There’s this idea out there—particularly among young people—that there’s plenty of time to accomplish what needs to be done in a lifetime. While I am the very first person to stand in the pulpit of “life is long,” it’s amazing to me how little I accomplish every day.
My mom is a list maker; she has always done an excellent job of keeping a “to do” schedule and ticking off tasks as she progressed through them. She’s also (along with my father) a prodigious reader. After many years of teaching, she now volunteers and sings and battles cancer (in her spare time).
I don’t know how she does it, honestly. My lists are on scraps of paper scattered around my desk; long term goals enumerated in a journal or on my monthly calendar are these mountainous treks of impossibility that I sometimes re-record upon turning the page to the new month or just as often give up with a “fuck all” exhalation.
Last year, my daughter dragged me into a meditation class. I knew it was a bad idea, but I went for her and—in truth—I stuck with a practice weeks after she had abandoned it. But I honestly have no time. Sure, you can always make time for what’s important, but I generally feel that “what’s important” is what is most urgent.
Here’s what I try to get done on a daily basis:
- Work for pay (roughly 6 hours/day)
- Feed and attend to my kids (this is down a lot from a few years ago, but still easily 2 hours/day on school days)
- Keep up with friends and family (through e-mail and social media: 30 minutes/day; if I pick up the phone, well, that’s 90 minutes gone with the wind)
- Shop and cook (1 hour/day)
- Exercise (1 hour/day)
- Writing on spec/for no pay—e.g. this blog (1-2 hours/day)
So, before I even add in meditation or eating or taking a shit, that’s 12-13 hours gone. I haven’t included time to read or do any self-improvement/study. Not to mention taking in a movie or watching a television show. Bath time? Yeah, that’s on top of a 13-hour day. And if school’s out? Well, you can double (or sometimes quintuple) time with the kids. And, of course, work varies; I put six hours, because that’s at a minimum. If I have a deadline, I can easily work a 15-hour day. And on weekends, well, it’s wash, rinse, repeat because nothing has changed. Unless, you know, I break down and spend three hours cleaning the apartment or actually go out and see a friend. That’s the only way I know it’s a weekend (most weekends my son is now at his dad’s but—of course—I have to take 2-3 hours to go and pick him up Sunday evenings).
So, when stupid DST comes along and robs me of one of my precious hours, I do notice. Not to mention I’m typing this in the dark when I shouldn’t be. That I have to get up at what feels like 4 a.m. just to get in a blog post before starting my for-pay work.
I guess this is a first world problem, and I do try to be grateful for having a roof over my head and a clock that springs itself forward. But I do work hard, and I have tried to be a good person (not always with success but never acting with malice). I just wish that everything I’ve put into my life amounted to more than a constant pace on the treadmill.
My daughter talks about investing in one’s own life; she notes that you cannot walk into a bank and get a loan without having a decent credit score, so why would you expect the Universe to give you what you haven’t earned. It’s wise and thoughtful and correct.
To a point. The truth is that not only do you have to put stuff out there—build credit, to use my daughter’s metaphor—you have to put the right stuff out there. I can say with 100 percent honesty that I have given way more than I have taken in this life, but what I give is scattered and selfless to a point of sacrifice. And I’ve never been lucky.
So, instead of having a great career or a happy family or enough time in the day to do all I need and want to do, I have this hodgepodge existence. If I want to lose weight, I have no time for the kids; if I want to write fiction, I have no time for exercise; if I want to look for better paying gigs (or research articles on spec), I don’t have time to complete the work for my paying job… which means I don’t get to sleep because skipping out on for-pay work isn’t a possibility for most people.
And waiting eight months to get my hour back doesn’t feel like I’m gonna get back what was taken away this week. It feels more like someone borrowed from me… interest free.