Mark Twain

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do ...
Explore. Dream. Discover." Mark Twain

Monday, January 17, 2011

Time and Choice - thoughts

Ask anyone you know, there is never enough time to include all the things we want in our lives. There is work, family, exercise pursuits, the housework, cooking, pets, friends, and if you are lucky, there is leisure. Fitting in all the commitments, meeting all the expectations, dealing with the frustrations and short comings of each - simply stated - keeping all the "balls in the air" never seems to fit within the scope of 24 hours. Even if you love all these things, too many things cause stress. And living with the constant pressure can wear you down physically and emotionally. I know. I have been there.

Years ago I had a job that seemed to absorb most of the available hours in the day. An argument can be made that I let it - but the fact was there was no "me" time. My husband and I made pretty good salaries, and we felt the trade-offs for not having enough time were worth the money. What little time was not spent working, was devoted to family issues. The kids were teens and needed pieces of our time. I couldn't ignore them - they weren't adults and we weren't finished raising them. And when we could carve out recreation, it was always expensive recreation. We had the money and we needed big change to get a break from our regular overwhelming lives. But I never sat down to read a book, or knit or take walks or find any time for "me". Even when I watched alittle TV at night, I had work on my lap. When I think back on that time, I think of it as a sad time.

After years of living like that, I looked in the mirror. The person looking back at me seemed like a stranger. I saw everything in black and white - right or wrong. I didn't have time for shades of gray. I stopped caring about the needs of others, even with some people very close to me. They were all functioning adults, they needed to take care of themselves, and if they seemed to step out of line the least little bit - whether it was true or not - I moved on. No time for that. Relationships take time. I didn't have time. I was busy, busy, busy. It was a super-sized life. And I never once considered that maybe I was the problem. Maybe I was trying to squeeze too much into 24 hours. Maybe I was the one who was falling short in managing my own 24 hours.

Since then I quit that job. And I eliminated many optional things (I kept the kids - and I am glad I did 'cause they turned out sensational.) Yes, we had less money. We had to "make-do" more often. But we survived and the person I saw in the mirror after a time was someone I recognized once again - because all the qualities in me that I hold dear weren't really gone, they were just beaten down with "not enough time".

I have decided to stop wishing for more time. We all have the same 24 hours. I am the manager of my own personal 24 hours. If I am unhappy with the way my own 24 hours plays out, I am the only one who can do anything about that. And that is where choice comes in.

It has been my mantra years. "You always have a choice." You have the choice to quit a job that is too demanding, to get another one even if it pays less. You have a choice to leave the house dirty or to hire a house keeper. You have a choice to say "no" to commitments that might be more than you can manage at present. You have a choice to eliminate stressers from your life (Keep the kids, though! That worked out great for me). Taking those steps can be difficult, making hard critical choices about what needs to go and what can stay in your life is really really hard. But it is worth it if you are still recognizable when you look in mirror. I have decided that time and choice are intimately linked.

My life is simpler now. I learned that lesson very well years ago. Keep it simple. We don't have the money we once had, but we have more time. I didn't say I wasn't busy - there are days when I feel like I am just treading water. Care giving is often that way. But it is simpler - mostly because I made it that way. When mom was hospitalized, I knew exactly what to do when I felt overwhelmed. I cut my life to the bone - and focused on only those things that mattered in that moment - and at that moment it was mom. It was still stressful, but not impossible.

And for those who would argue that I have simplified this whole topic too much, that there are some lives that are impossibly busy, overwhelming, and can't be avoided ... I would say ... there are always choices.


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