Time: the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.
Does this definition make any sense to you? Do any of us know what time is? In the last years, I have the feeling that most of the people that I know, myself included, only know what No Time is and not what Time is. Which is odd when you consider how many expressions of time there exists:
Father Time, allotted time, available time, time used, need more time, a waste of time, doing time, the first time, a good time, a rough time, in time, time planned, scheduled time, timed to go off, perfectly timed, to be timed, about time, against time, ahead of time, ahead of one's time, all the time, at one time, at the same time, at a time, at times, before time, behind time, behind the times, for the time being, give someone the time of day, half the time, have no time for, in (less than) no time, in one's own good time, keep good (or bad) time, keep time, lose no time, no time, in no time, on one's own time, on time, out of time, ran out of time, pass the time of day, time after time, time and again, time and tide wait for no man, time immemorial, time is money, the time of one's life, time out of mind, time was, (only) time will tell, ahead of time, ahead of one's/its time, all the time, at one time, at the same time, at times, behind the times, for the time being, from time to time, in good time, in time, many a time, on time, time after time, ofttimes, spare time, free time, part time, full time, scheduled time of departure, estimated time of arrival (ETA)…
More and more we are living our lives with a sense of having absolutely No Time on our hands. Last year, I reread the delightful novel, A New Kind of Country, by Dorothy Gilman. It is the story of Dorothy, a middle-aged newly-divorced American suburban woman, who move up to a small village on the Canadian east coast to reassess her life and priorities. Somewhere in the book she contemplates this idea of time and writes a long rich list of words focusing on time.
In her list she used the word “spare time” and I registered a flash of mental recognition; in the sense of – I once knew what that word meant and even used it myself in normal conversation. But that was before I had Nomad Son sixteen years ago, the first of two children. Since then I don’t think I’ve used the words, spare time, once. Which is a shame.
As far as I can gather, this whole concept of having No Time has evolved in the last twenty years or so to a degree that is utterly idiotic. We all doing so much, working so hard and so many hours, running around like a chicken with its head cut of, burning the candle at both ends, desperately trying to meet deadlines, sleeping less, being stressed out, burnout... What message are we sending out to our children, family, and friends? Most likely, that we have no control over our time; we are not the masters of our time on this earth… pathetic really.
It takes courage to reflect upon your day-to-day existence: stand naked with all your mismanagement, disorganisation, false priorities, and unrealised resolutions. It takes courage to invest time and effort in learning to Live Slow.
We have to gather our inner resolve and go on the offensive. The first step towards claiming our time for ourselves is to stop saying expressions such as “Sorry, no time, I’m terribly busy, etc.”. There was a time when, “Sorry, I have no time” was considered a rude response. Did something change along the way? Has it really become socially acceptable to say such phrases?
The second step I’ve started to take is, what I call, the “Lower Your Standards” step. Don’t laugh. I am very serious! There are so many things that we feel we have to do, but in reality if they don’t get done, our world, or our family’s world, will not fall apart. So, given the choice of clearing up the messy hallway or chatting with Nature Girl (my daughter) or sharing a cup of tea with a friend, I tend to chat or drink tea. And I don’t stay up later that evening and clean up the hallway; which means our hallway is pretty messy all the time. Lower your standards.
The next step I am learning is the “Learn to say No” step. This is a hard one and I am nowhere near being able to do it, but I think it will be a great time saver. Don’t you?
Can you come up with other steps I could take in this journey towards living slow?