In the after-word to Dropped Threads author Carol Shields wrote “… there has been time for everything from raising five children to spending a full afternoon crafting one sentence.
In a long and healthy life, which is what most of us have, there is plenty of time.
There is time to sit on a houseboat for a month reading novels. There is time to learn another language. There is travel time and stay at home time. Shallow time and fallow time.”
These words are particularly poignant as Shields fights breast cancer.
As a 48 year-old I really want to believe her. It’s not that long ago I lived a life of quiet desperation, panicking because of real or imagined impediments to “living my dream”; Resenting I needed to earn a living instead of just living; Worrying my clock was running out; Begrudging time spent on things not advancing my goals.
That’s no way to live.
In recent months I’ve taken steps to change all that: Closing a business after nearly 16 years; Resigning from committees and clubs; Saying ‘No’ more often than ‘Yes’; Rethinking everything from relationships to renovations; Recovering from too many years of over-committing; Re-evaluating priorities; Hand-picking who I want in my life and forgoing others; Doing more reading, sleeping, walking, being; Facing both the fear of failure and the fear of success; Accepting that time passes whether you love your life or not, so you may as well love it; Learning that even if I never do another thing, I have value simply because I exist.
Anyone close to me knows those first few weeks were a trial. There were unexpected emotions. It was almost like an out of body experience, a grand experiment, a detached watching with interest — “just how will this woman cope?”
Will she become a depressed, soap opera watching, bon-bon eating drain on the system? Will she establish a productive, balanced, healthy approach to her days? How much of her identity was defined by her roles? When roles disappear, does identity quickly follow?
I learned it’s possible to have absolutely nothing to show at the end of a day. And not care. That TV can seduce you into hours of viewing even if you don’t do the soaps. That meals and eating habits can and do improve when you’ve got time to do the planning and preparation. That you become re-acquainted with a husband of 28 years when you spend time together. That you become a better mother if you become a happier person. That you lose the “I’m too busy” excuse but realize you don’t owe anyone an explanation anyway.
There’s enough time to read guilt-free. Or watch a pair of Canada geese and their babes swimming on a crystalline dugout. Or pull quack grass from flowerbeds. Or make homemade soup. Or skulk through flea markets. Or read two dailies for my news fix. Or organize my sock drawer.
At least that’s the way it looks from where I sit.
*Reprinted with permission