Reclaiming My Claim on My Time

26 Jun

Some time ago—it is going on a year now—Brenda and I embarked on this project together. The idea was to embrace a minimalist lifestyle…to cut back on expenses and possessions and all of those burdensome, time-wasting activities like cable television that eat away at our existences.

At that time, we were both working at fulltime jobs. And we were frustrated by the ways in which we were forced to spend our time in the “free” hours that we were not required to give to our employers or in devotion to the never-ending project of preparing for, going to, and coming from our jobs. We found that these requirements of participation in the system consumed so much of our time that there was little left for us to do the things we enjoyed.

We looked at the ways in which we spent our “spare” time and found that a good deal of it was consumed with shopping, cleaning, and maintaining the things that surrounded us in our daily lives and which, more than anything, seemed to support our function of participating in the work-a-day world.

One of our key limitations was in the time it takes to prepare meals at home—good, healthy meals with natural ingredients—and then subsequently clean up after the meals. We found that, so often, after a day of work or at the end of a weekend spent cleaning and scrambling to take care of the exigencies of our daily existences, the only tolerable solution in terms of the time that remained in the day or in the weekend was to go out and buy ready-made food at grocery stores and restaurants.

We were so caught up in an economic system that taxed our time and left us too exhausted to do anything but increase our level of participation in that system.

So in a bit of adventurous behavior, we decided that Brenda should leave her job and stay at home to take care of those nagging tasks that consumed our evenings and weekends: shopping and laundry and cleaning. Doing so would free up time in which she could prepare healthy, homemade meals, bake bread, and so on and so forth. The upshot is that we cut our expenses back as much as we could, Brenda left her job, we started this blog, and then we began our revised lifestyles: Brenda began to take care of nearly all of the shopping, cleaning, and cooking, and has also been able to bake our bread and to experiment with all manner of recipes, and she has embarked on an adventure of handiwork in which she has made purses and children’s clothes and various craft-y sorts of things.

For my part as one whose ultimate goal is to be able to devote himself to the craft of creative writing, I have remained in my job as a technical writer for a large information technology company, I have continued my project as a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State University, and I have kept up a patchwork sort of existence as a creative writer.  All in all, in reflecting upon the past several months, I can say without a doubt that Brenda’s work has certainly left me—and I have no doubt, both of us—with more time on evenings and weekends for the pursuit of personal interests.

Lately, however, I have experienced a persistent lack of time on a day-to-day and a week-to-week basis, and I have been frustrated by an inability to accomplish all of the reading that I need to do and the writing that I ought be doing in order to ultimately achieve my personal goals.  In short, I am still caught up in the system.  As much as my life has improved since Brenda quit her job (and make no mistake about it, my life has greatly improved, as I am quite sure Brenda’s has), it is not enough.  I need more time.  I need to find a way to reach another level of extrication from the time-suck system of the 40-plus-hour workweek existence that dominates my life and prevents me from fully using my talents to achieve my personal goals.  For several months I have been waking at six in the morning on weekends to write, and now for the past few weeks I have been waking at five on weekdays to write in an attempt to give the best part of my energies every day to my own craft rather than to my company’s bottom line; and I have transferred this new five a.m. timeslot to the weekends to spend more time writing.

Still, I find that this is not enough time.  The craft of creative writing requires time to brood and to ruminate in reflection upon the characters and situations a writer creates.

And this is why I’m here, now, writing this post.  My increased frustration of late along these lines has led me to this point.  This is in fact proper, because all along I was supposed to have been participating in writing this blog, but I have not done so.  I feel I have let Brenda down in this regard.  But I have not contributed because I have felt that I have not had the time.  Today, however, I am inserting the time.  I am spending part of the time I allot to my creative writing in order to write this post.  And I plan to write more posts.  It is, after all, still writing; it is to some degree still creative; and it is finally an outlet for these frustrations that I have been feeling.

If all goes according to plan, I will recount some of the successes that Brenda and I have had over the past months.  (For one thing, she, who is recovering from surgery this weekend, has become an amazing maker of homemade jams!)  I will also begin to explore and develop new strategies for time utilization and prioritization.  Most important of all for me, I hope to begin to chronicle new steps toward an every-increasing liberation from the time-restrictions that, as it seems to me, are keeping me from my objectives.  It won’t be easy, I know.  As I write this, it is the height of summer, with long days and no school schedule to keep.  When my fall semester starts, my schedule will challenge my ability to keep this up.  But here’s to hoping for the best!




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