This weekend we cleaned out the spare room/Bob’s office and moved my office into there, and Bob put his desk in our bedroom (basically we flipflopped our work configuration). I was feeling like I spent 20 hours a day in one room, which was great and really awful at the same time.
While we did that, we unearthed my art supplies, and my sketchbooks from school. I used to pour a lot of energy into creating images on paper or canvas, which I don’t do anymore, beyond finger-painting with the kids.
In one of the sketchbooks, I rediscovered one of my art history courses’ notes, some of which are shown below. The idea of these notes was to read up on the artist, do a sketch after their style, and write something about them.
I don’t have time to do that anymore.
When I was younger, I never really understood when people said their most valuable resource was time. I’d always think “hmm, maybe, but what about your brain? What about your talents or skills?” because time stretches eternal when you are that age, or it did for me.
In late November, I got a Quarterly package that included a book called Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi. Since then, I’ve been on a reading binge that I haven’t enjoyed in several years. Besides Mr. Fox, I’ve read Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley, Princess Academy by Shannon Hale, Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, Briar Rose by Robert Coover, Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hale, Footsteps in the Snow by Charles Lachman, and have been slowly absorbing Crucial Conversations. The general theme (although not strictly stuck to) has been retold fables. This has been a pleasing diversion, and I’m happy that I’ve found the time. A product of the children getting bigger and more self-reliant is that I find myself with a bit more time again.
Time has been lurking in the back of the class, but over the past 6 months or so has made its presence and ultimately it’s eventual complete removal from my attention known and felt. Each week lived is one week less in my future. I’m not disturbed by this; rather, reflective.
When we decided to pursue having children (it didn’t “just happen” for us, which I’ve written about before), it was understood for us both that things would change; our time would be spent differently. And so it was. Parents, I think, can sometimes get caught in a kind of false dichotomy, where they believe if they miss things about their lives pre-children, they must regret having had children. So they bury that feeling of missing things, and old hobbies or recreations aren’t taken up again, later, for fear of reprising that echo of loss.
I didn’t think about this at all, until we were going through my old supplies, my sketches, brushes, paint. I had consciously decided long ago (it feels now, but 4 years is not so very long) to set those things aside in favor of parenting. I don’t feel the reallocation of my time from creative endeavors to parenting to be a casualty, and I don’t regret that shift. I wrote once about reaching a plateau of being the busiest you could possibly be, then growing beyond that. This is absolutely the busiest I have ever been. I have two active, engaged, and curious 3-year-olds; Bob is in his final semester of school and needs time to do his school work and study for his licensing; Mac (the dog) is getting older and I worry about him; I am a team lead at work, a role that I want to execute well; I want to spend time with my friends and my parents and other family; I sit on the board of a CSA, Canticle Farm. Yet, I have found the time to read 10.5 books. Time is a strange construct.
I have a tenuous relationship with the idea that if something is important to you, you make the time for it; too often time slips away, seemingly out of our control. On the one hand, an evening where I spend hours on end trying in vain to get my children to sleep doesn’t leave any wiggle room for reading or drawing or anything but desperation. On the other hand, having children was a conscious choice (admittedly, I didn’t know there would be two of them at one go), and that is what I decided to give my time to. That commitment doesn’t go away because I want to read more. On the other hand (there is no other hand!) time can give us more as we keep growing and using it differently, more wisely.
Patience plays into this, at least for me, right now. I know that spending time with my family is very important, so patiently waiting for times like now, when I seem able to indulge in reading, is worthwhile. In another month, I may not be able to read more than 140 characters in a sitting, or maybe I’ll be able to add drawing back into my excess time – although I’ll probably prioritize running and other exercise over that. So there it is: priority.
I think we can sometimes feel like life is passing by too quickly because we have forgotten (or sometimes have no control over) the priorities we’ve determined. I’m lucky; I chose what is a priority (family, work, workout, etc), but forgetting that structure is easy, and could make me feel like I didn’t choose my life. Working my way through these type posts helps a lot because of the perspective. I may not have 30-40 hours a week to draw, but I’m not a student anymore. I now spend more time than that actively with my family (not counting sleep time), helping the kids sound out words, singing silly songs, learning new things (we’re working on knock-knock jokes right now). I prefer this time investment, although it’s a very difficult adjustment. But where would any of us be without new challenges constantly forcing us to improve?