I am forever in search of that elusive moment — the magical intersection in the time-space continuum when every single thing is checked off my list.
Laundry done. Kids fed. Freelance delivered. Dogs walked. Emails answered. Kids’ room parties planned. Desk organized. Check, check, check, check, check.
What a fantasy that would be. A moment of freedom, a time to throw my hands up in the air and do a happy dance.
Oh, the treasure of unspoken for, expendable time. Minutes, hours, days. Time with no “shoulds” looming, crushing my leisure beneath of crashing wave of guilt. Time without unfinished projects and deadlines vying for my attention.
I remember having time, once, a long time ago. I was single, living on my own, footloose and fancy free. I’d worked all day, my house was spotless, I’d taken a long bike ride. I stood in my house, marveling at the realization that I had absolutely nothing to do. Unwilling to flip on the boob tube (for me, TV is a vice for procrastination, not a frivolous indulgence), I wandered from room to room. I considered starting an art project or craft. I stared at the phone, wondering who I could call. I talked to my dog. I was bored — not elated — by my lack of demands. Still, I dream of having that moment back.
Over the last few years, we visited my husband’s grandparents in a retirement home. I observed an entire complex of people with time. Their meals prepared for them, dishes washed for them, activities provided. As they settled into their late years of life, they were afforded the luxury of nothing but moments of leisure all strung together into a complete existence. But they weren’t doing cartwheels down the hallways. I heard rumblings of boredom. Of having nothing to do. It dawned on me that time to dawdle is not the answer to happiness.
So I ask myself, what exactly do I want all this time for? It’s not to do nothing. I want to fill those moments with things that are meaningful to me but sink in priority below all my other duties. I want to paint the walls. I have another book clamoring to get out of my brain, into my keyboard. I’d like to take my kids places, play games with them, do art and cook with them. There are crafts I’d like to try. I want to knit another hat.
So the irony is, I really don’t want time at all. It seems that I actually want more projects. Lots of activities and creative moments and opportunities to produce and cook and laugh and enjoy.
I’m no time miser, I’m a productivity junkie.
Looking at my wish for time from this new perspective may shed light on how to achieve what I truly desire. Finding time to do what we want is important. Moms of young children are often urged to find time for themselves, but they’re not the only ones pulled in so many directions that they can’t see straight. I can nag my husband half to death with a honey-do list, or I can recognize that sometimes — often, even —he needs time to spend in whatever manner feels most luxurious to him. For him, watching a football game may bring the same sense of happiness as a good writing session does for me.
Pesky chores are the clutter that can weigh us down. Of course, they’re important. But isn’t it also important to look back upon a day and to see that a portion of it was well spent — if by no other standard than our own — doing the things we love?
We can’t manufacture time, but we do control our schedules, which is almost as good. Clocks, timers and calendars give us the ability to schedule blocks and assign to them whatever we see fit.
It’s time to double-check priorities. Time is precious. Where can it best be spent?
Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes regularly for 816.