Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Lawn is Dead Again

Once, I overheard a woman complaining about all the packing she had to do for her upcoming cruise1.

What I complain about is time. Or, rather, the constriction thereof. No time to water the lawn. No time to organize my closet. No time to, well, blog.

This is self-inflicted, of course. There is always some quantifiable amount of time after work is done and the kids' needs/wants/whims are taken care of and my own belly is full. But with what to fill that time? Read a novel and miss my favorite television show? Write a blog post and leave my shirts hanging in an incongruent mess of colors and sleeve lengths?

I jest. I guess. Television is patient for us these days and worrying about the arrangement of shirts is neurotic at best. Particularly for a guy who works at home and wears t-shirts 90% of his life.


Well, there’s more, isn’t there? There are those things that are less important than keeping one’s children alive but more important than keeping one’s lawn alive. And those things need time, too.

Exercise. Sleep. The pursuit of dreams.

How do you finish a novel while working constantly and raising children? How do you do that without pissing off your spouse and your friends? From where do you embezzle the time? Do you let your gym membership fester? Do you sleep so little that your hair falls out? Because we’re not talking about needing 30 minutes here and there. We’re talking about needing hours that will equal days that will equal weeks that will count upwards to full months of minutes.

When I heard that woman talking about her cruise, I thought how much I would love it if my chief complaint was having to pack for a vacation. Privilege has its privileges. Nannies! Gardeners! Maids! Personal frickin’ chefs!!


That’s not really the point, is it? Even the most privileged can find reasons to be frustrated, can permit unhappiness to slither into their days. If we let it, emptiness can consume a thousand free hours. Sure, with time, we might be able to exercise until our bodies are stone-like while blogging/tweeting/status updating every rep and crunch. Our lawns will glow with heavenly green. Our clothes will hang in beautiful coordination.

But that pursuit of dreams thing? We might have the time, but do we have the...

Will. Want. Need.

No one finishes a novel simply because they have free time. Even the worst of novels took more than a few free afternoons. And the best of them? A million years wouldn’t be long enough for most of us to equal the feat.

Time may be a necessity but it is a road; it contains no fuel of its own. As I stumble deep into my 30s, I’m learning that, when I have not the time to write, it’s not the lack of time I should blame. I live a comfortable enough life. Time is there. In pockets. Gasps. Centimeters of space. It’s just a matter of having the will to use it. And the will to let the lawn die.

1. For weeks I’d been in a situation where I could eavesdrop on this woman and her friends. The upper-class overtones of this particular statement are quite representative of this woman’s wealth and, um, separation from the common concerns.a

            a. This is the only footnote.


  1. You just summarized perfectly the way I feel about 98% of the time. I often think about the seven or eight novels I have queued up and ready to go and it about gives me a panic attack. I try to imagine how many child-raising-full-time-work-stolen-hours it'll take to finish them and I think I'll probably be eighty before they're done. And that's assuming I don't come up with more. Sheesh! (and then in the back of my head the whole time - what if none of them get published????)

    I think Maya Angelou said/wrote that the worst feeling was a living with a story in you. Writing is a strange thing because time is truly all you need, and yet we never seem to have enough. Weren't all these technologies supposed to find that time for us?

    I loved the Collagist story, BTW. You just keep getting better and better, man.

    I may make it to AWP this year, so if I go and you're there I may take you up on that beer you offered oh, I dunno how long ago.

    I wish you the best of luck on the novel.

  2. Glad you liked the post. And the Collagist story. I always have multiple stories trying to work their way out -- if only they'd all behave and wait their turn, I might be able to manage my time better.

    I am very likely to go to the next AWP. That offer for a beer has no expiration, so definitely let me know if you'll be there. It would be great to get to hang out.