This semester, I am fortunate to be partnered through a mentoring program with a thoughtful, funny college senior who is interested in writing. I find in these programs that the mentoring relationship is really two-way (or maybe even skewed a little bit more my way as in I get a bit more mentoring out of it than the student I am supposed to be mentoring). We were enjoying what I fear was the last warm morning of the season the other day, sitting outside the local coffee shop, sipping our drinks.
“What do you have coming up,” I asked. And my mentee, who is incredibly busy with all the things a college senior is busy with including an honors thesis, mentioned that she was going to be writing a novel during the month of November as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriM0). And then she said this wise-beyond-her-years truth, “I figure you have time for whatever you decide to have time for.”
Isn’t that the truth?
We can feel we just don’t have time for something, but if we really want to do it, we somehow can usually find a way to fit it in. Maybe it means a little less television or swapping one way of doing things for another, but, usually, there’s a way to make time for what you most want. The key, I think, is to be really discerning about what you want vs. what you don’t want and to get rid of the don’t want stuff as we all have a fair amount of that stuff in our schedules.
After I left our morning date, I spent some time thinking about if I have made time for all the things I’d like to have time for. A friend has a horse that I just love and he needs riding. I’d love to be his rider. Lately, I’ve had to turn books back into the library without cracking open the binds. I want more time to read. I really miss painting. And when I think about yearning for that blank page of a sketchpad or canvas, I can’t help but think I want that same blank page in my life. I want to play with Happy without looking at my watch and wondering the drop dead time to start dinner. I want dinner time to feel like a leisurely act of love and not a race. I’d like not to return to my computer or the grading stack after putting Happy down for the night every single night. I have two book proposal ideas that haven’t been written. I have all sorts of ideas in that idea notebook that I’ve taken nowhere. What I want to make time for is breathing room, I was thinking, for creative space, and then I came across a piece in Sunday’s paper.
In Making Your Peace with Time, Al Cadenhead writes about attending a financial workshop where the presenter, Mike Jette, advises attendees to build a financial margin into their lives. As Cadenhead writes, “Margin is the space that exists between ourselves and our limits. In terms of finances, it is the difference between what we spend and the total of our resources… But building a margin into our lives is about more than money. The same is true about time margin. Time margin is also the space that exists between ourselves and our limits, between our maximum time and what we attempt to accomplish. For most of us there is little difference between what we try to accomplish and the maximum time given us. Overload is the result for too many of us. Overload is not having the time margin to read the book on your table. Margin is not only reading it but enjoying it. As Mike said, ‘Overload is fatigue. Margin is energy. And overload is the disease of our time while margin is the cure.'”
And, suddenly, I had language around the breathing room and blank page that I wanted and even the reason for it– energy = cure. When I got so sick in my 20s, I realized that food and self-care were medicine. Now, I wonder if I can make time my cure– by creating more of a time margin, if it will actually give me the energy and creative space to do everything I want to do more dynamically. I don’t want to feel like I need a nap every single day; I want to feel like there’s time for all that fires me up and time to think through it all (interestingly, I really feel that on the day where I block my morning off to work from my desk– not having outside meetings and appointments to race to one day a week makes those days feel more expansive).
So like my mentee said, “there’s time for whatever you decide to have time for.” For that to be true, I have to make that time. Things have to be moved around, and I have to create a few different structures. It is possible, and, honestly, the reward of a time margin will be a couple months away, but now with language and motivation made clear, I’m on a mission to find that sweet spot between myself and my limits.
What do you want more of in your life?
Do you have a time margin? How do you make room for it in your life? How do you protect it? If not, is a time margin at all attractive to you?