I have just returned from a rare kind of trip. One which took place in the middle of the busy Scottish summer (usually a complete no-no for those of us self-employed and involved in tourism), and one without any kind of ulterior motive, other than to see as many close friends and family as I could squeeze into a whirlwind fortnight.
I drove the length, and almost the breadth, of Britain. I had overnight stays, evenings out, strolls along the beach, lunches and coffees with people I have not been able to see for a very, very long time; in some cases, years. It might not have been the ideal time to leave home, but it was the perfect time to go. As soon as I could. While I could. I could not meet with everyone I wanted to: geographical location and pandemic-related complications played a part but the main issue was simply too few days. And while the moments I spent with the fortunate/willing were beyond precious, it wasn’t enough. It never is.
There never seems to be enough time.
I’m not alone in this. While I have no universal answer for this sorry state of affairs (other than winning the lottery and retiring), it is definitely something I need to work on. I have places to go, people to see and, here at home, mountains to climb. The biggest of which is finding the opportunity to do so.
So, apart from all the hours spent working in order to pay one’s mortgage, where, exactly, does the time go?
I have a theory that for some personality types, no matter how many hours they free up, they immediately manage to fill them with a never-ending list of ‘must-do’s. Sadly, I am one of these people. Things are better than they used to be, however! The biggest time-freeing exercise I have undertaken so far was becoming single.
On my recent trip, a few friends (obviously out of touch) asked me: What about romance? Is there anyone new in my life? Four or five years ago we might have shared a bottle of wine and chatted deep into the night dissecting the dramas that swirled around me like an inpenetrable fog. Now we share the wine and I try to explain why, in my sixtieth year on this Earth, I feel calmer and more complete than I ever have before. And how all that – stuff – just takes up so much time! While undoubtedly there may be hours saved with someone who can fix things around the house or even cook a nice meal (although in my experience that usually entails a dishwashing mountain/general kitchen implosion of such monumental proportions that it far outweighs the benefits of the offering), the angst involved in reaching that place and staying there is prohibitively exhausting.
The time I have is my own. I don’t need to share it with anyone, anymore, unless I choose to. So where, then, does it go?
Friends in other parts of the world find it amusing when British people talk about the weather. Some have no concept at all of seasons; the words ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ have no meaning for them at all, and they laugh at me when I spend five minutes of each phone call complaining about how cold or wet it is. Maybe this is something to take seriously! Just imagine how much precious hours we (in the frozen North) spend:
Talking about the weather
Thinking about the weather
Planning for the weather
Dressing for the weather
Enjoying the weather (‘I have to be outside! The sun’s out!’)
Hiding from/escaping the weather
Cleaning up after the weather
Warming up after the weather
Trying to predict the weather
Making contingencies for the weather
Trying to make the best of the weather
Wishing we lived somewhere with better weather
Writing about the weather (wait… what?…)
In this country it’s impossible to ignore the weather. So the only solution, if this is indeed the problem, is to move to a country where the weather (and associated lack of time) is not an issue. Which entails winning the lottery and retiring.
Ah – now we’ve come full circle!