“I didn’t have the time”, we say. “I’m too busy to have the time to do this”, we pretend, shaking our heads sadly.
We’re running. Not literally though: while we live mostly sedentarily lives, we spend our days running from one thing to the other, thinking about the next task, the next call, the next stop. We lament that days only have 24 hours. We envy those who enjoy more ‘free time’ than us, while we resent them at the same time. We hurry, in everything we do.
On Sunday morning I cooked for my (extended) family. We were celebrating a birthday. The French way, with a 4-course lunch and red wine, of course. When my children asked me if they could help me with cooking, I considered saying no. After all, I would be done more quickly if I cooked alone. I could send them away to play, in that slightly condescending way grown-ups use and that I always hated as a child.
But what would it bring me to be done more quickly? It’s Sunday. There’s no rush. What would I do with the ‘extra’ time I would have if I cooked alone? Clean up some more? Check my emails or my Twitter notifications?
They helped. We made a mess baking a chocolate cake and a mushroom risotto. It was fun. We finished in time – I didn’t get to clean up my apartment, but no one really cared – and enjoyed a long lunch with my family. In the end the extra time was the time I got to spend with my kids, not the time I would have ‘gained’ by doing it all by myself, in a certainly more efficient, but a bit empty way.
I already talked a bit about minimalism here. In my household, we are kind of aliens compared to our friends and family. My husband and I both have made the choice to work only 4 days a week. It’s made possible by the fact that our lifestyle doesn’t require us to earn always more money. It does require time, though. Time to do things we enjoy. Time to see our children grow up. Time to be, and not to have more stuff. We are used to be seen as oddities, people who make the bizarre choice to earn less money willingly.
I am deeply aware that we are privileged: we live in a country with a good healthcare system paid by our taxes; we earn decent wages even in our modest respective jobs. It’s very much a luxury.
But… when we were childless, we both worked full-time. And we often had the impression that we weren’t earning enough money… now we’re doing much better with less – and two children.
Time is a resource that is much more precious than money. It should be enjoyed, not always filled to the brim with things we feel like we have to do – in opposition to things that we would like to do, if only we had the time.
I used to say I hadn’t the time to read anymore. But I spent hours weekly watching TV shows (and with them, commercials that make us want more stuff that makes us feel bad about ourselves and yearn for that supposedly ideal, glamorized life that they show us). Sometimes it’s not so much how much time we do have, but how we choose to spend it, or with whom.
When I cook with my children, it takes double the time I would need alone. But it’s also time I spend teaching my children skills, sharing tips that I inherited from my father, eating batter and having a damn good time. What could I do that would be more important than that? Not much, if I stop to think on it.
Days only have 24 hours. No matter how we rush through them, trying to be more productive, more efficient, or not, this will remain true. And no matter how much we plan, how far we do project ourselves in the future, all we truly have is now. We might as well enjoy it, without constant (and often virtual) distractions and pressure to do more. It’s not an easy thing to do. We have to unlearn, to fight against that urge to rush in that fast-paced world, and we will fail sometimes. But nothing truly worth it is ever easy.
Be well, be thankful, be kind. Until next time!