Do you grapple with making choices of how to use your time? Do you find that the things you want to do are often squeezed in after the things you have to do and the things you are expected to do? Or worse – squeezed out entirely? Do you ever find yourself doing one thing and wishing you were doing something else? Or worse: procrastinate, and then feel guilty for doing so?
I do; and I find it very frustrating.
I have a solution:
Live in the here and now and enjoy every moment.
I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying I’m good at it, but the more I practice the better I get and the more enjoyable my time is.
While some things do not seem like a choice, usually they are; and if they are not a choice, our attitude is.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately because the time I had intended for one thing seems to be very easily devoured by other things. I can choose to feel frustrated about the loss of time for my desired activity, wish I was doing something else and generally feel miserable. The time still passes and I am no better off.
Alternatively I could:
- view these activities as a choice (e.g. I could leave the house dirty, go without food, let my teeth rot, ostracize myself from family and friends)
- appreciate that I am able to do them (e.g. I have a house to live in, I am fit and able to clean it and have all the things I need)
- focus on what I am doing and quieten those wishes to be somewhere else, doing something else (e.g. a lengthy wait for the doctor can provide thinking time that may have been difficult to schedule otherwise)
- banish feeling guilty about choosing time with people, pleasure (fun), or procrastination, all of which are essential to a happy life.
Procrastination you say?
Well procrastination can give you that all important time to reflect, re-energize and create new ideas.
I am not alone in thinking about the effect of choice upon our use of time. This week the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills was to:
In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a decision between two clashing priorities.
In her post Charli talks about “muddled priorities” and being “confronted with distractions and decisions”. She suggested that the writers among us need to “prioritize our priorities so we can swath writing time as if we were farmers of words.” She talks about the need for balance, prioritizing and planning; looking after oneself as well as one’s work; which means making choices about how one’s life is lived.
If we accept that life really is a series of choices and that we have control over the choices we make, then acceptance of the choices and their results must follow.
Sometimes the choices are easy, and it’s simply a matter of going with the flow. But sometimes going with the flow can be difficult; especially when the waters are a raging torrent and you are wishing you could grab hold of the reeds on the bank and pull yourself out for a little respite, such as in the analogy I have used in this first flash piece:
The waters raged around her, pummeling her against the rocks, tossing her every which way, pushing her under and holding her there until she thought she must drown. She clawed at the rocks and grasped at the reeds, gasping for breath. The bank beckoned invitingly. The torrent sucked her back, playing ‘now you see her, now you don’t’ before swirling her back to bump inelegantly over the rocky shallows, dumping her battered body on the edge. She gulped the air begging respite and revival. Her choice: the safety of the sideline bank or back to navigate a journey through.
Sometimes the choices are difficult because they appear to promise equally attractive (or unattractive), if different, outcomes. We may think a crystal ball could make the decision easier, but perhaps the only way to find out what the future brings is to live it, as discovered in this next flash offering:
“What do you seek?”
“Knowledge of the future.”
“That knowledge comes at a price.”
“I’m willing to pay.”
The eyes as deep as the ocean and dark as coal lifted from the shiny globe, contemplating the petitioner.
The globe’s soft glow in the dimness cast eerie shadows across the youthful face accentuating his desperate need.
One eyebrow raised, questioning. “It involves . . . a sacrifice?”
“I have more money than I could spend in a thousand lifetimes. Just tell me the price.”
The dark eyes flashed.
He saw it all in a moment, and was gone.
Of course, as adults, it is important for us to have developed some self-regulatory skills or nothing would ever be accomplished. But what about children. How can we help children learn to make effective choices?
In honour of your time and mine, I will leave that for a future post!
I always enjoy reading your comments. I invite you to share your thoughts.
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For me the line that hit home was “banish feeling guilty about choosing time with people, pleasure (fun), or procrastination, all of which are essential to a happy life.” When I look back on my day, it is easy to get caught up in the “I didn’t accomplish enough” and feel guilty, but is it about how much I accomplished or how present I was in everything I did (whether it ticked something off the “To Do List” or not)? Thanks for the thoughtful post, Norah.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Diane. It is definitely about the being present in everything isn’t it? I love the saying that goes something like, “Yesterday is past. Tomorrow is the future. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”
It’s not really the decision you make – it’s what you do after you’ve made the decision that really counts.
That’s very true, Greg; including how you think about the decision and what you do after it! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
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Norah, I really enjoyed both your pieces of flash fiction. Reading the comments I don’t know why you would think your pieces aren’t worthy. Until starting on Lisa’s Bite Size memoir and more recently Charli’s 99 word flash fiction I had never written brief in my life. I find it incredibly hard to do and compared to the rest (including yours) I’m certainly a rank amateur but its fun, a good exercise and they are all so different they are great to read. Cheers Irene
Thanks for your support, Irene. I really appreciate it. I have been enjoying reading your contributions to and comments on the challenges set by both Lisa and Charlie also. I agree that it is difficult to do but they are all fun to read. 🙂
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Lovely post Nor! I absolutely can relate to your reflections on so-called procrastination. I find it particularly hard to work on multiple tasks as I find I am growing increasingly single minded. I can’t move onto phd research until ALL the marking is finished, and I can’t start the marking until I have finished up ALL the tutoring duties… and so on… I also find this happens in non-work areas of life. Sometimes when cooking, I will know the food in the hot fry pan needs a turn, but I can’t stop chopping the potatoes until they are all done! Every so often I realise how silly it is and tend to that which is most demanding… But it is strange. Perhaps it’s a need to finish things so that the ‘to do’ list – even just symbolically when preparing dinner – has some clear progress!! I know you are a fan of Tim Winton, I read an interview with him on The Guardian yesterday (procrastinating, of course) where he described that he has three desks, each for a different project or task, and he will swivel his chair between them when he finds he reaches an impasse on one or the other. (Here’s the interview: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/01/tim-winton-interview-my-only-peers-were-in-the-library). Thanks for the insightful and thought provoking post!!
Hi Bec, Thanks for your lovely comment. There seems to have been a lot of concern about making decisions and procrastinating around the internet this week. You have a lot of demands on your time just now – things that are expected of you and things that you need, as well as want, to do. Thanks for linking to the Tim Winton interview. Yes, I enjoy his books, and I admire his thinking. I like the way he describes his work space and ability to turn from one project to the next while allowing the problems to work themselves out. I haven’t read his recent book Eyrie yet, but I have heard him interviewed about it, including the movie which sounds fascinating. They’re on my never diminishing ‘to do’ list. Thanks for reminding me of them!
I never achieve this balance but do persist in swimming with my head above water. Love the quote at the start – turned out to be true for me.
.. Fiction may be ‘another story’ though – I get all het up faced with those brilliant flashes of inspiration over at the Carrot Ranch!
Hi Lisa, Thanks for your comment. Balance is a difficult thing to achieve. There is always something else trying to demand our attention. It is a good thing that we manage to keep our heads above water – most of the time anyway! Might see you at the Carrot Ranch soon with another flash of inspiration?
I enjoyed reading your thoughts on ‘be here now’ as well as the 2 flash fiction offerings (nice variety!). My advice – continue with Charli’s challenge – fact is there’s always someone better than you & always someone worse than you, but the way to improve is to keep practicing! (& I so agree with you about children who struggle in school whether that’s in literacy or numeracy.)
Thanks for your encouragement and support. I really appreciate it. You’re right, of course, about there always being someone better and someone worse, and I do think we shouldn’t necessarily compare ourselves with others. I guess I was thinking that, since I don’t have any real fiction experience, I wouldn’t want those who do thinking that I don’t take their craft seriously, putting my amateur offerings in with their professional pieces. I guess as you say, we are all always learning, and I can learn a lot from the practice and their experience. 🙂
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“Live in the here and now and enjoy every moment.” I like this suggestion Norah. I have subconsciously been attempting to do the same of late. I realised that I was trying to achieve too much all at once and my true loves and desires were falling into the ethers of “not enough time”. So reducing the load and living in the moment is definitely helping to balance it all out.
Thanks for your comment, Hope. It is always a balancing trick isn’t it? I have to constantly remind myself to not have too many balls in the air at one time! Have a good week. I hope the weekend has been restful! 🙂
Each flash examines a different aspect of priorities and choice. The first recognizes that although we might get battered, the journey isn’t at the river’s bank. The second aptly demonstrates how caught up we can get in our future that we forget to live in our present. Each flash is unique in writing, as well, different from each other. Great writing!
And great reflection! I like what you say about procrastination. In modern society we have bought into “busy-ness” and we forget the importance of reflection, discourse, observation– simple elements of being rather than doing. We call such times procrastination when that might not really be the case. We are not avoiding, but learning or acclimating or thinking it through.
Now I have to offer up a correction–self-editing is not my strongest suit. I try to be careful and edit before posting, but I can make silly mistakes. You quoted my error accurately–I did indeed post that “we can swath writhing time as if we were farmers of words.” Writhing! Oh my goodness–that needs to be writing! ‘m not sure what kind of Freudian slip it is, but I did go into my post and remove the “h” from writing. You might want to do the same. It did make me writhe with laughter, though!
Oh Charli, that is so funny! I didn’t notice the ‘h’ or I would have removed it before quoting (I cut and pasted from your page)! Sometimes writing really is a writhing experience, especially for those children, as we’ve discussed before, who have been set an unavoidable and difficult task! Not noticing the ‘h’ proves that so much of what we read is what we expect to see rather than what is really on the page.
Thanks for your support of my flash. You really ‘got’ both pieces. I have been wondering about whether to continue participating in the challenges though as I feel so far out of my depth in the company of many other contributors who are authentic writers of fiction, including flash. I do enjoy it though. It can provide a welcome distraction/ procrastination; and your support, and that of others is very encouraging. So I guess while you are all supportive I’ll continue to jump in, at least when the “busy-ness” allows.
So true about reading being an expectation. I speed-read, which often leads to humorous situations where I mis-read.
I do hope you continue for the one reason that it helps you connect with your bigger writing goals (for me, the challenges fill my pitcher and round out what I think is important about literature). Toss out that idea of feeling out of depth. I believe I can only write better than I did yesterday. All other “betters” don’t matter. Literature is expression and if you connect–and I believe you do–then you are doing something worthwhile.
But prioritizing, I understand. Don’t feel obligated–balance what you are doing and participate when you can! I love connecting with you and reading what always seems to be insightful flash, but know that we can’t always write everything we want to in a week. Busy-ness is a modern reality.
Thanks for your understanding, and encouragement. I have been listening to Stephen King “On Writing”, a recommendation of Lisa Reiter. He certainly has some great suggestions that I will have to try to implement in my next pieces. Rereading others that I have contributed, I could delete many superfluous words! Like those ones!! I do enjoy the challenge but, most of all, the conversations! 🙂
Love “Future Seeker”! Eerie yet elegant.
Thanks Lori! 🙂
Love these, Norah, it’s as if you’ve made choice of character in the story – and sometimes it really does feel that hard.
Thanks Anne. 🙂