Marching on in the parade of days is today’s icon: time. Ever seen George Carlin’s stand-up routine “Does the time bother you?” from 1978? He goes into his typical absurdity rant about time, and as usual he asks a pertinent question in an impertinent manner. We get obsessed with time, we humans. It’s a construct we invented to cause ourselves anxiety, it would seem. Animals have no sense of time. They have seasonal behavior, but they’re not checking their calendars or pocket watches to know when to do something. We have this ability to conceptualize past, present, and future and make decisions about what to do when. What are we doing with this ability? How are we spending our time?
Coincidentally, Steve woke this morning to say that he had been dreaming that we were having a fight. “About what?” I asked. “Small fires,” he replied. To Steve, “small fires” are the things that take up our time or distract us from the important things in life. We have spent a lot of time discussing what we consider valuable and how we want to use the time we have. I consider it a big part of a working relationship to have those conversations that clarify how you will spend time. The trick is to have them in a way that doesn’t waste time. “Where are we going to spend Christmas Eve?” could cause you to fall into a vortex of possibilities and consequences. “What do I want to be doing at this time?” is a bit more specific.
For what do I make time? On what am I willing to spend a lot of time? When you ask yourself these questions, does a sense of obligation begin to settle on you? Are there a lot of things you spend time on because you feel you have to, even though you don’t want to? How much of that have you accepted unwillingly because it’s easier than making changes?
Years ago, I went to a workshop that focused on a book called “Unplug the Christmas Machine”. My church sponsored this event because there were a lot of women in that affluent community that took on an incredible burden of expectations and effort around the holiday. I would often be asked, “So, have you got everything ready for Christmas?” This was a conversation opener that often segued into a litany of tasks and obligations that they hadn’t completed and a lament of how stressed they were and how little time there was. It was a victim’s complaint. It’s taken me years to realize that victimization is often a choice. There is a way to live that includes deciding what you will and will not spend your life’s time doing.
Some things I will not spend time doing: watching TV. (I don’t own one, I don’t want one. I have plenty of things to look at and listen to that entertain me.) Networking on Facebook. (I already have e-mail and a blog, so this seems completely superfluous. Apparently, I am now in the minority in this country. Hurrah!) Working in a cubicle 8 hours a day. (Been there, done that, then lived without any employment for 11 months so far. I prefer being unemployed.) Showering and putting on make-up every day. (I shower a few times a week. I wear make-up to the opera. I still feel hygienic and pretty.)
Some things I will spend time doing: cooking and dining. (The worst part about feeding a family of 6 when everyone is employed or a student full time is that no one has time to enjoy this necessary and basic part of being human.) Washing dishes by hand. (It’s reminds me of camping.) Doing laundry. (Going to the laundromat for 2 hours every 3 weeks actually takes less time than owning the machines and doing a load whenever I felt like it.) Sleeping. (I have always been a napper and a morning person. I go to bed by 10pm most nights. Did that even in college.)
What I really want to spend time doing: being outside, hiking, camping, traveling. Reading books and listening to music. Writing. Being aware. Being present, especially when I’m face to face with another living being. Learning and loving and being happy.
We don’t any of us know how much time we will have to be alive. We all have the responsibility and the opportunity to decide how we will live in whatever time we have. That’s an awesome gift. Jim’s sister quoted Abe Lincoln at the memorial service we held: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.” So maybe there’s no such thing as ‘time’, only ‘life’.