plumber for that leaking faucet.
And the child that woke up happy and bright, eager to face the day, slowly learns to get up exhausted, jump unwillingly out of bed, and zombie her way through the day. From you. The same way that my child learns from me.
When is it going to change? Remember when you first started working? You were in your 20s (maybe even in your teens), and you thought you ruled the world. If you could only push yourself hard enough, you’d be on top of the tree. And once you got there, you’d rest and relax and ‘enjoy’ your life.
Well, it’s been a good few years since then, and if you’re honest with yourself, you ‘enjoyed’ yourself more then, than you do now.
As you’ve just seen, even after you’ve achieved everything you want to achieve, you’ll still be spending more than half your day doing the same stuff you do now (and that is without ‘work’!).
That is half of your life. Might as well enjoy it, don’t you think?
I didn’t think so, till I read a Sufi story, the upshot of which was: People are strange; they keep rushing toward the future, at the end of which is death. They say they want to live, to enjoy life, but they hurry on towards death.
You’ll never have it all done because life is a present continuous entity – always ‘ING’. Free yourself and your child from the tyranny of time. It is a worthwhile gift to give your child.
And if ever you find yourself with nothing left on your ‘To Do’ List, know this: You are dead.