The dreadful beginning and dreamy end of Daylight Saving Time always remind me of how arbitrary the concept of time really is.
What is time exactly?
I have watched enough late night YouTube videos about String Theory to know with virtually no certainty that time is a dimension. Time is also a father. It is somehow associated with sand. It flies, usually in proximity to fun. And, despite the fact that we can for some reason move it forward or backwards (but only by one arbitrary time-unit!), it runs out. Probably more often than we would like.
White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there… Uh… no no! Go go! Go get my gloves! I’m late!
These days, I feel like I have been channeling the White Rabbit, whose time seems to be perpetually running out. Each morning, as I wake up 15 minutes after I should have already left for work, and then proceed to play catch-up the entire day, usually working through my lunch break in order to make it to an evening art class or rock climbing session that I have added to my schedule to “de-stress my life,” before coming home to cook a 10pm dinner and read That Book for book club before going to bed too late to wake up for the alarms I have set for 6:00, 6:10, 6:20, 6:30 and (sigh) 7:30 (sorry, bedfellow Evan), I wonder why I keep falling down my own rabbit hole of being behindedness.
Whenever I remark to my dear friend Lisa about the difficulties of managing time in adulthood, she crunches up her hands into fists and tosses her head back to declare, “Sarah! It’s the struggle!” It always makes me feel better to know that it has such a noble name. The. Struggle.
But what is behind all this madness?
I have no idea. But I do have two guesses.
- That Little Voice
In researching this PepTalk, which I would like to downgrade to simply a “talk” (lowercase T; no promise of pep) to lower your expectations, I found an infuriating quote, which I wanted to share:
BLEH. I mean seriously. The quotes around busy? VOM. What kind of guilt-inducing madness is this!?
If you REALLY cared, you would find the time.
The way you are doing things isn’t good enough. YOU aren’t good enough.
Unfortunately, this sentiment doesn’t just come from a sad Internet girl on a bench in the middle of winter with all her feelings tucked away in a single shoulder bag.
It’s uttered by your gym shorts as you come home from a long day of work and need to get dinner started for the kids. It’s whispered by your Netflix queue as you spend a night out with friends, and by your friends when you spend a night in with Netflix. You hear it from your parents who want you to visit more often, and your grandparents who want you to visit more often, and your best friend from college who lives in another state and wants you to visit more often. It comes from your boss at work who needs you to put in those extra hours, and your DIY project that you hope to craft into your side business and your Blue Apron box sitting un-opened in the fridge because you have declared that you will Cook With Seasonal Ingredients Three Times A Week, by golly!
And it comes from within.
Which brings us to:
[Presented with an eye-roll]
Sometimes, it seems like the solution to everything we are doing wrong is *just* to do it better.
In fact, if you listen closely to That Little Voice (whether it is coming from your mom, your boss or yourself), it seems to also offer a solution for how you can *just* do it better — an expectation for action.
Not seeing enough progress at the gym? If you really cared you would *Just* workout more frequently/longer/harder. If that means you have to cut time from other things, so be it. Aren’t you dedicated? Don’t you want it? Or do you not want it enough?
If you perk your ears up, you can probably hear a storm of voices telling you how you can be better – a better friend, a better colleague, a better constituent. And you can probably hear a flurry of expectations within yourself for how you can be the person you want to be – Eat better! Exercise more! Call your family more often! Write more! Watch less TV!
And if we would, we could.
But there are only 24 arbitrary time units in a day, and we just can’t do it all.
Sometimes, we have to learn when to say ‘Uncle.’ We have to figure out how to allocate our time in ways that perpetuate our growth and nourish us, but we also have to learn how to build in time to rest, rejuvenate, and replenish.
And this, I think, is The Struggle. Knowing when to say yes, and when to say no. When to step forward and when to take a back seat. When to stop and when to go.
These days, I am starting to suspect that there is no magical moment at the end of a task when everything falls into place and we can breathe a sigh of true relief. There is always something else beckoning to us; something new needing our attention.
So I am trying to learn to put on the brakes, even when it feels like the job isn’t yet done. Or maybe, especially when it feels that way. This is why, for the month of November, my goal is to take my lunch break every day.
Because the work will still be there when we get back. But another thing about time? It slips away. And it will continue to do so unless we grab it at those inopportune times, like now.
Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to channel that White Rabbit after all.
White Rabbit: Don’t just do something, stand there…
Sarah lives in Los Angeles. She enjoys audio books, art class (” ‘Cause adult education’s a wonderful thing”), rock climbing, and listening to Maria Bamford on repeat. She is doing the best that she can.