Is it only me, or are more and more of us living lives that balance on a cutting edge? So much to do, so many social media to keep up with, and so very little time … Of course, we have as much time now as people did fifty years ago, or a century ago. Actually, one could argue we have more time today as we live longer. Or? I can hear you falling over laughing – or crying, depending on your mood.
It used to be laundry took a whole day, that cooking was a multihour task, and that each day ended with some hours spent on mending clothes (well, if you were a woman). Today the laundry takes 20 minutes a load, we don’t really need to cook, and as to mending — pfff! We don’t do stuff like that, we buy new instead. And yet the hours, minutes, seconds go up in thin air, and we try to compensate by increasing our pace, rushing through our lives like frantic hamsters in a hamster wheel. So who/what is the time thief? I think the culprit is called EXPECTATIONS.
In this day and age, we are expected to aspire to being engaged parents, attractive partners, committed colleagues, witty socialites, excellent hosts AND have a couple of interesting hobbies on the side.
“So what do you do in your free time?” someone asks you. (In this case a languid looking man in a black Armani suit and one of those hip leather bracelets who has just bored you to tears telling you about his latest passion, rapelling down sky-scrapers)
Let me tell you the expected answer is not “I don’t have any free time, you moron.” Nope, the answer should be something along the lines “Oh this and that. Some yoga on the side, and then I am presently reading up on the ancient Hittite empire. Did you know that they …” (which is where you launch yourself into a little monologue as to the fascinating Hittites and their iron weapons. The person you’re conversing looks somewhat blank, but hey, what do you care? He asked, and you’re just showcasing how interesting and multidimensional you are.)
Further to all of the above, we must at all times be “connected”. If you get an e-mail related to work on Saturday evening, there is an unspoken expectation that you should reply to it then and there. If you choose not to answer when someone calls you at an ungodly hour (or when you’re doing something else, or don’t want to talk) you’ll earn yourself a snarky comment or two. Sometimes I’m seriously tempted to drop my mobile in the loo and flush it, returning to those golden times when there were days when I was unreachable, simply because “we don’t have a phone in the country cottage” or we were out travelling. Now, of course, if you’re out and about in the world, the least you can do is to keep your FB page updated, so that all your friends can see just how intrepid an adventurer you are.
We ask people what they do for a living, what they do in their (non existent) free time. We rarely ask questions aimed at penetrating who they are – maybe because we can’t be bothered, or maybe because we meet so many people it would be exhausting to truly get to know them all. We have acquaintances en masse, but we no longer have time to cultivate them into friendships. At work, the up and coming people rarely stay in one company for much more than five years, it’s onwards and upwards to greener pastures, more challenging tasks and larger paychecks. More money leads to needing even more attributes to show the world just how succesful you are, and so the rat race goes on and on. Phew. Sometimes I think we’re all being conned, … “Be productive, buy a BMW and seaside property and live happily ever after” – except that we don’t have time to enjoy that life, do we?
To top the whole thing off, Christmas is approaching. Aha! I see you blanch. Yupp, we’re approaching the yearly orgy of consumerism and … expectations. At Christmas, you see, it is no longer enough to be a good parent, a productive colleague, a sexy partner, a funny host and an erudite socialite with an immensely agile Yoga-toned body. Nope, now we have to go around being HAPPY as well. We must cook tons of traditional foods most of us no longer really like (or can eat as they are too fattening thereby forcing us to do extra sessions at the gym, and we don’t have … wait for it … time for that), our homes must be cleaned and festooned in garlands and mistletoe and garish lights and bows, and then there’s the presents. As if we need any, as if our kids need any. Like suicidal lemmels we throng the shops, returning home with bulging bags full of things chosen in haste rather than with care. Personally, I don’t need more bathsalts, okay? Heck, the only thing I need is TIME.
This year, I have decided to give myself just that; time. Ultimately we choose our own lifestyles, and we can’t blame others for a problem only we ourselves can solve. Yes, I want to be an engaged parent, I most definitely aspire to being a good and loyal wife. I am conscientious at work, and I do have hobbies – maybe not very exciting ones, but still. But I can opt out of the race for physical perfection, I don’t need to keep updated on fashion, and I definitely don’t want to spend time mingling with vague acquaintances when I could be drinking a cup of tea with one of the people who truly matter to me. And as to Christmas, all I’m going to do this year is light a candle or two. And bake. Maybe cook something nice. Oh, and just a couple of gifts under the tree, and … Sigh. Big sigh.
Tonight I WILL light that candle. I will disconnect my phone, turn off the computer, cradle my cup of tea in my hands and do absolutely nothing for an hour or two. Why don’t you do the same? Hey, you might even like it!