I don’t have time.
Of all the excuses I use to rationalize not seeking joy, this might be the winner. I don’t have time. It’s a tricky little statement, masquerading as a simple, objective statement of fact. But in reality, it’s a value judgment. A value judgment I need to look square in the eye.
Because I do have time. We all possess the same amount of time: 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week. So when I say “I don’t have time to… [call a friend, go to yoga class, cook a wholesome meal],” what I’m really saying is “I don’t choose to use my time that way.”
But hold up. If I’m not careful, this post could easily go down the same path as so many preachy “Work-Life Balance” articles I’ve read recently. Articles that exude shame: Foolish girl, why aren’t you using your time wisely? Look at these women making time to have a successful career, nurture their families, and maintain their own physical and emotional well-being. What is the matter with you? Perfect balance doesn’t exist. The pursuit of it – which seems to actually mean “doing everything and sacrificing nothing” – is a giant scam tactic used to shame us into believing we are inadequate.
So, I want to reclaim time. I want to take it back from those who use it as a weapon of shame and start using it as a tool of empowerment.
Reclaiming time is a crucial step on my healing journey. Time is a scary concept when you’re experiencing depression. I spent most of my time at the bottom of the well feeling like a passive victim to time’s manipulation. During sleepless nights, it would drag on interminably. I would beg helplessly for morning as I thrashed back and forth in my sheets. Other times, whole days would slip by as I huddled in my bed watching Friends reruns. The possibility of choosing how to spend my time seemed as fantastical as the possibility of teleportation or mind-reading: a superpower far beyond my reach.
As I’m healing, the sleepless nights and empty days have dwindled, but the prospect of owning my time remains far away. I rarely find an hour for yoga, even though I know its restorative power. I put off making good, soul-restoring phone calls until a free moment; that moment never arrives. I am still a victim to time. And I am tired of it.
I’ve been chewing slowly on this thought about choosing my time. It’s equal parts terrifying and empowering to consider that I make a choice about how I spend every minute of my day. Some choices are good, necessary, and sound: I choose to work to support myself and make a difference in a great non-profit. I choose to care for my family because I love them, and their health and well-being matters to me. I choose to shower because I value personal hygiene.
Other choices are destructive. Often, I don’t even realize I’ve made these choices; they usually pop up as mindless habits or tools of procrastination. I choose to watch an episode of Modern Family online…and another and another. I choose to scroll absentmindedly through Facebook posts about vicious political rambling, diet “successes” or “failures”, and my cousin’s girlfriend’s new kitten. I choose to get drinks with someone I don’t quite remember why I’m friends with.
When I say that I don’t have time to do yoga or cook, I am choosing these ways of spending my time instead. I don’t have space to add joy in my life unless I first get rid of these choices that pull me away from myself rather than deeper into myself.
Today, I am taking the first gentle step toward aligning my choices with my journey of healing. I am simply observing the choices I make with my time – the big choices and the small, the hours of work and the five minutes of scrolling through comments on CNN articles (why do I ever do this to myself?). I am learning about how I make – or don’t make – my choices, and I am using this knowledge to help create a life of joy.