“The clock is a soulless mechanism.”
– Tahar Ben Jelloun, excerpt The Sand Child
Once upon a time, it felt important to be part of the scene and be seen as such, as much as my creative-hermit self could handle. Meeting new people was a weekly occurrence of coffees, walks (I’d call them walky-talkys), or hikes. We’d talk about projects, happenings, what our hearts were excited about those days. One year, the Boulder Startup Week folks donned me one of the Ambassadors to this great community. On any given walk downtown, I would see at least a handful of people I knew. A friend was with me once and she said, “I feel like I’m with someone famous.” I laughed at how far that was from the truth and simultaneously delighted in having made so many connections and being seen as a creative spark.
While those connections were fruitful, it was fairly short-lived. After being diagnosed with chronic Lyme, my social butterfly wings were clipped. Life shifted to where that scene-and-being-seen-thing wasn’t important anymore. Instead, I was the one canceling at the last minute and declining invitations. Since my energy was limited, whatever creative juices I had went to self-care and work.
At some point, I stopped keeping track of what I was missing from all that I said ‘No’ to. I didn’t wince when people would say they hadn’t seen me in so long and I should come to this or that event and so-and-so was going to be there. I had zero interest as I had zero energy. If people expected a creative spark, most days I wondered where my spark plugs went.
Shifts happen. They happen when chronic illness hits and the long road to recovery sets in. They happen when the pitter patter of little feet usher you into the realm of parenting. They happen when life happens (and the babysitter doesn’t show up)–in situations big, small, the boons, the blahs, the unforeseen, and the unexpected. Life comes hurtling and hurling at you. It doesn’t stop no matter how organized your calendar is, how efficient you are, or even if you floss every day.
Life is full and intense all on its own, beyond our own making, beyond our calendaring. And yet, when it happens, we can feel torn between a well-scheduled day, work expectations, and being there for the stuff our hearts yearn for and love. While Einstein asserted that time is an illusion, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. As persistent as it is, we hang our days on the grid of our calendars, with various notifications moving us along.
“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance, Dance, Dance
Often, that aids and abets us to put limits on our life. We run up against whatever image of perfection as a worker bee we may have. The black and white color blocks of the calendar work only on the assumption that we are healthy and our lives can be contained and maintained in such a way that they don’t bleed over into that grid. The parts of ourselves that we identify with and try to uphold for ourselves can be a burden in the tides washing upon the shores of our lives as the world spins madly on.
As my partner, Dan Putt notes in the introduction to this episode,
“Take a look closely at your last week. Think about the moments where you felt some sort of guilt. Guilt about your inbox. Guilt about your schedule. Guilt about anything really. Those times of guilt are likely pointing to a personal value that you hold very dear, and a rule or set of rules you’ve applied in your life to protect that value, to protect that identity. What would it look like to honor the values I hold to be true, to aspire to living them out every moment AND treat myself with some grace? And what if the rules are actually holding me back from living out the very values I hold dear?”
What would it mean to be who you are–and enjoy that–unmotivated by how people feel about you, as Jerry suggests to Semil Shah in the podcast. What would it mean to live into the fullness of your humanity, in all of life’s unexpected bigness? Or, to put it in the words of Anne Lamott, “What if you wake up someday, and you’re 65…and you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life?”