My mid-40s have definitely brought with them a new consciousness of time’s ‘ever-rolling stream’. Yesterday I found myself thinking: after February half term it’s only seven weeks until the Easter holidays, four until May half term and seven until the summer holidays, which always fly by. Then it’ll be autumn and Christmas will be here before we know it … 2015’s only just round the corner’.
I’m not joking. I genuinely had those thoughts and believed them. When we live busy, task-filled, deadline-driven lives this is how it feels. Of course being very busy some of the time is probably inevitable for most of us, and we can be satisfyingly and fruitfully busy, even in a crisis. But extreme busyness is like an extreme sport: not to be undertaken 24/7/365 if you care about your mental and physical health.
Which is why I’m reading Stephen Cherry’s book ‘Beyond Busyness: Time Wisdom for Ministry’. I came to it via one of those unexpected and enticing journeys through the ether. First I noticed Twibbons proclaiming ‘I’m not busy’ on some people’s Twitter accounts and had a dual reaction which went something like this: ‘How lovely, I wish I wasn’t’ and ‘How sad for them, not to be in demand’! Then I saw a Tweet which led to a beautiful and provoking sermon by Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, which talks about the slow work of Love and says, of God, that ‘most of the time he is so slow his movement is undetectable except to those who stay still for long enough’. Next I discovered the I’m not busy website and before I knew it I was reading the book.
And it’s good. It’s helping me to see time in a different way. It’s challenging me as I’ve been challenged many times before about my unhealthy reliance on busyness and ‘being in demand’ to prove my worth: both to others and also, sadly, to myself. It’s encouraging me to hope that beyond the mechanics of good time management there really is such an enriching thing as ‘time wisdom’; wisdom that frees us up to experience time as a good thing, even a spacious thing, as we did during those long summer holidays of our youth before we learned by misadventure to allow time to diminish us.
I know very well that my relationship with ‘spaciousness’ is ambivalent. I long for it in the busyness but fear it when it comes unexpectedly upon me or, scarier still, within me. Stephen Cherry offers what is effectively a (re)-entry level tool for people who have forgotten, or never learned, how to find and relish spaciousness and live deeply in the moment. Helpfully it’s written in bite-sized sections for those of us who think we’re time-poor.
I’ve not finished it yet, but I already taste a little freedom.