Another guest in the series on managing time for the things we love. Becca’s wisdom is sound, and reminds me of my mom, whose fingers always found their way to the keys.

But there never seems to be enough time, to do the things you wanna do, once you find them… “Time In A Bottle” by Jim Croce

This song was at the top of the charts when my husband and I first fell in love. It became “our song” because our relationship began during the summer before we were each to go off to separate colleges in the fall. Every moment of that summer was bittersweet and precious, because we knew that come September our time together would be severely limited by distance and responsibility. With typical youthful ignorance, we had no inkling that time only becomes more fleeting with age, that even when we were married and had children we would still be hard pressed to find the time to do the things we wanted to do.

My life is one huge balancing act – attempting to satisfy all the demands on my time, my energy, my intellect, my emotion, and still maintain that small corner of “me,” the one who needs time to play the piano, write, read, sit in the backyard and watch butterflies flitting over the trumpet vines. I realized very early on in my life that I needed time to pursue the things that fed my soul. Although I was only six years old, I remember how miserable I was on my first trip away from home when I didn’t have access to a piano. We were visiting relatives out in the country at the time, and my mother, who was smart enough to realize what I was missing, arranged for me to use the piano in the little Presbyterian church next door to my aunt’s house. What a sense of relief I felt when my fingers curved over those keys! It’s a sensation I still miss when days are cluttered with office work, home care, and tending to elderly parents. My emotional equilibrium suffers and I feel tense and depressed and angry.

I’m convinced that we all need small harbors in the midst of our busy lives, time and space to pursue things that help us become reacquainted with our individual selves, apart from the roles of parent, spouse, child, employee. I’ve learned that it’s crucial for me to carve out some time every day when I can lose myself in a song or a story, let my mind play with notes on the staff or words on the page. But how do I make that happen in a world with a million things competing for my attention?

First, I believe in it. Women are programmed to give time and attention to others first, and take what’s leftover for themselves. But because my parents always recognized how important it was to me to have time for myself, and often went out of their way to make sure I had it, I grew up believing I had a right to enjoy those quality moments. This was especially important when my son was small and I was a stay-at-home mom. It’s so easy to get completely enmeshed in your children’s lives, losing yourself somewhere in the process. I was lucky to have my parents living nearby, and even luckier that they were able to help me with childcare when I needed some time to pursue my own activities. My husband has always respected this need as well, and when I decided to go back to school, he happily cared for our toddler son on those nights when I had class, and on weekends when I needed to study.

Secondly, I make it a priority, even in my own head. Although there are times when I’m tempted to flake out in front of the television or surf the internet, I know I’ll be happier if I use that time to do something more fulfilling, like spending a few minutes with a Mozart Piano Sonata, or writing a blog post.

Finally, I schedule it, just as I would any other important responsibility. For me, that means getting up an hour earlier than I might like (especially on cold, dark winter mornings!) to rendezvous with my book or journal. It also means saying “no” to some outside obligations – which isn’t easy for me because I’m very much a “yes” person! But, if I’m not realistic I can easily wind up with way too many things on my plate and not enough time to go around.

Although I’ve never learned how to save time in bottle, I have learned how necessary it is to maintain a good balance between all aspects of life in general. It’s an ongoing effort to keep everything on an even keel, but when it works, I’m a happier, more productive person.

Becca Rowan
Becca Rowan is a medical technical writer by day, but her creative side thrives on the internet where she can be found blogging at Becca’s Byline and Bookstack. If she’s not reading, writing, or playing the piano, you’ll probably find her out walking her two Shih Tzus or riding her bicycle.