This week I listened to an inspiring audio lecture about the process of writing by an American author, Anne Lamott. During one part of the talk she tells a story about an attempt to buy a dress to impress her boyfriend and how she went on a shopping trip with her friend who was suffering with terminal cancer. When Lamott tries on a dress and asks her friend if it makes her look fat, her friend who is in a wheelchair with her head wrapped in a scarf, responds, “You ain’t got that kinda time”.
Sometimes people ask me how I manage to fit everything I do into my life and I am always slightly baffled by this question as to me I don’t really think about it I just do what I do. It’s a bit like when people say to parents with twins, “I don’t know how you manage” when the parents have just got on with it; their lives have moved on and accommodated the change. My parents have also set a wonderful example to me of how to lead full, active and unselfish lives, having given up a lot of their personal time to work for charities.
For as long as I can remember I have always been acutely conscious that there is not enough time to read all the books I want to read, visit all the places I want to see, create all the things I want to make and sing all the songs I want to sing. But strangely I don’t find this frightening, rather it drives me to experience more, letting each activity lead on to another.
Yes I get frustrated when my crazy house gets so untidy I can’t find anything, and I feel overwhelmed most days when I can’t see the washing machine for the piles of dirty clothes that, yet again, I haven’t tackled, and there are times when I feel I’m walking a tight-rope with work deadlines. But when I’m close to death, whenever that may be, I’m sure I won’t look back and wish that I had kept a tidier house, that the washing and ironing was always done on time, that I wore make-up every day and dressed perfectly, or even worked harder.
I do want to be able to look back and say that I was a reasonably good mother (still working on this one) partner and friend and that I managed to do a lot of the things I wanted to do, that I used my time wisely but not selfishly.
Buddhists sometimes deliberately meditate on death and I think this is, ironically, a positive thing to do. Learning to live with death (easier said than done of course) as part of life allows you to more easily live in the present, and cherish each moment as it passes.
So if you’ve been putting something off that you want to do, or if you are telling yourself that you’re not good enough to do it, or that you just don’t have the time, just do it anyway and see what happens, after all what’s the worst thing that can happen?
Time has a strange way of expanding to let you fill it. You will naturally prioritise things and edit out stuff that isn’t so important to you. By doing something new, your life will change perhaps in ways you had never thought of. If you are frightened think about how you are going to feel about it when you are close to death looking back at your life, or how Lamott’s friend felt sitting in her wheelchair watching her try on that dress.