Author Rosie Newman shares her advice on how to use your time meaningfully.
Time is ticking. Time is money. Time is slipping away. Why does time dominate our lives? We are always ‘making’ time or ‘keeping’ time, trying not to ‘lose’ time, to not be too early or too late. But we can’t make time, we can’t keep time. There will never be more or less of it. Time is a concept we have created – nothing more than a tool to make sense of our reality.
There have been different ways of describing time for as long as civilisation has existed. The ancient Mayans held a tenseless theory of time based on a completely different mathematical system to our own. In their world the past, present, and future all existed at once. They thought of time as a circuit where future and past flow equally, always meeting and being united in the present moment. Their system worked very well and their Tzolkin calendar was actually more accurate than our own.
Why do we treat our own linear concept of time so literally, as though it were set in stone? Whatever way you think of it, time is fluid, not fixed. Mayans also thought about reality in terms of frequencies, vibrations, and harmonies. It makes sense to me to think about waves of energy because on a human level, we cannot separate our present from that which exists before and after. In our present moment we feel the wake of the past as well as the potential energy of the future.
I love the fact that my five year old still has a very loose concept of time. He talks about the past and the future, but he generally has no idea what time it is or even what day it is. He knows when he’s hungry or tired, but he doesn’t know whether it’s “dinner time” or “bed time”. He can’t see why we have to leave the playgroup at 12 o’clock on the dot if he’s happy in what he’s doing? Why does he have to wait for it to be lunchtime, if he’s hungry now? Why does he have to wait for his birthday to try out his new bike? I struggle to find a good answer because it doesn’t make much sense to me either.
I’ll admit that I never questioned any of this before I had a baby. But then again, I had no idea how difficult hitting targets for scheduled appointments and activities would become. As it turned out, trying to ensure my baby was not tired, hungry or having a poo at the precise time of the baby massage, swimming or music class was beyond me. Some calamity would inevitably unfold as I was trying to get out of the house.
Multiply that drama by two once the second baby was on the scene and I started to think I was having a good day if we left the house at all. The worst part is the rushing; knowing that you’ve paid for the thing you’re going to miss, or that there’s nothing else on that day and if you get there late it’ll be all over. As for scheduling play dates around everyone’s nap times, well that is a minefield in itself.
When my son was two I started organising a weekly daytime gig. The musicians played for two hours and you could stop by at any time that worked for you. We didn’t do nursery rhymes or puppet shows. We just shared a space with tea and cake and music. When I stopped running the sessions some of the mothers brought me champagne and gifts, saying it had been a parenting life-saver. It may have been the antidote to all the other baby groups for them, but ironically, I was under pressure to set up and to pack down on time. It became stressful and I couldn’t keep it going.
That’s the trouble with trying to fit creativity into a box. There is no greater creative act than having babies, so why spoil it by trying to fit it all into a pre-determined framework? Having a baby is an opportunity to free ourselves from time constraints for a small portion of our lives and live according to a more biological clock. Why not embrace it? Learn from it? Having babies has forced me to really take notice of natural rhythms. If we were to let our body clocks decide, then we in the northern hemisphere would sleep more in the darker, colder months of the year. We would notice that the moon affects our sleeping patterns too, as does our age.
When I became a parent I found it helped when I began to think about time in a different way. The ‘working day’ was no longer something that started and stopped at set times. I couldn’t get my baby to accept a schedule and it didn’t really work for me any more either. I had to change the way I structured my day. I had to be more present in the moment and make my plans loose and fluid (if not completely disposable).
The thing I am asked most often about my book is, how did I find the time to write it? In all honesty, I don’t know. There was no time. I was almost always parenting. But then again, there was all the time in the world. I wrote at night, on the bus, in the bath. I wrote on my phone, emailing the odd paragraph to myself and then slotting it in later. The time was there, just not always in solid blocks. I had to learn to use the time in between times.
I often think of a heart muscle, that rests in between beats and continues steadily for an entire lifetime. It’s not about how much time we have, it’s about pacing ourselves and focusing on the long game, the bigger picture. There is a saying that the days are long but the years are short.
This is so true when you are watching your children grow up, so be in the moment and don’t miss out. Watch your baby, not the clock. Einstein said, time is an illusion, and whether you’re into the theory of relativity or you prefer the Mayan Zuvuya concept, he definitely had a point.
Trust Your Body, Trust Your Baby: How Learning To Listen Changes Everything by Rosie Newman is published by Pinter & Martin £11.99