I Haven’t Got the Time

Stuart Vail

“I haven’t got the time to...” diet, exercise, read, write (birthdays cards, thank you notes, a letter to grandparents, memoirs); no time for learning another language, no time for a hobby, vacation, music, seeing a play, taking a night course, visiting parents, seeing the dentist, walking on the beach, washing the car, cleaning the desk, doing taxes — sorry, no time for those. I’m busy. With what? Busy with life, trying to make a living, that sort of thing. You call that a living? That’s not living at all. If I weren’t so preoccupied with “making a living,” working to pay the rent, then I’d really get to work. Then I could write that novel languishing inside of me, create that sculpture, complete innumerable unfinished projects and ideas left dormant for who-knows-how-many years. Unshackled at last, I could finally master a romance language, learn to play the cello, memorize Milton, and read the collected works of my favorite authors. I could join a health club, develop muscle tone, strengthen my body as well as my mind, take care of and nourish the temple in which I live, but... I haven’t got the time.

We can never have the time. No one has time — time possesses us. Time is an absolute, unwavering entity, its precise gears forever grinding onward. Our lives are locked onto those gears from “nave to grave” (Phil Cousineau). So, what to do with “time?” We can’t possess it. We have to decide what to do with us, not time. We can either see our existence as minuscule, insignificant — a mere fly-speck on this rock whirling through space — or we can make something of it. We can continue working for the Man, or we can find a way to break free and do something for ourselves, for our neighbors, for the planet.

There are families whose entire social, financial, educational, and political existence revolves around the corporation for which they work. Their neighborhood is built around the company plant. Children attend the same school and the adults go to a variety of the same social gatherings, depending on where in the corporate strata they currently reside. Advancement up the proverbial ladder is, if not first and foremost on everyone’s mind, a strong second to the fear of being demoted or replaced. This is an extreme example, but it happens in varying degrees on many levels throughout the working world. Substitute “corporation” for “burger stand” or “local hardware store,” or any other employing entity, and there will exist similarities in all cases where one has to work for someone else. The employee’s life is dictated by the confines of a job in which advancement for the company can be at the expense of the individual.

Imagine finally being able to extricate yourself from the corporate/institutional mill and really make an individual difference in the world. You could save an endangered species, help the homeless, teach someone to read, work toward maintaining our national parks, remove graffiti, make someone laugh, volunteer for a suicide hot line, write a children’s book, or play the piano for the elderly. “Making time” is expanding your life to fill the time allotted you. You can choose to live it or waste it: “use it or lose it.” To live time is something most people don’t do. They are too busy fighting time, or marking time locked into miserable jobs, marriages, living conditions, and seemingly untenable situations. They live a “gun-to-the-head” existence, making do until they receive the proverbial gold watch before being put out to pasture, retirement being life’s penultimate event.

The resources are there to alleviate all of those situations. No one is truly trapped in a job they hate. Ultimately, you are the only one holding yourself there. There is no gun to the head. The “gun” is put there by you. Other opportunities exist. Be creative, innovate, use your imagination. As far as the failing marriage goes, seek counseling — do everything possible to fix it. If all efforts to save the marriage fail, then end it. Don’t stay in it for the children. It will be harder on them in the long run. They are not stupid. The internal dynamics of the ailing relationship will affect them deeply. Get on with your lives and create environments that will make you and your children happy again. Oftentimes the marriage itself can be the “gun” keeping you strapped to that miserable job. There are other ways. There are always options. The trick is being able to see those options and have the courage to act upon them.

Divorce and children can also dictate locale. You may detest the city you live in, but are stuck until the kids are grown. In that case, improve your life on all other fronts, finding the best living quarters in the best area you can afford. When the time comes to leave, go to your “dream” land and settle down. Seek out and study with a master teacher, and pursue your desired and as-yet unfulfilled goals. Flip hamburgers, if you must, to make it possible. Dig ditches, paint houses, work the night shift for a cleaning service. The options are there. No need to be homeless or jobless. Just stay in the loop. Do whatever you have to do to follow your bliss. If scrubbing toilets is the only job you can find for the time being to be able to live in that beautiful, mountain-ringed, alpine valley of your dreams, then do it.

However, once you are there you may find that it isn’t all it was cracked up to be. You may also find that you haven’t left all your problems behind. Maybe you brought all that baggage with you and suddenly there is no room to move. The apartment is so full of your past and present baggage that you are frozen, petrified, and too paralyzed to follow your bliss. Maybe everything you so valiantly struggled to get away from is all inside of you, and now you can’t enjoy your new life because you are still too busy scrubbing toilets for someone else. You haven’t got the time.

©2002 Stuart Vail