There are so many lessons coming out of this time, this world pandemic. For me, I need to take them one at a time even though they’re bombarding me daily with new challenges, new insights. I can easily get tangled up in threads and knots and impossible labyrinths. To make any kind of meaning in my own head, I need to follow a single thread, a single chain of thought, a single challenge, even while acknowledging how, in the end, all of the challenges are interconnected.
Time has always been a challenge for me. I never seemed to have enough time to do all the things I wanted to do. Now my challenge is to accept and learn what to do with more time than I know what to do with. How will I use it? What do I really want to do under all those things I said I wanted to do if I only had time? So many interests, not enough time. So many things to learn, not enough time. So many, not enough.
For me, right now, my basic needs are met. I have shelter. I have food. I have income. These are challenges for many. They’re underlying anxieties for my own situation, and deep worries for other people and groups. I acknowledge them, along with loneliness, purpose, meaning, so many challenges. For now, I have to rein myself in to simply think about time.
Limitation is a necessary component of creativity. I’ve read that in so many places and in so many different words.
I have never liked limitations. I didn’t listen when a professor said to choose a single area and become an expert. I always looked over fences to greener grasses. What if I made the wrong choice? Wasn’t it better to keep my options open? That other thing looks so interesting, so inviting.
One result of all this non-choosing, for me, was to become very busy. Very, very busy. I didn’t want to miss anything. I learned a lot about a lot. Inch deep and a mile wide. And still I wanted more.
Now I’m limited to what I have on hand. And I have more on hand than I could possibly master in a dozen lifetimes. I can still find myself not making choices, dabbling here, dabbling there. This is a golden opportunity for me to go deep. And I say that, knowing I am privileged and so many others are in dire straits. Which can make me feel really guilty. Which can immobilize me. Which can be another wasting of precious time. Can we just acknowledge that my emotions are up and down and challenged, that I am devastated by the news and the seriousness of the situation, that I have to have daily conversations with myself to keep myself positive because it matters?
I have to acknowledge all of that while I choose to focus on time and what it means to me right here, right now. This opportunity to do some of the things I said I wanted to do if only.
Maybe the issue is not time, but busyness.
Maybe that made me feel important – my busyness. I wore it like a medal of honor. I’d like to but, you see, I’m just too busy. No, I can’t do that. I’ve got too many commitments on my plate. I’ve got this, that and the other, and next week, you wouldn’t believe. Can you believe how busy I am? I must be really important! (Or running from something. That could be a possibility.)
How many time management seminars did I take so I could learn to manage all that busyness? Underlying the best ones was the concept of setting priorities. But, in the end, I simply learned to make better schedules, keep better calendars, take short-cuts so I could fit more in. I rarely lived in the present because my mind was always making lists, planning what was next.
I did learn the importance of schedules and routines. That was a help. And is a critical crutch for me right here, right now. I have learned there are still the everyday things to take care of. Certain days I wonder why. But I do know that if I’m up and dressed, make the bed, eat a good breakfast pretty much at the same time every day, I have a sense of stability. Like there’s some normality in this unnormal time.
There is a Buddhist saying a friend told me: Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
We still have to take care of the mundane things, even in these times. Maybe especially in these times. I’m chopping wood, carrying water. But I don’t have to chop wood and carry water for everyone else. I can’t. I’m here in this house. I can’t go anywhere. How much wood and water do I need? Not much. So there it is again. Time to do other things. Let go of the busyness and commitments and commit to WHAT? It looks like, in the end, I’m going to learn to make choices.
But wait, my Busyness tells me. This shadow has taken on a whole persona, telling me about Zoom classes and gatherings and ways to fill my time.
But no. I no longer want to fill my time. I want my time to fill me. I can look at this as a golden opportunity. This limitation on my freedom. This permission I’ve perhaps been longing for all my life.
You cannot go out. You cannot do anything out there in the world. Your world is this house, this space, these interests you’ve collected. Fill yourself up. Do those things that give you comfort, that feed your soul. It is not a selfish thing you do. It is extreme self-care at a time you need nurturing.