Quick. Name three things there are never enough of. While you're thinking, here’s my list:
Open checkout lanes at the grocery store (with an actual cashier).
Episodes of Call the Midwife.
Years that my kids will remain kids.
Pages in the last chapter of a favorite book. (Must any Barbara Kingsolver book ever end? Oh, the sorrow!)
That last one is SUCH a doozey. I suspect it is the crux of many of our common woes. If only there were more time to accomplish our goals, explore new places and ideas, spend with the people we care for, exercise, sleep, guide our children, support our spouse, volunteer…. the list truly is endless. Lack of time in a day, a year, a lifetime can be agonizing. Perhaps this is the bane of middle age, realizing that what you once thought was limitless is actually finite. Gulp.
That clock is ticking, every damn day. Ticking away, reminding me that my creativity and curiosity is relentless, and that my daily familial responsibilities are robust, no matter how fulfilled I am in my multiple roles. I feel like I will never rest in a place where there is enough time. There’s never going to be enough time.
I stew over not having enough time… all the time. I get irritated at others that chip away at it. I am vexed when its been squandered. But you know what? I’ve got no one to blame, but myself. As much as the external forces are thrust upon me every waking hour, what I do with it and the parameters I set are my responsibility.
So how do we reframe that? How do we apply the principles of Cultivating Respect to one of our most essential commodities, time? You can make lists up the wazoo, and have a hip, color-coded day planner, and still be flailing in the sea of “Things-To-Do.” Until we can harness a black hole’s singularity, where time literally stops under infinite gravity, then I guess we better step up and set meaningful boundaries while we’re stuck on terra firma.
This month, I encourage you to be respectful of time. It's two-fold – your time and that of others. Heck, sometimes we’re someone else’s time suck. Zoinks! How’s that for a reality check? Again, here’s a gentle reminder that Cultivating Respect means starting with an internal examination, before preaching to the choir (Yes, I realize that’s pretty much my entire self-appointed job here. Noted.).
Be respectful of your own time
Yes, prioritizing what you need to do in a day is important, but what if those tasks shouldn’t be on your list in the first place? Take a step back and look at life from the 30,000 ft. level. You know, that feeling you get when you're flying and lucky enough to have the window seat. You can enjoy a totally different perspective from that altitude, where everything looks slower and calm. Take a step back and evaluate the what’s and why’s of your journey. It may reveal that you’re not on the right path. Maybe you’re stuck doing something you’re not truly passionate about, because you’ve committed to it and haven’t given yourself the latitude to change your mind. If so, you’re wasting your time. It’s ok to abandon a project or change course. Don’t trudge on because you think you have to, or you think it’s what others expect from you. You are the master of your own fate, and your own schedule. Free up some space to try something new if your current path doesn’t give you the warm and fuzzies, or isn’t going to get you where you want to go in life.
You know what’s also a huge time drain? Saying yes when you didn’t want to. People, learn the art of “no.” Your spouse isn’t going to stop loving you, your mom’s not going to disown you, and your kids will survive if you say no to the things that either shouldn’t be on your plate or they could do themselves. It may be appropriate for them to find someone else to make the request of, but the default is you, because you are always their Jonny-on-the-spot. It’s ok to say no, but that responsibility is yours. The horse will keep coming back to your trough until he’s been kindly reminded that he can do his own chores… which that horse is completely capable of! Establishing healthy boundaries can be one of life’s biggest challenges, but once you start to master it, can unleash so much potential. News flash: you don’t have to be everything to everyone, and that’s NOT selfish. Practice with me… Nope. Can’t do that. Not in my wheelhouse. Move stuff around and look harder. Ask your dad. I love you, but no.
Last, balance is a myth. If you’re working/parenting/pursuing your goals/taking care of aging parents/trying to enjoy life/basically being a human with well-rounded interests and responsibilities, then trying to achieve balance is a waste of time. Shift your expectations, prioritize your goals, but stop chasing down the enigma of balance. Give yourself a break, because it's a myth we’ve been sold to justify our busy lifestyles. By all means, trim the fat. If there’s something that’s pushing you past your tipping point and draining precious hours from your schedule, and it can go, give it the boot. But the balancing act of living a full life is a day-by-day exercise. Your scale will always be somewhat tipped, and that’s ok. Chances are, your tomorrows will bring change that will force you to reorder your scales anyhow.
Be respectful of the time of others
This is a really important concept. We must think of how our actions are affecting the time thresholds of others. There have probably been times when you’ve asked someone to do something you could do yourself. Let me point out ways this disguises itself: Asking for information when you can Google it yourself first. Leaving your shopping cart in the parking lot instead of returning it to the corral. Littering. Not giving someone your full attention when getting instructions or information. Pretty much any request I get from my tween kids these days. Yikes. This is when a good imagination is important. Think ahead. If what you’re doing or asking is creating unnecessary work for others, and you could do it yourself, then just do it your dang self, m’kay?!
Sorry, this is gonna be harsh, but please, dearies please, do not ask friends and acquaintances to provide their talents, gifts, services for free. I’ve been asked about five cagillion times to give something a quick edit, when in fact it is so much more. It’s never going to be just five minutes of my time. And even if it is, that’s still time away from my own work and responsibilities. (Unless I’ve got my volunteer hat on. That’s a different story, of course!) Writers/photographers/musicians/artists and the like are professionals. We work hard to make a living in fields that people have come to take for granted for free content. (Insert dying print newspaper industry here. Heeaaavy sigh.) Yes, there are people out there who give their content away, and they’re ruining it for the rest of us. Upstarts and newbies will do anything to gain a foothold. But you know what, I’ve been a career professional in communications for over 20 years. I’m not giving it away anymore. You need to buy the cow if you want the milk. And you really need to keep that in mind when asking for favors. We do not live in an alternative universe with unlimited time and resources. We’re all in the same boat together.
(Oh, and SWEET JESUS, do not copy content. DO NOT COPY CONTENT. If you didn’t write it, it ain’t yours. Hands off, peeps. That content is the result of an investment of someone’s time and talent. Plagiarism is theft, simple as that. You like what someone wrote? Share the original post, or ask direct for permission to quote the person by name, and attribute the quote to the author. But never, ever (read: never ever, ever, forever ever) take someone else’s content as your own, even bits and pieces of it. Cause you just stole their time and their work. Boooo. Boooooooooooo.)
And one last little jab to keep you on your toes. We need to address the concept of the “Mental Load.” I’m going to put on my working mom hat here, and I may just be speaking directly to the husbands and kids of the Cultivating Respect universe here. Listen, there are plenty of progressive families who are practicing truly shared roles and workloads, and I commend you. For the rest of us, MOM is taking on more than the fair share. (Sorry dads/partners/kids. It’s the ugly truth. Stay with me and be enlightened. You’re welcome.) There is a whole other plane of work in the home, especially when kids are involved. It’s hard to even adequately explain if you haven’t experienced it. The knowing of everything, the keeper of all, encompassing the minutia of life that most take for granted. Even in good times, the mental load of managing and knowing everything for the family is another huge job that most people don’t understand unless you’re in it. You may n.e.v.e.r. fully understand what it takes to keep it all together, or the pressure moms feel to be everything to everyone, but try to imagine at least. And then step up to do something, without being asked. Going to repeat that for those in the back: Don’t wait to be asked. Do you part, even if you haven’t thought it was your part. It’s a new day, and mom needs more time back in her mix. Thank you.
Time will forever be slipping away from us, like the sands through the hour glass, or the years I squandered watching Days of Our Lives back in the day, praying for poor Marlena’s soul and waiting for Bo and Hope to get married, for the umpteenth time. Bygones, but I digress. The agony of time is that it is tragically a finite resource, and I swear the laws of space and time kick into a higher gear the older I get. What once seemed forever is now the blink of an eye. My days, hours, minutes are precious. I know yours are too. Make sure you treat them as such, and you require others to do so as well. And, uh, sorry this article was such a long read. #Irony
Darcy Castro is the 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service, representing a national pageant focused on community service and empowering women. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is an initiative focused on practical ways to create respectful environments in our own little pockets of the world. Each month’s article and podcast feature honest, thought-provoking ideas that aim to inspire and foster positive, respectful communities. Follow Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro at DarcyCastro.com.