Saturday, April 21, 2007

Margins and Spaces

I don’t know how some people do it. Live their lives, I mean. The way I do it is simple – I don’t try and fit things in. The day wouldn’t hold it because I would run out of strength. Almost everything is given a place with space around it, even going to the supermarket (especially that). If I “arrange” more than two things in a day I become nervous. There is enough of the ordinary, unschedulable things to be getting on with in any case. I just looked at a day in the life of Wife of Brian and could barely imagine how such a day could be processed let alone achieved. In her case, she has little choice, having young children, a husband with M.E. and being the sole bread-winner. I have a sister who lives a life where there is no time to have coffee with a friend or even talk on the phone. She has a daughter with special needs, a career that flies her around the world and, close as we once were, we don’t meet any more, other than at funerals, big occasions or times when she has brought her daughter to stay with me. But it isn’t only people who have to deal with extreme or particular circumstances. There seems to be a “busyness” that has gone around like a virus and now almost everyone has to some extent got it in their system. My feeling is that it began to happen in this country some time in the eighties, when the property market was booming, zappy young people were becoming seriously rich and fun was becoming a pretty serious business too. I read in the papers then that work was something that had become too good for the lower orders, but the well-to-do middle classes couldn’t get enough of it. Being too busy and time-poor was a sign that you were in the groove and making it. The glamour wore off a long time ago, we’re stuck with the busyness and many people are sick and tired of it. It seems a strange paradox that you have to be sick and tired in order have the essential spaces that for everyone else are just luxury.

16 comments:

nmj said...

Hey Signs, yes, it is astonishing the cirumstances that people find themselves having to cope with. I remember when I volunteered for an Alzheimer's organisation years ago, hearing of a man with Down's Syndrome who was caring for his elderly parent who had dementia.

And I agree: I often think people are so busy being busy, they have no time to be happy. Given the choice, I would like to be busy being busy, but I think with chronic illness, you do get to appreciate the small things.

cusp said...

I was one of those busy busy people. After I went to Art School late I felt I had so much to catch up on. Very 80s/90s Didn't do me any good.

'Wife of Brian' is truly moving reading. Thanks for pointing us in her direction. To think I used to fit in the same amount is crazy now.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi nmj,

Hi cusp,

I think I've said this before, but if I were granted my wish of health and energy restored I am so out of practice, I wouldn't be able to do the "life-juggling" thing any more. I never got that much practice in any case, having come of age in the life-on-Mars seventies. I mean, I did stuff - worked, sang in a band, parties etc. (and of course I didn't have kids) but I don't remember people, young or old, going on about having no time in the same way.

Glad you've looked in on Wife of Brian.

The Moon Topples said...

Wish I had time to leave a proper comment. Too busy today, though. I'll come back soon. I've pencilled you in for this evening.

Reading the Signs said...

Mr. Moon - confound it, sir, "pencilled me in"? What's wrong with an indelible ink pen, I'd like to know?

moon-on-water said...

I have finally honed my life to the way I want it. I see my clients as a therapist in the mornings and afternoons. I go for morning coffee and crossword at 8 and the gym for an hour from 9 to 10. I spend lunch till 4 with my lover, and the evenings with my daughter. Bliss. I used to race around like a blue assed fly , and now there is the joy of space and time, love and work, and exercise all in perfect balance . It has only taken 50 years to achieve this state, but it is well worth it.

Reading the Signs said...

Sounds good, moon-on-water - but let me get this straight: do you see your clients from 10-1 and then have 3 hours with your lover before seeing more clients?

Ms Melancholy said...

I sometimes think that that is why people come to therapy - just to get away from the busyness of life for 50 minutes a week. When I hear of people's busy lives I really appreciate my job. Although I too am 'busy', ie occupied, my busyness is in helping people find a quiet space for themselves. And so I also get a quiet space too. Just thinking out loud, Signs! Thanks for the space...

Reading the Signs said...

hi ms melancholy - I suppose that as a therapist you yourself also have to become the space that people come to, and to be fully present in the moment can be a powerful experience for people always on the run.

Perfect balance, though - still thinking about this, moon-on-water. It does sound very ordered.

The Moon Topples said...

RTS: Sorry about the pencil. I use my pens for crossword puzzles.

Just stopping in quickly to say hello again, before I dash off to my next exciting adventure!

Aw, who am I kidding? I'm unemployed. I have nothing on my schedule until May 3rd, and that's a concert.

I am sorry I tried to fool you into believing I am a hectic dasher.

goodthomas said...

Signs, you have hit home again. I am guilty of living that life, and I would like to think I am also innocent of said crime (in moments).

Like a convicted man facing the judge, I can utter reasons and excuses. But that is precisely what they are -- just excuses. Given the craziness of everyone's life, I know I am not alone. I am constantly amazed at people who do more, or have more to handle than I. I really bow my head in deep respect at single parents, or parents of special need children. They are heroes to me.

But when the push and shove of everyday life happens, I try to savor the moments at home - with my wife and kids. When I rob myself of those moments (by either working late or not thoroughly "being there" when I am home), that is when I am upset and disappointed in myself.

It is always the little things isn't it?

Reading the Signs said...

Mr. Moon - the world needs people like you who have nothing scheduled but a concert on May 3rd. You are doing a good job.

goodthomas - sounds like you too are doing a very good job. I know there are people with particular circumstances that leave them no time. But there is also, I think, a "no time" consciousness which believes that time not paid for doesn't count. I've heard a couple of people talk like this recently. They know it's crazy but they can't stop it - so they can't have "down time".

That's so pants said...

I don't know about anyone else but I plan to take the rest of my life off.

Reading the Signs said...

Become a lifestyle guru, ms P - the self-help market is crying out for something new.

Ms Baroque said...

My rent is £940 a month and I have three kids. Much as I'd love to take the rest of my life off, or spend four hours a day with my lover (who that? ed.), it is clear to me that all the fending must be done, and done by one person only. Moi.

The only rest I've had in years was when I was made redundant and when I got sick - and even then I was doing my own cooking, and all the bills were waiting for when I got better!

But is that so unusual in the human scheme of things? I don't think your average Industrial Revolution worker, or pre-industrial farmer, was much better off than that.

I think the happiness thing is less about time than it is about something else. Pressure. It's individualism gone mad (to be said in the voice of Jim Branning). Because we have all this choice etc we can no longer rely on anyone else, so we can't take anything for granted. Each of us has to invent ourselves every day - even into old age, now that the pensions have packed up.

Reading the Signs said...

Yes, but I think it's also about Lifestyle with a big capital (the kind of thing that Virgin was so good at pioneering) and expectations around this. Everything we do and buy makes a statement about this. Yes, individualism gone mad.

You deserve £500 (today's equivalent) and a room of your own, Ms B. I think you are pretty bloody extraordinary with all you do - and the fact that you haven't much choice doesn't make it the less heroic.