Monday, August 27, 2012

Examining Time

by Julia Buckley

This weekend I was making my long, long, long chore list.  My husband and sons never make lists, and this causes friction between us, since I contend that, by not making lists, they are delegating everything to me.  They certainly all benefit from the things that I accomplish, and would not be pleased if my chores weren't done.

Despite our arguments, they process time rather vaguely--they do not divide it into sections and check off tasks as they accomplish them.  For them, time is amorphous, and they enjoy sitting in large pockets of time, enjoying life.

At this age (and with three jobs), I simply cannot process time this way.  While I enjoy sitting and lounging (as I am doing now), I cannot do it for long before my brain starts asserting my list.  My eyes scan the room for things that need doing, and I only glean real satisfaction from the checking off of those items.

I'm sure that my way of dealing with time, taken from an aerial view, would be ridiculous.  I am under the illusion that I have control of my life, and that by checking off tasks I am finding happiness.

At the same time, the men in my family are under an illusion as well.  They indulge in the "I have all the time in the world" idea, which is why they are often shocked when a deadline arrives, or when it's time to leave for an event, or when they have to go to work or school.  Time sneaks up on them.

Time rarely takes me by surprise, but it holds me prisoner.  I spend my day in blocks of time separated by bells.  I have this many minutes to teach, that many to have lunch, this many to teach some more, that many to get to my next job, this many to get my son to work, that many to make dinner, this many to grade papers.
Time is a taskmaster.

This website shows various ways that authors have examined time metaphorically: Time is a circus, Time is a trap, Time is a coin, Time is a prison, Time is a gift.  We all think about time, and we all try to express the way that we feel about it.

But time, they say, is a man-made construct, which means that we could, potentially, live outside of it.  But to do that we would have to leave our societies, our families, our jobs.  All of those are influenced by time.  I once saw a documentary about a Native American culture (still in existence) that does not acknowledge time. They do not have clocks or watches; they don't live by bells, and they don't structure their lives according to how long things should take.  They acknowledge only the setting and rising of the sun, but not as a way of marking time.

I can't imagine living this way, but knowing that human beings are, in fact, doing so makes me realize that I should probably occasionally try to forget about time, and to try to exist outside of it merely as an exercise in personal freedom.

In the meantime, though, I have to finish this blog, because I still have a pretty long list to get through before I go back to work on Monday.  :)

What is your metaphor for time, and why?


Sandra Parshall said...

I feel like a prisoner of time too, and I'm constantly aware of how poorly I manage it. Every glance at a clock makes me feel I've failed yet again to assert control over my time.

Sheila Connolly said...

Are women inherently list-makers? I know I often ask my husband on a Saturday morning, "what do you have planned for today?" and I get a blank stare. His sense of how long any particular task will take is not the same as mine.

But my father used to make notes to himself on 3x5 cards, in different colors of ink (I never did figure out his color coding), and keep them in his shirt pocket. (He also used to use the "file by pile" system, which I inherited--but he could always find what he was looking for.)

Anonymous said...

Sandra, I feel your pain, and yet I keep thinking I should be able to make time work FOR me, not against.

Sheila, good for you and your father. Any form of organization that works is a good form. :)


Peg Brantley said...

Julia, there is such an opportunity to examine the philosophy behind 'time.'

If only I had some.

But truly… I love lists. When I make them I can discover that all of my tasks are prioritizable (is that a word?) and doable. When I don't make them I feel like everything is impossible and I can't possibly accomplish everything everyone is expecting me to accomplish.

One thing I try to grant myself (when I actually do something like your 'bell' schedule) is to give myself some Slush Time. It's like recess. I can work if I want, or read, or study, or … anything. It makes me feel as if I really am in control.

Writing fiction… being in control… a lot of similarities.

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