It’s so easy to think that Time holds all the answers. It easy to see it as the master of all, the guy with all the trump cards, or the puppeteer with the strings held tight, twisting and jerking you in ways humans are not designed to move. It’s an easy enough mistake to make. So many people are so busy that Time Management has proper noun status. It’s taught in schools. Squeezing every second out of every day is an art we strive to perfect, a bit like trying to get the last drop of washing up liquid out of the bottle. We contort it, pressure it, water it down even, to try and make every drop count.
And it’s not like there aren’t good reasons for it. Work and family pull most people it tens of different ways for a good eight hours a day. Then there’s the rest of life. Many of us aren’t very good at doing nothing. We’re either making plans or living plans. We’re doing the shopping, the cleaning, the taxes. We’re planning when we’re going to do nothing, setting aside two hours for a movie, buying snacks for our viewing comfort and hoping there isn’t a post-credit scene to wait for.
I’ve long blamed Time for a lot of things: the unopened books on my shelf; my poor German skills; my lack of writing; and the reason I only ran twice, not three times, last week. No time. Not enough time. Too busy. It’s the same at work too. I stayed late several nights last week and my to-do list got longer. I made time for stuff and stuff filled the time.
Then, thanks to the world’s most stubborn cough and cold, I found myself stuck on my sofa for three days. Three days where the only legitimate activities require one to remain seated, relaxed, warm and quiet. Cue reading, writing, doing vocabulary quizzes and lots and lots of TV watching. I might have a sore throat and a temperature, I might have a red nose, but I do have Time. Every cloud has a silver lining and all that.
But no. No. It turns out reading and writing are my anecdotes to a busy life. It turns out I write when I have something to write about. All I did yesterday was take a shower and eat soup that had too much ginger in it. Now, I’ve been known to write about close to nothing before, but that would have been scrapping the barrel. And no, I didn’t feel like concentrating. And yes, I kept falling asleep. However, I also kept thinking: man, this would be a great time to do some writing. Still, no matter how hard I tried to summon the energy, it didn’t matter. I didn’t have one single idea. Not one. Not even a bad one. And that’s when I realised: Time is certainly precious, but it’s not the answer to all of my problems.
Yes, Time is precious and it’s a shame to waste it. Of course, Time is prized and it’s a shame to wish it a way. Yes, Time is short and it’s a shame to fill it with things we don’t like. But Time isn’t always the answer. Sometimes we need the flashes of inspiration that a busy life brings and the reward a rush of creativity, squeezed in between breakfast and a dentist appointment, can bring. Sometimes we need to realise that some things will just have to wait; it’s not time that’s against us, it’s our own expectations. Sometimes we need to sit on the sofa, doing nothing, not worrying and trusting in tomorrow.
Sometimes it’s a matter of time plus something else, anything else.