"They say Time is the fire in which we burn"- Star Trek:Generations
I've done a lot of complaining about time, lately. My oft-repeated gripes tend to focus on how there isn't enough of it, or how it's running out, or how things keep getting in the way of what I want to achieve.
I guess a lot of people feel the same way, this month. A lot of writers are participating in National Novel Writing Month, furiously trying to pen a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (and good luck to everyone); most will also have Christmas whirling round the back of their heads; a lot of people are trying to make sure the year ends well at work; some of us have books piled up to review; then there's the business of daily life: cooking, cleaning, ironing, reading, playing with children, gardening, shopping, travelling, the list goes on.
Oh, and don't forget procrastination. It's a writer's best friend, right? We all have to ensure we have plenty of time for procrastination, self-doubt, deleting our work, throwing things across the room and striking various "tortured artist" poses.
So it's not surprising that we struggle to fit everything in, that somewhere along the line something has to give, and we usually blame "Time" for the problem.
And what do we end giving up? The things we wanted to achieve the most. Time with the kids. Writing a novel. Trying out a new recipe. Learning to play the guitar. Reading a new book. Just sitting for a while.
And through all these aeons, one thing stayed the same. There is never enough Time"- Myrddin, Stargate SG-1
I believe it is true that there is not enough time to achieve everything we want in this world. There are so many separate demands on our time and attention that we simply cannot satisfy them all. So yes, we do need to accept that some things will have to slide. But does it have to be the things that matter to us the most?
I've spent a lot of time thinking about lifestyle: how it is created, how it is sustained, what enriches it and what threatens it. The first thing we can't do without is work. Either we work ourselves, or our spouse works, or both. We all need money, right?
Here is how work works (stay with me) You give somebody your time, and your expertise, and in exchange they give you money (A lot of great companies give other benefits too, but let's keep it simple for the purposes of the illustration.
The theory is that the more time you give, and the more expertise, the more money you receive as a reward. And with that money you buy goods and services.
Example: imagine that after tax a person earns £10 an hour. They work 35 hours per week. After a hard and rewarding month they take home their pay packet, and decide to treat themselves. They want an iPad. An iPad costs £500. To pay for that iPad the person needs to have worked 50 hours, or 7.14 working days. Almost a week and a half.
To my mind eventually a choice needs to be made. Would you rather have the iPad, or a week with your kids? Or a week working on your novel? Or a week learning the guitar?
The issue with Time is not an issue with the concept of Time itself, but an issue with Priority, and how we decide what is important.
Work may be extremely important to an individual: success, promotion, ambition and recognition in the workplace may motivate a person to get up in the morning, and work long into the evening, but that person will need to accept that as a consequence they will have less time for other things in their life.
And a person may be on a journey of self-discovery. They may want to learn something new, or spend more time with children, or put their life on a more creative path. This person needs to accept that they will have to do without certain luxuries, comforts and security enjoyed by the first person.
To me, it is about prioritising the kind of life you want to lead, and then pursuing it. It may take a leap of faith or a dramatic change in lifestyle to align your circumstances with your ambitions.
In my experience, you encounter issues with Time when you try to "have it all", try to fill the unforgiving minute with 500 seconds' worth of distance run, and you become conscious that while you do some things well, other things perpetually slip from your grasp.
"The dolorous litany of the misfortunes of the poor is a string of 'if onlys'" Angela Carter- Nights at the Circus
Lately I've been thinking (through over simplistic maths and sweeping lifestyle statements) about minimising the "if onlys" in life. I've come to the conclusion that you minimise the "if onlys" by focussing on what makes them so important, and grabbing them. At that point the question is not a matter of Time, but a matter of whether you are brave enough to take the plunge.
I'm still working that bit out.