After our discussion in YTT class this week regarding Asteya (non-stealing) and how it relates to the use and abuse of time, I’ve been thinking about the issue of my own response to time quite a bit. I will fess up right now that I’m not the best when it comes to using time – my own or the time of others.
I used to always be the early bird. I got to everything 10-15 minutes before I needed to be there. I was that person circling the block because I had gotten to a party SO early that I couldn’t go in. And then, I had kids. My ability to get places early went fast, and my ability to even arrive on time was right after it. Now, I say ability, but that’s not totally true, is it? It’s a matter of the choices that I make. I have a tendency to think that I need to fill every single minute with “getting something done.” If I have 10 minutes before a meeting starts on the other side of campus, and it takes me 7 minutes to walk there, then I have 3 minutes to fill. That’s enough time to answer an email, right? Wrong. Very very wrong. So, I answer that email. But, then once I start it turns out that the answer is more complex than I thought, because I don’t want to misspeak or say the wrong thing or have bad grammar. And, I’m certainly not walking away from my desk with an email half sent. With one eye on the clock and one on the monitor I keep typing. I rationalize it to myself, “Ok, seven minutes left – I can still make it. Six minutes – If I walk fast, I’ll get there and this email task will be done too! Five minutes – Ok, I’m going to be a minute late, but most everyone else will be too.” You see where this is going, right? Pretty soon, I find myself almost running across campus (in a suit and dress shoes), sweating and worrying about who is going to be there to see me coming in late. Ouch. And, the truth is, that’s often what I’m worrying about. It’s not so much that I worry that I am wasting someone else’s time or that I’m disrespecting the value of their time. I worry that I might look bad for being late. Did I say ouch yet?
I’m not very good at valuing my own time either. My schedule this semester is tight. Most days, I have 7-8 hours at the office, 1-2 hours at the yoga studio, 1.5 hours in travel time, 2-3 hours of work at home. That’s about half the day fully occupied. Then throw in an hour to get kids going in the morning and an hour to get me going. Dinner prep and serve is another hour. Then yoga homework, house chores and the like another. And, somewhere in there are the family interactions, helping with homework, chatting with the spousal unit, hugging a kid, brushing a dog, petting a cat, and so on. That leaves me almost enough time to get in a full night of sleep. But do I? No. I do not. Instead, I watch TV or Facebook or Tweet or text or doodle around online. I’m currently also crocheting a sweater that I’m not enjoying, so it’s super slow but I’m compelled to keep working because I don’t like giving up. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t use any time just to mess around, but if the point of that is really to relax, then is spending an hour looking for the perfect floorlamp for my office really the best way to do that?
I’m sure at least some of this is because my sense of time is messed up. I’ll bet I’m not alone in that. During home yoga practice today, I used a metronome to keep myself honest about length of poses and breaths and I found that I don’t have a very good sense of how time is passing. Maybe this is because, as a fully immersed member of my culture, I’ve embraced the habit of always being on to the next thing while I’m doing the first thing. It’s pretty hard to feel a moment passing when you aren’t really even “in” that moment. I’m working on changing that, but 40+ years of practice takes some serious undoing.
As with a lot of my posts, I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this! But, I do think that I will keep working on my own “time management” (in the sense of being in it instead of trying so hard to bend it to my own will) by slowing down where I can, being willing to leave some moments empty of tasks, and working that metronome to help me measure my breaths and my moments a little better until I can regain my internal ability to even them out and not rush through some while trying to drag out the others.
Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new… but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery, and its design?