Tape loop, will you please, please, shut the hell up?
When I was a management consultant, I kept track of my time in 15 minute increments. Time without a code was overhead, and overhead brought on the managerial grouchy-face, so was best avoided. I never really lost the mindset. The habit of packing time like Tetris blocks is reinforced by our outcome-oriented society, and face it, a to-do list with lots of to-done items is satisfying.
I’m neck-deep in editing a novel in hopes of finding an agent. It’s painstaking, exhausting work. I want to finish, not just because it’s a painful process, but because it represents a milestone in my journey as a writer. Last weekend my husband was out of town. My son was supposed to be out for the evening. I was going to edit like no one has ever edited before.
It didn’t go well. I’d spent the better part of the day buried in words, and I was mentally exhausted. I was writing stuff just to write stuff.
My son came home early. Way early. And then he didn’t go back out. He camped on the sofa and watched the ballgame. I wandered out for some soda water, and never came back. I sat down next to the Dude, got a beer and popped some corn. After the game was over we watched a couple of hours of Modern Family. Like Law and Order, Modern Family is always on, all one has to do is find the right station. Soon it will have it’s own variants, Modern Family – the Minivan Chronicles, Modern Family – Live Poetry Readers.
The next day I was kicking myself. I was behind. Did I not care about my book? I was a sloth, and a slacker, and way too old to be a Gen Xer (Most Gen Xers are way too old to be GenXers these days). I would never finish. Never.
I’ll admit. I don’t always align my choices with my values. But am I really honest with myself about what I value?
I treasured every moment of my evening with the Dude. I was happy, and before long, he’ll be in college and I won’t have the opportunity at all. Is there more virtue in sitting brain-dead in front of my computer, convincing myself that I’m actually getting something done when I’m not?
The time is only wasted if I’m not embracing what I’m doing, and the only person who can assess the value of my activity is me. If I spend an evening playing 2048, that’s okay, as long as I’m present and happy playing 2048, and my score is higher than everyone else in my family. I totally rule at 2048.
So, I can stop with the self-directed managerial grouchy face. I can’t see it anyway, and it gives me wrinkles. I will save it for the Dude, who should be studying, but is throwing a tennis ball against the wall outside my office. What a waste of time.
Photograph – “Time” by Alexander Boden © 2007 Creative Commons/Flick