This morning I finally took the plunge and bought myself some more time. Actually, I bought more thyme.
Ha! Ha! Ha! Very funny! While I know that pun is the very lowest form of wit, I’ll blame the rain. It’s been raining for days and days. My brain’s gone soggy and needs more sunlight to function properly.
But wouldn’t we all like more time? Isn’t that the Holy Grail we’re all madly trying to find? Some almost magical way of buying more time, even though we know there are only 24 hours in a day?
I know I’d certainly like more time!! Particularly now that I’ve had to accept that time is a limited resource. It doesn’t stretch. Like the sands through the hour glass, it just runs out. That’s it. Poof! It’s all gone!
This came as a bit of a rude shock to me. I don’t know about you but I’ve always treated time as a fairly flexible resource. Squeeze something in here. Jam something else in there. I’ve also had my watch set five minutes fast, so I could always squeeze in that one last thing before I bolted out the door. I can also run a little late, which is another way of buying just a little more time.
However, as the school bell rudely reminds me very morning, time is fixed.
Well, that might be what the so-called experts believe but I’ve finally found a loophole. I’ve proven them wrong. Not by buying myself some thyme. Rather, I’ve just done some very simple mathematics.
You see, if you want more hours in the day, you simply subtract them from the night.
Wake more…sleep less.
As I said, it’s a very simple equation…all very basic mathematics. An equation so delightfully simple that even the most mathematically challenged can get it.
I always knew I was clever…a veritable genius! I just needed to find my thing.
Ssh! This has to be our little secret. At around 9.30PM when my husband starts thinking of going to sleep, I conversely start to wake up. I make myself a cup of decaf tea, ostensibly to unwind before going to bed. Of course, it takes time to cool down. So instead of turning off my laptop and actually letting my brain slow down , unwind and prepare for sleep, it actually fires up again. Inspiration hits and suddenly I’m typing at whirlwind speeds and the ideas are really flowing. Of course, it’s the very best writing that I’ve ever done and I don’t want to lose “the moment”. If you write, you’ll understand just how precious “the moment” can be. When inspiration hits, you’ve got to catch it. Get it down anyway you can before it gets up and leaves and goes somewhere else. (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a fabulous TED Talk about creative inspiration: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html)
I write and write and write until all that inspiration has well and truly dried up. I only stop when the words are starting to merge and blur together and I can’t tell the difference between a verb and a noun. By this point in time, instead of capturing all those pearls of wisdom, I’ve actually deleted them and nothing makes much sense in the morning!! I’m just left with a pile of gobbledegook. This, of course, is the danger of stealing too much time. Unfortunately, it seems you can borrow a little bit of time but you need to pay it back. You can’t keep it indefinitely!
Sadly, like most good theories, there’s a catch…no free lunch. You pay for it. In this particular scenario, it’s called sleep deprivation. There’s that magic balance between wake and sleep and when you deduct too much from one of side of the equation, the whole thing topples down taking you down with it. Did you know that seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%? That means that if you were driving a car, you could actually kill someone!! That’s rather scary. We push ourselves further and further beyond the brink of sleep deprivation and that’s where we can end up. It’s not pretty. Not pretty at all and contrary to my earlier boasts, it’s not smart. It’s not smart at all.
In the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwarz argues that “sleep is more important than food”. That we could survive a week without food but we couldn’t survive a week without sleep. He quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin who wrote about the experience of being deprived of sleep in a KGB prison in his memoir White Nights : “In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep … Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.” http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/03/sleep-is-more-important-than-f.html
The case for getting an early night was mounting but this was the real clincher. Schwarz goes on to quote Anders Ericcson’s famous study of violinists which found that top violinists also reported that except for practice itself, sleep was second most important factor in improving as violinists. The top performers slept an average of 8 ½ hours out of every 24, including a 20 to 30 minute mid-afternoon nap. That is some 2 hours a day more than the average American.
Humph!! Could sleep deprivation possibly explain some of the difficulties I’ve been having mastering my violin lately? For my husband, Geoff, it was a no-brainer: “Are you surprised? You are exhausted. You can’t keep the bow going straight!”
Alright! Alright! Maybe I’m starting to concede that things are having to change. The trouble is how? We all do things we know are bad for us, even when we know they are slowly killing us but how do we stop?
I could start by totally reprogramming my thinking. Tell myself how much I hate and even loathe that 30 minutes of total me time where I bask in absolute, beautiful blissful silence each night. Tell myself I hate that final, lingering cup of tea and that I especially hate any Tim Tams or stray pieces of evil chocolate which might happen to stray across my path late at night.
But is it wrong to lie, even if it is for your own good?
Staying up late feels way too good to give it up even though it’s really bad for my health, relationships and mental state. It’s probably not even that good for my writing.
So if I know all of this why don’t I stop? Why can’t I change?
It’s like eating broccoli. You know it’s good for you. You know it prevents cancer and does all these other wonderful things but you just don’t like it. But then sometimes, something comes along and forces you to change. It’s like being pushed straight up the side of a mountain…a mountain you never, ever wanted to climb.
You see as much as I love those moments of very precious solitude, even I have to admit that I’m exceptionally tired. I sleep for at least an hour most days, no doubt catching up for what I’ve lost late at night. But I’m still not entirely convinced. My auto-immune disease causes extreme fatigue. I also blame my lungs which have been down to 50%. Not getting enough oxygen, can also make you tired and give you brain fog. But even taking all these possibilities into consideration, I should be going to bed earlier. Make the supreme sacrifice. After all, I’m supposed to seize the day, not the night!!
This has all become a bit tragic because I had no intention of going to bed earlier when I started this post. It’s just been a miserable, wet couple of days and I bought myself some thyme. Thought I’d photograph it for the blog as a bit of a joke because like most of us, I would really like to buy some more time. I have also had some scares with my health where I’ve wanted to buy some serious time. Sticking to the nitty gritty like going to bed and choosing the broccoli feels boring but if that’s what it takes to truly seize the day and possibly even save my life, perhaps it’s time for me to seriously play ball.
I’m getting myself a star chart and a serious reward. This time I mean business!
Moving from time to thyme, the sag of my thyme plant continues. I used to be quite an avid gardener but we’ve had drought, water-restrictions and busyness. I don’t tend to buy many plants these days but every now and then I succumb. Despite my protestations, they generally end up thirsty and near death thanks to neglect. Every time I buy a new plant, I promise to do a better job but sadly history repeats itself. But…but…I am determined for this plant to live and to live life abundantly!!
To give it the very best chance of success, Mister and I headed out to the worm farm and filled the pot up with the best soil I’ve ever seen. It was so beautifully rich in nutrients. Our thyme plant surely has to flourish.
The last word on thyme goes to this folk song a friend sang to me after school this afternoon when I mentioned my post. I’ve just included a couple of verses but you can click through to read the whole song.
Let No Man Steal Your Thyme
For thyme it is a precious thing
And thyme brings all things tae your mind
Time wi’ its labours alang wi’ all its joys
Oh time brings a’ things tae an end
Come all ye maidens young and fine
All ye that are bloomin’ in your prime
It’s aye be aware and keep your gardens square
Let no man steal awa’ your bunch of thyme