We drive like we don’t have time. We eat like we don’t have time. We communicate like we don’t have time. All of this combines to a physical existence in which none of us are present. I don’t talk on the phone while behind the wheel but I do use the time to think. From work tasks to party organizing to budgeting to meal planning, my drive home from work is usually an all-out conversation with myself on the state of the union. So much so that the other day, in the midst of my deep seeded thoughts about how spaghetti squash should be cooked, I’m pretty sure I ran a red light. The male driver behind me likely chalked it up to my female-ness, but in truth, putting myself in harm’s way was a result of not being present. My mind was in the oven with the spaghetti squash… along with my driving skills.
After four months abroad, we left a world that didn’t place any demands on our time and entered one that places time on a pedestal with a value greater than gold. While travelling, besides catching flights and the occasional train, my days were wide open and errand free. Returning to “real life” it’s as though the days have been consumed by a starving beast, every minute inexplicably gobbled up and digested with the complexities of daily living. Simple things: buying food, bathing, eating, cleaning, moving about in this world – they all combine to eat away at precious, precious time.
Even so, lately I’ve been trying to stop using the excuse that “I don’t have time”. It’s a pet peeve of mine when other people say it, so I can imagine it has the same effect when my first reaction is to blurt out this catch-all, cop-out response, which often means “I don’t feel like it” or “I’m too lazy”. Even worse is when the “I don’t have time phrase” ends with an often unspoken “for you”. Life is busy. There are meetings to attend, taxes to file, bills to pay, TV episodes to watch, dinner to cook, hair to cut, kids to rear, and very little time in between so that at the end of the day, most of us collapse into bed with a huge to do list running like movie credits through our minds, full of anticipation and sometimes dread for the coming day. None of us have time. I get it. But I know, deep down, that if I really REALLY want to do something, I’ll make time to do it.
So when friends suggest going for drinks and it doesn’t quite fit with my minute-by-minute daily marathon that’s been carefully crafted and practiced to get every drop of time juice out of the day, I’ve tried to put “I don’t have time” at the bottom of my list of excuses. I’ve just had a long, stressful work day and my cat left a huge hairball matted into the carpet. There’s a message from my Mom on voicemail, the pot of homemade soup I ambitiously started is now boiling over onto the stove, creating a haze of blue smoke that triggers the fire detector. The dryer buzzer just went off, I have to pee, and “you want to go for drinks?” Deep breath. I sometimes get so immersed in my to-do list that I can’t tear my eyes away long enough to recognize NONE of the items on the list need to be done now and, even more importantly, NONE of them are things I really want to do anyway. Now, turn the stove off and put the phone down. Step oh-so-carefully over the cat hairball (it’s easier to clean up when it’s dry anyway, right?) and use the bathroom. The world won’t end if the laundry doesn’t get folded. No one has ever died from an unanswered voice mail. Time for a drink.