Stealing Time, Stolen Time

So this pipe used to be in my wall.  Last week the plumber had to cut a hole in my kitchen to remove said pipe after it froze and then burst.  It was kind of a funny day, actually.  I’d been to the gym and had time for a leisurely breakfast before heading to work.  Then I discovered that the pipes had frozen.  As I was running around, cursing and setting up space heaters, the school nurse called.  My son had the flu.

So there went the day and the week.  All of my intentions for writing and work went out the window.  But it was all good.  My son was better after spending two days collapsed on the couch.  We snuggled.  I caught up on all 600 seasons of SpongeBob.  I wore jammies for three days straight.  Also, Ed the AMAZING PLUMBER fixed the pipe, delaying his own vacation to help us. (Thank you, Ed!!)

I also thought about time, as well as the degree to which I wrote about time in my New Year’s Unresolutions post.  I’m greedy about time.  I always want more (to sit in front of the fireplace, drink tea and write) and there’s never enough of it.  Even today, when I’ve been able to write for a few hours, I’m still up against the clock and realizing I didn’t finish everything I wanted to finish before family obligations demand my attention.

To combat the feeling of not having enough time, I go into hyperdrive, trying to be as efficient as possible on every last item in my to do list.  I still never finish the list, but I at least have that heady feeling of control – do what you want, world, I will tackle it!!

At least until I wake up with a sinus headache and absolutely zero motivation.  This happens from time to time.  Like this morning.  I won’t finish everything on my list.  I’ll be behind.  Enter the sinking feelings of disappointment and irritation. And once again, I ask myself the same question I did when I wrote about my unresolutions: does it help anyone if I feel bad about myself?  (The congregation replies with a resounding NO.)

And I remind myself of my intentions, especially the ones of reflection and risk, and the little wisdom I have gained about writing.  Creative work comes from a place beyond scheduled time. I can’t sit down and say, “I have 15 minutes, let’s write this story.”  If anything, that unnecessary pressure chokes my creativity.  But, creative work still needs time in order to unfold.

What to do?

A writer friend of mine, a person I deeply admire, said that you have to steal time from everywhere in order to write – steal from your work, from your family, from yourself.  It’s not easy. I watch my kids grow and I feel guilt over not spending every moment with them.  (Although let’s be honest, I’d feel that way no matter what – hmm, let’s explore this more in another post, shall we?)  I weigh all possible “extra” work commitments in terms of the degree they will impinge on my writing time.  And I have no idea when I’m going to catch up with Sleepy Hollow.  But I’m also taking a risk, one that I have’t done well in the past:  recognize that my writing is important enough to be a major player in how I spend my time.

At this point in my life, I feel like I’m entering a strange little dance with time.  We do a spin around the ballroom.  I take some time here, I give some there.  Circumstances arise that change my plans, sometimes stealing all of my time and other times giving me some unexpected wiggle room in my schedule.  I channel my mania over finishing the to do list into making sure the to do list doesn’t get to be so long in the first place.  There will always be time thieves, often ones I’ve created myself.  But I’m also developing a lovely little network of my own thieves to steal some of it back.

Do any of you have crazy issues with time, too?  How do you cope?

2 thoughts on “Stealing Time, Stolen Time

  1. Ever since my dad died, I have what I simply refer to as a “time complex”. I am overly concerned with how I spend my time. Did I do enough things? Did I nap too long? Did I just waste the day away? If I go work out after work, then there will be less hours for me to spend at home doing things I want to get done.

    It’s the knowledge that I only get one shot that makes me so anxious. I have yet to find a good coping mechanism. Argh.


    • Your time complex is a beautiful tribute to your dad, even as it also produces a ton of anxiety. My time complex, which I’ve had for awhile, went into full swing last year on sabbatical – I constantly asked myself all the questions you mentioned. I still do that. Even trying to relax can be fraught – if I watch this show or (heaven help me) just sit and look out the window, what could I have gotten done that I didn’t?

      I’m trying to counteract this, since anxiety is no fun. On Friday I tossed my word count goals and realized I needed to think about my current novel more….which was both difficult (but I said I’d get to X# of words!) but also released tension I’d been carrying around in my chest. But it’s still fraught. And you’re right – it comes down to mortality. We only get one shot. This is one of the main reasons I started wandering around in cemeteries, to be around others who (probably) faced these same issues and worried about having unfinished lives. Maybe this is the human condition. Hm, more to contemplate. 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing.


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