15 Feb I need to make much better use of my time while I still can
“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,
“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?” ~ Lewis Carroll
When I was eight the fifteen final minutes of each school day lasted an eternity. Even if I was engaged by the story that was being read to us, the sight out of the classroom window of grass, sunlight, and sky, and the freedoms they represented made those fifteen minutes last forever. Granted at the age of eight a school year was a very long time, and Christmas only came around every blue moon, so I clearly wasn’t a great judge of time then.
Time has always been an odd concept for me to grasp. I learned young that when doing something creative and enjoyable it positively sped by, but when asked to do things I didn’t particularly enjoy, time dragged by so slowly it almost stopped moving. My parents insisted that time was a precise system, and that every second lasted as long as the next, and so learned early on that it was my perception of time that was wrong.
My extended family not only had the usual array of grandparents, but also included a number of unrelated ‘aunties’; single friends of my mother. I often found myself farmed out to the care of these women, and so it was through them I learned how to spend creative time enjoyably. I was taught such diverse skills as how to make a trifle, knit a scarf, identify elements of church architecture, play Canasta, unravel cryptic crossword clues, get over the gravel on the beach without hurting my feet, weave fantastic tales from tiny bits of gossip, and last, but by no means least, the Latin names for garden plants. I found that when learning, investigating, or understanding something new, as well as time spent doing the things that I loved, that time became infinitely flexible, and added this knowledge to my mental armory.
Now I read “You are old, Father William” with a few years of experience under my belt. I realize that I too have built up skills and knowledge that some day I hope to impart to my grandchildren – or anyone else who will listen! For now I am using my knowledge, and continuing to add to it. I have realized that with just 20 – 30 years at a push – left to me I need to make much better use of my time, whether it continues to speed by, or slows down once again to a school day crawl.
My first step to free up my time is to let go of the many ideas, beliefs, and objects that tie me to the past. Some of my values and beliefs will be deemed valid, go happily forwards, but others have definitely had their day. It is time to identify and name these beliefs, then let them go. I am wasting valuable time and energy carrying them around with me, and allowing them to continue to take up mental and physical space, in my life.
As a child of the sixties, I learned that to be a good housewife, it was important to be prepared for any social event. This belief has nothing to do with my current desires as a card-carrying introvert, so is not a value I need to bring with me. To that end I am busy shedding all kinds of household objects; those items I bought because I “should” have them, but now they have been identified as not reflecting me, they need to go. Yesterday I saw a quote that said something like, “Do you want things, or time to write?” and I realized with a jolt that I am finally ready to the sell things I have hung onto for years, and use the money to support my dreams for the future.
It is also time for me to stop being a “good little girl”. This belief has lead to years of people pleasing, which has led me down bad paths, into poor relationships and out to stress and anxiety -that have taken their toll on my health. Again, I learned to have impeccable manners, clean clothes and hands, and to be polite and amusing to please others. My introverted self never wanted those skills, and would have been much happier hidden away with a book, comfy clothes, and paint-covered hands. Now is the time to let that creative introvert come out and enjoy her life as who she is.
It is also time to be kinder to myself. I am learning to trust my gut when I feel a situation or person isn’t a good match for me. When I do accept an invitation I no longer have the stress of remembering how to behave “properly”, I can just be myself, enjoy the moment, the company, and the conversation. Providing I treat people with respect and kindness, I no longer need to live my life according to the rules from antiquated manners books.
It also means treating myself as I try to treat others. I am sorely out of shape, and beginning to feel the downside of years of neglect. I’ve politely over-eaten my way through too many dinners, accepted second helpings I didn’t want, and stuffed down anger and stress with copious amounts of junk food. I’ve taken care of the needs of others before I did the healthy thing I had intended to do for myself. I’ve allowed everyone else’s needs to take priority over my own, and ended up stressed and anxious and ill. It has been a slippery slope, and now I need to start respecting myself and my needs.
Then there is the voice in my head that still tells me I am not good enough. It has many variants, worst of which is it scares me into not doing the things I would benefit from doing. It tells me I am not good enough to help others, that I am not pretty enough, don’t know enough and am not smart enough. It’s undermining power is insidious, but now I am aware of it I am learning to answer it back and call its bluff.
So I am taking back my time and my life. I am no longer dancing to the tune of those who seek to coerce me into submission, but am picking my own path of creativity. This is an act of rebellion for someone who grew up waiting to receive permission to act, but now there is no longer any time to waste. I’ve turned the page into another decade, and can’t predict how many more there will be. It is time to follow my own instincts and intuition, and live the live I was intended to lead.
Unlike Father William I don’t plan to practice standing on my head, but will take the opportunity to follow my dreams. You will find me being creative everyday, living close to the sea, traveling and writing, and building new and healthy relationships – both with myself and with others. I have committed to taking small steps every day towards these goals, and hope that as I move in this new direction, I will live long enough time to see my dreams become a wonderous, creative, reality.
You Are Old, Father William by Lewis Carroll appears in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)