Finding time to be human

When it comes to working, sometimes my ambitions are greater than the amount of time and energy I’m able to devote to my various projects. I had told myself in my diary that I’d work on four different things today, and actually only was able to work on one. However, the reason I wasn’t able to keep my nose to the grindstone is a happy one- spending time shopping at the Farmer’s Market downtown, picking out some books for Father’s Day, spending time running errands with my husband, and later in the day, spending time with friends I hardly ever see. Case in point, I received a Christmas gift! It had been at least six months since I had seen my friends, and I blame that entirely on this phenomenon that sneaks up on busy people, this frantic pace of living which makes finding time to simply enjoy the company of others, to connect over coffee or a card game, so very rare. I appreciate the time I’m able to spend with my friends, even if I see them all too rarely. 

I’m typing this as Downton Abbey is playing on the television, and I have a stack of patents to look through to find information on a procedure I need to do when I go to UCLA in three weeks. I suppose finding it now, or finding it tomorrow morning, does not make a lot of difference. My therapist would probably tell me that I need to give myself time to be human, time to relax, and I often find myself driving myself to achieve, or to be productive, to my own detriment- I push and push, and then become burned out and less productive as a result. This is probably common among North Americans. While living in Sweden, the Swedes found this kind of behaviour puzzling, and I found their calm emphasis on taking time to rest and enjoy life to be refreshing. 

I did manage to indulge myself today- I wrote the first chapter of my revised version of my science fiction novel Anagama, and sent it to a friend for critiquing. Tomorrow I have the entire day free, and plan to get back to working on the projects I had hoped to work on today. It’s nearly midnight- finding the protocol I need tomorrow will take me about ten minutes, and conveying the important bits to my collaborators will take one well-crafted email (about another twenty to thirty minutes). I tell myself it can wait, and part of me feels like I am slacking off, I am not meeting my basic standards for productivity. After all, what did I do today in terms of work? It does not matter that it is Saturday, I have so many projects planned that I need to keep up the pace if I’m to progress on all or even most of them. Another part of me nods sagely and tells me that if I wait to find the protocol until tomorrow morning, I’ll be better able to convey the most important details to my collaborators- I wont miss something important because I am tired and distracted, I won’t run the risk of making a mistake. And, there is also the show playing on the television- exciting things are afoot in Downton Abbey, and it would be a shame to miss them because my mind is somewhere else entirely. 

One of the themes my novel, Anagama, explores is the definition of humanity. I am human- I will find the patent, I will look at it, but I will probably not write to my collaborators until tomorrow. No one will see my email tonight, no one will be able to act on anything I write until Monday, and the world will not end if I take a few hours tonight to enjoy my husband’s company and watch some television with him. 

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