Time is a wicked thing. We get caught up in it, we view it as an enemy almost exclusively, we try to exert control over it knowing that we can’t, that it’s something beyond our control, fleeing and fleeting and obstinate.
Time is a big deal for me. I mean, yes, it’s a big deal for a lot of people in various ways, but I wonder if it rules my life more than it seems to affect others.
The answer is, probably not. Maybe you can tell me if I’m right or wrong.
In the past I’ve talked about not managing time well, but I think it’s not a management issue, as in my ability to be organized. I’ve talked about that, too, and how abysmal my orderliness is, but I’ve been around enough to know some strategies that make things easier and help me keep on track. But time — my relationship to it never seems to improve. And that’s the key, I think.
My relationship to it. My perceptions of it, my understandings of it. If you spend any real time (heh) talking to me, you’ll probably know that I have a serious distaste for the American/Western (capitalistic) approach to work and work ethic. This idea that you’re of no worth if you’re not earning in some way — if you’re not using your time to to maximize your profitability to your employers, to your family. Or even you! Though you come suspiciously near the bottom of the list.
So that, to me, sets up an instantly adversarial relationship. There’s guilt in spending time on oneself. An irresponsible selfishness, a disregard for others, a neglect of responsibilities and obligations.
A project I’ve slacked off on, unfortunately, that I started at the beginning of the year, was learning how to be kinder to myself. Allowing me to be kinder to myself, knowing that this kind of generosity isn’t an indulgence, it’s not an extravagance, it’s just the kind of thing we should do for ourselves.
It’s a struggle. It’s not a fight, I know better than to fight myself on this, at least, but it’s hard. It’s like getting caught up in the briars of past expectations and supposed social norms. Somehow I taught myself that the only way to be sure I live up to my responsibilities is to be hypervigilant and hyperreactive about any and all failures, and that just magnifies any sense of inadequacy I may have.
This morning, I spent time writing a letter — hand to paper, honest — to a friend who had done the same for me. For this friend, her letters were a response to social media; this person chose to withdraw from it and be more mindful about the act of communication and the things communicated. My letter was a time-consuming task, but even that phrase is far more negative than is at all accurate. Writing by hand takes time, but that grants space to think, to evaluate, to ponder. There is value in the quick response, in the reblog, in the share, in the click-to-like, but there is also value in those things that require more continuing effort to complete.
But I feel like taking that time is robbing time from somewhere else. I have a life filled with enough things to keep three people occupied, and I burn the candle at both ends. Or do I? Do we all?
The things I do, I don’t want to give up, but I worry that I can’t keep up, and when I think about not being able to keep up, then that spells only one thing: FAILURE. There’s a distaste for failure in and of itself, and there’s a deep regret when it comes to failing at any of the things in my life that are important to me. But I worry that I am. And I’m not sure how to fix it.
So maybe it does have everything to do with how I perceive time and action and accomplishment, and how I relate to those things, and learning that action can be used to describe the things I do for myself to give space to my thoughts and give room to silence. Accomplishment can include doing things that are just for me, or about me, as difficult as that is for a woman raised in the late 20th century to accept (we are never first, we never come first).
Is it like this for anyone else? I’ll let you know what conclusions I come to, if I do, as I do.