It seems most people in life, especially in our ultra-modern world of instant everything, are in a battle with time. The average relationship of a person with time is complex and frequently at odds. For many, there is never enough. Time is a commodity that we count, measure, allot, hoard, save, spend. Time is money. Don’t waste my time. If I only had the time I would…. do what? What would you do with a year of time deposited at your feet? I am about to find out.
Taking a year off from my “regular” life as a teacher, I am experiencing time as it slowly unfolds and offers itself to me. There are no working clocks in my house. Even if I do replace a battery, it will quickly die and visitors to my home laugh to see clock faces that all state something different. It’s 3:00 in my kitchen, 11:00 in the bedroom and my wrist watch usually runs several days behind. This does not bother me; in fact, I quite like it.
Time has always intrigued me, and I have been burdened by the need to “use it wisely” to feel as if I am being constructive with my time. I think I learned this concept as a child, my mother encouraging me never to idle, to always be doing instead of being. If I had a free moment, I could clean my room, help set the table, practice the piano or get to work on one of the many embroidery projects she had for me (I don’t think I ever finished one). To sit and be equated with laziness, and laziness became slothfulness, and well, we all know what slothfulness is…It’s one of the deadly sins. So, to follow this line of reasoning, to be is to be not doing and thus wasting the productive time you are given in each day (I am still uncertain of who gives it). After all, we are only granted so much of it in this lifetime. How many heartbeats reside in each ribcage? How many times will you draw breath in and out? Can you quantify the number of times you will say “I love you” in your life? To find a place where time can unfold for me peacefully, naturally, and without the small but very loud voice inside my head that whispers “you must do more” is my goal. To become friends with the day, the night, the constant circle of light to darkness and to feel contentment in every effort I put forth within a day. All are valid.
I am now, after two solid weeks away from work, beginning to find that space of no time, of waking to wonder what day it is, of opening my eyes in the morning and trying to guess whether it is 7am or 10 am by the light that shines into my bedroom. I realize this is an indulgence and a luxury. I often feel guilty hearing my neighbor wake up and get ready for her long commute to work while the horizon is just starting to turn orange. I think of how many people are tethered to a desk, a cubicle, a life that asks them to give all of their energy and thus time to something outside themselves…I recall when I lived in Chicago, going to grad school, and I worked part time as a temp and at a hotel. On cold, snowy winter days I would rise at 5am and head to work, riding my bike through the dark and desolate Lincoln Park to reach downtown, my eyes barely open. I would change into a uniform and begin a shift. My days were completely filled with work, then studying, then more work. I was tired and remember questioning myself in the mirror one morning before my 6-2 shift: Is this my life?
That period seems a long time ago. And yes, it was my life for 3 years and I would do it again if needed. That part of my life taught me many things and helps me to value all that I now have in my world. I am fortunate. I am lucky. I am embarking on an adventure into myself and my relationship to the world outside my body. Each day I will take in about 3,000 gallons of air. My heart will beat more than 100,000 times today. That alone is something to ponder, to try and wrap my brain around, and the fact that I can think about these staggering facts at my leisure is even more amazing. If time is money, then I am a wealthy person. Be grateful. Quiet the inner critic and learn to be.