Where do you get the time to…?
I’ve heard it said that you will find the time for the things you value. I semi-agree.
Someone asked me, “Where do you find the time to read all those books?” after my recent post on reading. The answer is a little complicated, and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of days.
First, I have value for a WHOLE LOT of things that I cannot “find” time for, in part because my time is not wholly my own. I have a family to attend to, and I’d be abhorrently irresponsible, remiss in my duties if I simply set about my life seeking “me time” (I hate that term, by the way). I can’t just set off on a stroll through the woods, alongside a meandering creek, binoculars around my neck, and my Sibley guide in hand, just because I want to. I could find the time, but if I did that, who would watch the kids? Who would teach them? Who would do their laundry? Or make dinner? Would my husband still be happy in our marriage? Would I still be able to serve the Body of Christ, and my particular church body, with leading worship in small group? For the children’s church? Would I be able to say, “Yes!” to the various church-related printed matter that gets sent my way for editing? Would I be able to contribute a wee bit to our family’s finances — by writing — if I was always pursuing the things that make only me happy?
So, sometimes, it’s a matter of priorities. There are many things I value and would adore to spend more time doing, but other responsibilities trump them. And, there are some things that I absolutely adore, but if I do them, the activity devoted to them precludes my availability to do something else. You can’t always get what you want, even if what you want is a good thing.
For me, I have struggled long and hard with not being such an idealist. Being an “idealist” may sound lovely, but if you’re an idealist of my tendencies, it’s not so great. I spend too much effort pining for “If only…” and “I remember when…” and that’s truly not helpful. In years past, and to some extent, even now, I can easily become immobilized by my idealism. I know the best way, the right way; I remember when the situation for “x” pursuit was much more ideal; I see, way too easily, the roadblocks that present themselves, rendering a situation much less-than-ideal. I wish for things to be much better than they are, rather than attacking what’s on my plate right now. Thus, I do nothing, rather than doing it halfway.
And, that brings up another point. I love my mother so dearly, but something that has long frustrated me about her outlook on life, is that she looks at her plate, and with a resigned sigh, remarks, in the Christian way of how she’s fated to eat everything on it, “Well, I guess that’s just what God has given to me, and I need to be thankful for this, and deal with it.” That can be GREAT, in some instances: She always makes the best out of what she has. But, on the other hand, I’ve seen her eat things on her plate that really should be relegated to the garbage bin. Metaphorically, of course. Well, not even metaphorically! I grew up thinking mothers liked burnt toast.
I don’t know if this is tracking, but what I’m trying to do is find the balance between taking everything in life as it presents itself –the good and the bad — and the idealism that can envision a much, much, much better present, as well as future.
Idealism can also lead me to a dark place of discontentment. Instead of “self help” or “inspirational” books (or people) inspiring me, they almost invariably seem to bring to me to a painful realization of how not great something is in my life, how not great I am, how less-than-ideal I am. And, rather than that bringing my thoughts to a loftier place of aiming for what’s better, it discourages me about where I currently am.
Though, sometimes, discouraged or not, I know I have to pull up my boots with those proverbial bootstraps and change. But, that’s another topic. Sort of.
Into all of the semi-confusion above enters my love of books, though the same could be said for MANY pursuits I have enjoyed (and continue to enjoy, at a now-modified pace): playing guitar; hiking (or just walking); writing; birding; spending time with friends — especially conversing, one on one, in the dim corner of a small coffee shop; listening to music (recorded or live); having devotional time with my Savior, et al.
When I was a child, I was a voracious reader. VORACIOUS. I read just about everything I could get my hands on, which was usually at least a book per day. My mom took us to the library weekly, and our limit, per child, per trip, was six books. I always finished mine, almost always before the date arrived for our next trip, and usually helped myself to my older brother’s stack… That stuck with me through my college years, and into the time before I was married.
After marriage — though this sounds ridiculous — one of the toughest things I had to adjust to was my new lack of time for reading. I was used to curling up, virtually every evening, with my current novel. My hubby watched TV in the evening. I was aghast.
Add that to my new responsibilities of keeping house and treading the tumultuous waters of a new marriage, so books went out the window. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, and not working, I read more books during that time than I had in the previous two years of my marriage. After that, babies took over.
It wasn’t really until about four years ago when I started reading again, in earnest. In other words, I spent a good eight nor nine years saying to myself, “Well, I guess I just can’t read.” Because of my habit and preference, in my mind, I had to have chunks of uninterrupted time during which I could devote all of my attention to the tome in my hands. I didn’t have multiple hours of spare “me” time. Thus, I read very little during that era. Any reading I was able to accomplish was done with a chip on my shoulder, about how much I “couldn’t” read. I satisfied myself with the many delightful children’s and young adult books I read to and with my children, whilst homeschooling. There have been MANY good books we’ve discovered as read-alouds, but I almost never read books of my own choosing, for my own pleasure or benefit.
It wasn’t until my dear friend Kathy invited me to attend a book club hosted by a friend of hers, way across the Valley, whose “assignment” was Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I so enjoyed that book, my time with Kathy during our drive, the book club itself (though that was my lone foray into that particular group), the rediscovery of reading… Well, that experience generated a new pursuit: figuring out how I could squeeze the rest of McCall Smith’s books into my brain, by hook or by crook. Well, not by any means. But, I was delighted to discover that, while I still could not plop myself down into a comfy spot for hours on end, delving deeply into the novel, abandoning all else, what I could do was:
- Pick up a book while nursing my baby, instead of flicking on the TV.
- Read a chapter or two after everyone else had gone to bed.
- Bring a book to a doctor appointment, rather than planning on reading the magazines on hand.
- Bring a book to a child’s sports practice.
- Bring a book to read while my children were at the park.
- Read a bit while sitting on the closed toilet, keeping my youngest company while s/he bathed.
- Reward myself with a short time of reading when the to-do list had been successfully tackled, in those few minutes remaining before I started dinner.
- Even bring a book into the bathroom (something I had NEVER done, previously).
In other words, rather than just say, “I’ll never get two, three, four hours straight in order to really read,” I discovered that could say, “Well, here’s ten or twenty minutes into which I can squeeze a chapter.”
So, rather than consuming a book in a day or two, I now savor it a sip or two at a time, taking usually between one and three weeks to complete a book. In that manner, I am able to get 25-ish books completed, yearly, that would previously have gone unread, because of my “inability” — my lack of time — to read.
I’ve always had a value for reading, but I had to toss out the ideal — my experience, habit, and preference — in order to find a new way to accommodate a book or twenty-five.
And that is how a woman, wife to her husband of 17 years, and a homeschooling mother of five, who makes dinner from scratch nearly every night of the year, whose home is tolerably clean, and who has multiple responsibilities at church, and some dear friends, finds time to read.
Posted on February 7, 2011, in Books I'm Reading, Character Development, Christian Living, Guitar, Homeschooling, Housework, Introspective Musings, Library, Loving Nature!, Marriage, Missions and ministry, Writing. Bookmark the permalink. 18 Comments.