Wednesday, November 21, 2012

All or Nothing

It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.
-Jerome K Jerome

Whoever came up with the idea of a 24 hour day did not count on a scatterbrain like me. Okay, so it was the Babylonians. But their day started with the sun rise and ended with the sun set. During the day, most of them were busy finding food and shelter. In short, staying alive. When their day was done and when darkness set in, they talked, told stories and rested. I don’t think they complained of not finding enough time for their hobbies. And until my grandparents time, it seemed to be pretty much so. But the ways of our lives have changed manifold since. We don’t exactly wind down with the sun. We tend to pack a bit more in those 24 hours than the Babylonians did. And yet, for many of us, the number of hours in a day seems grossly inadequate.

Like everybody else, I have multiple interests. Interests that I want to devote some time every single day for. I am passionate about all of them. I believe it will make me a better human being. Quite some time ago, I took Aristotle’s words to heart. Hence my dilemma. ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’  is hard to follow when taken literally. I don’t think I am too far off when I take ‘repeatedly’ to mean every day. I always see an improvement when I am committed and consistent in any practice.

Here is what I want to work on every single day...I need an hour or so each to read, write, run, practice yoga, meditate, volunteer, cook, commit a poem to memory, learn to play the piano, swim, dance, learn a language and to hang around in cyberspace to learn about the goings on in the world and to be inspired by brilliant people who I would otherwise not know of. I also need to bring in my share of the dough to the family table, so I....ahem...cough...sputter... ‘work’ for about 8 hours. As I am not ambitious in my career, 8 hours is all I am willing to allot for now.

If there is anything I am religious about, it is my sleep. So I need the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. You might have noticed that I have not included time for my family. That is because it somehow does not sound right when I try to quantify the time I want to spend with my family. Even if I do, then I need at least an hour each to help my kids with their school work, to read to them, to play or take a stroll with them. And it is plain unfair to not have time for my husband, however forgiving and tolerant he may be. Now all this excludes other activities that are planned during the weekends or at least that are on my wishlist - a trip to the library, a museum, a park, a concert, a movie, a book club... and I am not counting the time it takes to get to a place of activity. Looming over all this is a string of daily chores around the house. And then there is travel. But I am willing to overlook it as it does not require time on an everyday basis.

I cannot multitask. And I don’t think multitasking is even possible. Maybe you can juggle tasks. But I don’t think my interests are very conducive to juggling. And then of course, there is me. I am my own spoke in the wheel. Most of my day is spent wishing that I had the time to write, except when I actually do find the time to write. Then I wish I could take a good long stroll to kick start my creativity. This goes to show that when the clock hits the schedule, more often than not, I want to do something else. And then there is this problem of not wanting to do what you do end up having the time for just because you are tired, or you ate too much, or you are not in the mood for it or it is too cold or it is too hot or just because.

Finding just 5 or 15 minutes for an interest is not motivating enough or it is just plain unfeasible. First of all, if I have made a gargantuan attempt to get off the couch then I need to make it worthwhile. For that, 15 minutes won’t cut it. I have tried practicing yoga for just 15 minutes but I end up feeling rushed and wishing that I could continue on much longer. I do understand the reasoning behind it though. Second of all, I feel that my clock is ticking. I worry that if I do show ruthless focus one interest at a time, then I might just run out of time. It is not an issue of forming habits because I will still have the same problem of not finding enough time to do all that I want to.

Whenever the problem of time shortage is brought up, I hear the word ‘prioritize’. The problem with that is I don’t know how to. How can I choose one over the other when every activity in my daily-plan is imperative to my well-being? It might all seem very self-centered, but it is not. My sense of well-being is my family’s well-being and of the human chain that I am part of. When I do prioritize, I end up feeling like I am doing a disservice to myself for ignoring my other interests. To me, memorizing Rumi is as important as cooking. So what do I do? Other than working on some of my interests in fits and bursts, nothing much actually. Instead, I do write a blog post about it. In the hopes that all this prattling will shine some light on the problem.

Whining about the lack of time and my ‘all-or-nothing’ attitude does not keep me from drawing up plans for the tomorrows to come. For tomorrow is the day I will stick to my schedule - every minute of it. Okay, so I might not have a rational solution yet, but I cannot give up either. I have to push, fall, gather and start over again. And while I am at it, I will also learn to enjoy the unexpected leisure time that I have stumbled upon. Because dear reader, leisure happens to be one of my many interests as well.

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