On Being Timeless

May 19th, 2009

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Illustration: Dali's Melting Clocks

Illustration: Dali's Melting Clocks

I have always been troubled by what my mother calls time management. I’m sure other people call it that, too, but I heard it first when I was twelve, trying to get ready for school but repeatedly getting sidetracked for reasons hair-related. “Boy, do you have a problem with managing time,” she would say. I had no idea what she meant, of course, because time, as I knew, could not be managed, only experienced, or – perhaps – tamed and ridden, like a horse, or a wave.

One of us was missing the point entirely.

My relationship with time has only gotten more intense over the years, although what suffers now is not my productivity – which is actually quite impressive given my life stats (although not necessarily in pecuniary terms) – but the amount of time I sleep, or do anything much outside of “have to.”

I am also usually either 10 minutes late or about to be running 20 minutes late, or doing something way too close to the deadline, or almost just past it, or doing what my father calls “shitting around,” which is basically self-explanatory. (Or else I’m giving a child a bath or tucking another one into bed. THAT, somehow, I manage to do right on time.)

It is not that I am at odds with structure, and actually find much satisfaction and competency in routine. I am, in fact, Queen of the List. Super Organized and Neat. Almost…A Jewish Bree Van de Kamp…Well, not really.

But still: RUSHED. Late. Preoccupied with what I’m not doing. Making new lists to compensate for what wasn’t done…..

I don’t want to disregard time. Really. I’m just 1. probably unrealistic as to how many hours a day has (what was the number again? ); 2. powerless, it would seem, to control time the way schedule-y people talk about doing.

It will blow on without my permission, manipulations, and illusions of punctuality. I’d simply like to be its friend, if it will have me. Harness it, and allow it to gallop freely, and hope I don’t fall off.

Because despite what the Clairol, Loreal, and Filofax people will tell you, time has a mind of its own, and we need to just be partners with it. Relatives will call to talk; special invitations pop-up unexpectedly; friends drop by to visit; a community or school function is at the worst time, but…; the need for kindness or hosting arises suddenly… in short: life happens. And saying no to some of these things on account of managing time really robs life of too much texture, too much love, too much opportunity.

Of course, saying yes to all of them is suicidal. My stay at home mom friends already know (after a few times of being actually kicked out by me when they showed up at my door…so sorry!!!) that I don’t do daytime chats, because despite all evidence to the contrary, I’m not REALLY home.

Also, the line between riding opportunity / diving into life and drowning completely in your own inefficiency or sleep deprivation or inability to say no is VERY thin. In my case I’d say, thin as a single hair. (Which no longer takes up any of my time, by the way. Ponytails and Headbands R Us.)

Those of us in creative fields are especially wary of this say YES! / say NO! dialectic, as web surfing / reading / social networking / blog commenting (all within reason) is not “shitting around” but actually part of creating and doing business. (Right?! Right?!)

Two of my colleagues, Marc and Sean, wrote excellent posts recently on their own blogs, variations on the theme of being a writer worthy of the title, managing to earn a living, gaining inspiration, and living with time, all in the same dimension. In fact, Marc wrote his in response to my distressed Twitter plea. Hats off, gentlemen.

But wristwatches: On.

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  1. 9 Responses to “On Being Timeless”

  2. It’s not an easy battle by far. But your realisation that you are powerless to “control” it is actually a positive step into making time work for you.

    “Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again.”

    – Captain Picard

    By Marc - WelshScribe on May 19, 2009

  3. I recall someone saying that time cannot be managed, we can only manage ourselves and choose what we do within each 24 hours.

    I have to admit to struggling with this myself, I could fill 48 hours each day if I had it. Somehow, the truly important generally gets done, and the less important mostly catches up…

    If you ever find the secret to managing yourself and time efficiently all the time, please do let me know! :-)

    By Melinda on May 19, 2009

  4. As the one who had to stand on line for the bathroom during your many teenage hair-related crises, I can honestly say that your time management has improved. And by “improved” I mean Hindenburg as opposed to Great Chicago Fire.

    By Your "Little" Brother on May 19, 2009

  5. Yeah, time and I have to duke it out on occasion for sure. I just make sure I’m always wearing my brass knuckles! : > )

    By Writer Dad on May 19, 2009

  6. Mmm… I don’t agree with the time controls us theory. I think we allow it to control us. There’s no need to get to bed at a certain hour – sleep when you’re tired. Suppertime? Eat when you’re hungry. Yes, appointments count, and you have to be there at the right time but…

    I dunno. I think we create way more issues for ourselves than there needs to be.

    That said, ‘scuze me. I only had a few seconds and now I have to get back to work ;)

    By James Chartrand - Men with Pens on May 19, 2009

  7. “sleep when you’re tired…Eat when you’re hungry.”

    That won’t work James. Well it might for you lot in Canada since it’s so cold there you’re practically hibernating anyway.

    But the human body needs regulation or patterns. I think they’re called bio-cycles. Breaking those cycles is detrimental to your health. I know from first hand experience.

    By Marc - WelshScribe on May 19, 2009

  8. @ Marc – Actually, it will work, because your body will establish patterns of its own. For example, I don’t have an alarm clock. I wake up – dare I say like clockwork – within the same 15 minute period every day.

    15 minutes. Never more, never less. I can say with full accuracy, “Sure, I’ll be there at 6.30am,” and not have to set an alarm because my body has established a pattern of waking accurate to within 15 minutes.

    WE don’t need to create patterns for our bodies. That’s IT’S job. We screw it up.

    By James Chartrand - Men with Pens on May 20, 2009

  9. You’re right there James. If you can go with your body’s own established patterns great but how many freelancers (myself included) ignore hunger pains or stay up late to get the work done?

    By Marc - WelshScribe on May 20, 2009

  10. Sorry, that should be:

    Sounds like you should read Carl Honore’s book:


    By Turilli Chapin on May 24, 2009

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