One aspect of being at peace with myself that I struggle with is being at peace with time. I rarely feel like I have enough time to do all the things I need and want to do. My job takes up 40+ hours a week, I need to sleep 9+ hours a night, and the number of things I want to do in my free time is infinite. On the other hand, sometimes all I want is to be able to sit dreamily by the window or lose myself in a book all afternoon and not worry one bit about how much time is passing.
The two weeks I just spent on a bicycle trip were perhaps the longest two weeks I have ever had, and I mean that in a completely positive way. One thing that I think contributed to that is being in a different place almost every night – every day we saw new and different towns and scenary and met different people. Already by the evening of the first day, we were hardly able to believe we had just left that morning. Another aspect is that we had so few different activities to do each day. A day consisted of packing up camp in the morning, biking on and off most of the day, eating several times a day (stopping at various grocery and convenience stores along the way), setting up camp in the evening, and sleeping. I did not have a computer with internet to lure me down a hundred different paths of interest, I did not have any books or music, I did not have my other usual activities (horseback riding, dance class, choir rehearsal, among other things), and of course I did not have work. Because I was not trying to cram so many things in to each hour, the day felt longer. Furthermore, it did not matter how much time we spent eating lunch or taking a picture in a beautiful location – our time was ours, and we were spending it how we wanted to. I looked at a watch mostly out of curiosity as to how long we had been biking, not because I was worried the day was passing too fast before I could get everything done that I wanted to. The final thing that I think contributed to the days feeling longer was being on an early sleep schedule – going to bed and getting up with the sun, more or less. There is something about being up early in the morning that makes me feel like I have so much more time that day than I do if I wake up late and go to bed late. Perhaps it is because I am always feeling like I *should* be going to bed earlier than I do when I am on a late schedule, so the evening time is not as meaningful as the morning time. In any case, I enjoyed being on an early schedule and I have so far managed to somewhat maintain that since being home.
Unfortunately, I fell right in to my old patterns in relation to time when I went back to work on Monday. I immediately started feeling trapped again by the feeling that there is not enough time for me to get all my work done and do all the other things I want to do. I know that I have working patterns that just make this worse, that in fact live up to my expectation that I don’t have enough time. Primarily, this consists of procrastinating – doing things that are not anywhere close to my highest priority activity, either work-wise or otherwise – during the time I’m trying to get work done such that my work stretches out into more hours than it would need to. I would like to work on my relationship to time so that I can experience life more as I did on the bike trip and less as I currently do on an average workday. Of course, work is never going to be like a bike trip, but I think it is possible to have a healthier relationship to time than I currently have, and to spend my time on the most meaningful activities to me. Luckily, I recently discovered a book that I think will help me: The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One, by Margaret Lobenstine. I have read the entire book and I am now working through the many exercises in it. It really resonated with me and I think there are strategies in the book that can help me.
As I started writing this post, I re-realized that thinking about time and my (and people’s) relationship to it is not a new thing for me. I have always been fascinated by time, and torn by the feeling that there is not enough time. I wrote a poem about time when I was 13, and I took a seminar called Time and Meaning as a freshman in college. I have a particular interest in time travel and the paradoxes it creates. Now if only I could relate to time positively in my everyday life.
I would love to hear in the comments about how you relate to time.