A friend of ours recently made an unexpected announcement – she had finished writing a screenplay. Now, writing a screenplay for someone who writes screenplays for a living is hardly a shock. Noble, indeed, but not something that involves going to the party section at Target for. Singing Telegrams need not apply. But our friend does not write screenplays for a living. She has three children, a husband who has been renovating their house since they bought it years ago, and works non-stop teaching, working, and running her own business, and a mother who is very ill. So, to me, writing a screenplay amidst that madness is an achievement – in the way that making polenta with chantrelle mushrooms, Stilton, tarragon and home made crème fraîche is an achievement for a border collie. With lupus. And webbed paws.
Now it’s not that she wrote the screenplay that has had me gawking (well, part of it is – we are thrilled as Grasshopper Pie for her) – but in how she found the time to do this. How? When? When does someone carve out space within the vortex of modern, uptight living to breathe life into the blank page? How did she do it without the heavy needs of her family and business pulling her each way like a Gumby doll caught between two escalators? Certainly she found a mysterious, yet pleasing way of bending space and time to accommodate the written art form to her already bustling Oprah-like Titanic schedule.
Bending it like a boss, indeed.
I seem to be surrounded by these supermom types. My wife is one in many ways (to me), but even she will admit she is not in the same category as some of our friends and neighbours are. As a parent, I am not cut from the same cloth as my screenwriting friend, or the one who knits entire menageries and runs half marathons while raising three boys, or the one who is on every school counsel and bakes cakes that would win TV competitions in between vomit patrol at home with the wee ones. Or even the one who coaches every single girls team (of any and all sports) within a ten kilometres radius of her house and builds cathedrals in her spare time while juggling an orphanage and a second career in air show jumping. (Okay, I may have stretched that last one a bit…but you get my drift). In terms of parental cloth, I am more bleached Walmart burlap to their Nepalese cashmere.
That’s because for this hombre, I can barely find enough hours to work and sleep and perhaps interact with other human beings (like my family). Add into that the necessities of living and the care of two young boys, then there are -15 hours left in the day. (No one told me math would be involved here). Nothing new, of course – all parents have the same issues. Except for those who write screenplays, score symphonies and paint murals the size of Burger Kings, whilst taking care of junior and walking Spot.
When I was in high school, I had one English teacher who always seemed to just run out of time before he could end the lesson. He always declared “Time is my greatest enemy, gentleman”. Really? Greatest Enemy? Darth Vader always seemed like a good candidate for that title. But it seemed that the line in the sand had been drawn many moons ago. Mickey Mouse’s small clock hand was ready to arm wrestle for world domination. Playing with anti-matter and the forces of physics doesn’t apply (I tried for 25 drinking years to do that – hint: it didn’t work). And you know what? That teacher was right, because I always felt that the cloaked speedster known as time was also my greatest enemy. Or maybe it was just me, and I blamed time. Blaming time is safe, isn’t it?
When asked how in the hell she was able to write a screenplay, our friend simply stated that she got up at 4 am every day and just, you know, wrote. Boom. Just like that. Full Monty with the sheer simplicity of it all – get up early. That’s it? That’s all one has to do? Mind blowing. Because in my mind, she and the other superstars have some voodoo up their sleeve. Some sort of black magic that needs to be sorted out via sacrificed Armenian lamb and ancient shrunken heads. Because in my mind, the number of hours in my day is much different the hours that are in your day. There has to be, as I can hardly get a litre of milk at the store and do a load of laundry in the same day. And they are getting F-16 pilot’s licenses while taking Jane and Jeff to the orthodontist’s and making homemade mac and cheese.
Now, when I stand back and take this all in, I have to shift my perception a bit. Yes, I am in many ways in awe of some of our friends who can pull this stuff off. Proud of them to persevere and do what is in their hearts. My perception in all this is that I am seeing what my ego wants to see – that everyone has perfect lives and that it would be easy to get into comparison and ultimately, self-pity. Ego loves a good pity party. Now go to Target for one of those Droopy The Dog pinatas to whack at. But the reality is this – that those folks who do the things that amaze me, find the time to do it. They carve out the time as needed. They chunk time. They plan. They organize. They take advantage of opportunities as they come up. The do it because they are compelled and passionate and enjoy what they do. They do it because it is vital to their growth.
And believe me, when I listen a little bit more to these same people that I am easily putting on pedestals, I hear more of the full story. I hear about houses that are unkempt because there is no time to clean up properly. I hear about lacklustre social lives, or missed vacation chances or unearned money from “real” jobs because they are pursuing what their heart points them to. There are balances going on. There are sacrifices. There’s unfinished business behind the scenes. I am highlighting the things that make me feel like garbage because ego wants me to feel less than. I am pointing to their amazing so that I can point back at my mediocre and fancied failings.
Being aware of this is what saves my bacon, though. While I celebrate at other people’s fantastic goals and achievements, I look into self and see where I need to do the work. This is one of the jobs in my recovery. This is where the work is. This is where I stop, drop and roll, spiritually and mentally speaking. I need to see that where others are is where they are, and that they create that space that they require to do their own work. And here’s both the enlightening and difficult part here – I take a moment and look at things from the other point-of-view. How do I see where I am at? How would a stranger see me?
Here is a dude with a great family. He has a fantastic job that doesn’t seem to stress him much. He writes a blog. He has time to read other blogs and interact with others in the sober community – online (social media, forums and other) and face-to-face. He works on his recovery daily. He journals, prays, meditates. He keeps a clean house, pays bills, cooks all the meals and works for a treatment center doing their newsletter. He jogs, rides his bike and reads a lot about spirituality and recovery. He talks to other men in recovery. He is always finding new music and passionate about new artists. He finds the time to organize things and to meet up for coffee with friends.
So, doing this exercise in taking the glasses off, wiping them, turning them around and coming from gratitude and self-love brings a new truth. A new way of looking at things. The impulsive envy and sarcasm and comparing all start to fall by the wayside, dripping off like spring rain water. Appreciation for self and for others grows. Understanding where I can be and how I approach my own day and week and month takes on a new complexion. Seeing my place in the world and of being of service to others – friends, family, co-workers, alcoholics – comes into a clearer focus.
When I think back about what my English teacher said, I get where he was coming from. I also see time differently now, though. I see it not as a foe, but just as it is – something that is to be used and spent. And being used properly doesn’t necessarily mean pedal-to-the-metal to-do lists. Some of the best time I have spent was staring at the stars and being in awe and wonderment of this universe. Time is what I make it. My priorities in life manifest themselves in how I spend my 24 hours. Today, I am writing. Here, and for several other places and reasons. Hitting a meeting later. Perhaps chat with my sponsor. Going for a run, perhaps. Self-care, recharging, taking care of my family. Nesting and regrouping. Getting ready for the next onslaught of to-do’s and need-to-get-done’s.
This is my screenplay right now, and with the help of the Great Author, I get to play the role I was meant to be doing right this moment. No understudies required. This is the role I was born to play, as we all have our own roles we were meant to play. And how will it end?
Time will tell.
Time will always tell.
How is your day being spent?