Someone might look at my life and say, "Well. You do have the time." But this is where I confront the slippery core of my dilemma: how do I value my time? As an adjunct professor, I receive very low pay. In fact, most of my students make more than I do when I factor in the time spent in grading and prepping. I also receive no money for things I do in the rest of my life either--no income streams anywhere. So how then, does a person value their life? Value their time? Decide how to "spend" time, that one thing that no one can get more of than another? Do some tasks carry more "weight" than others, for example, preparing a meal versus cleaning it up? Cleaning out the garage, vs. cutting out a new quilt? Maintaining friendships vs. time on the internet?
Enough of these stupid questions, as I always advise students that a good declarative sentence is worth a paragraph of queries. But I have no easy declarative sentence to end with. Maybe I think a task might be valued by what intrinsic value it carries. And this "assigning a value" is something I have spent a lifetime trying to understand, especially when there is no outside determinant of what it is worth (i.e., a monetary valuation).
When I was four years old, my clock was as big as the sky, reaching in all directions, limited only by naps and my bedtime. When I was a teenager, the timepiece was a bit smaller, perhaps room-sized, filled with time to do things like figure out how to cut my hair like the models in Seventeen magazine. Motherhood shrunk that clock again, as did grad school. Too little time for too many outside tasks.
But now I feel like my timepiece is one of those Dali clocks, limpid and wobbly, not keeping time the way it should. Sometimes my clock size is appropriate, crisp and ticking, lots getting done. But other days it languidly drapes itself over the sofa, a bag of chips in one hand while balancing the computer on its lap and says something to the effect of "good luck in getting anything done at all." And when I shake it, trying to get some minutes out of its uncooperative self, I realize my clock is too small to get my hands on, shrunk not only from outside time demands but also from the shrinking horizon of my older life, my ability to power through.
So I am careful with those requests. Too many phone calls? Ignore the ring. Too many IMs? Leave the mobile in the purse downstairs where I can't hear it. No, I won't conduct a cooking class for teens at the local youth conference. No, I won't be cleaning out the garage, either. I am choosing what I do in a place in my life where soon I'll be carrying around my ever-shrinking clock in a pill bottle, retrieving it with tweezers to see how minutes are left.