Feeling alive – Part 2

When people in affluent societies are asked about their stressors, being time-poor is often near the top of the list. Of course there are also stresses like illness, job insecurity, mental health issues, accidents and so on, but nonetheless there are few people who would say they are able to do everything they need to do in a day and still have plenty of time left over. A few decades ago we heard about labour-saving devices and the four hour working week, but the opposite seems to have occurred. Computers were supposed to save us time, but many of us seem to spend an inordinate amount of time each day wading through emails and logging in and out of various websites to pay bills and make bookings and so on.

So finding the time and space for those areas in your life you’re passionate about isn’t always easy. To say ‘just do it’ might not be enough – many of the limitations are real and need to be considered. Perhaps you’re a single parent juggling two jobs, and a child with a disability, who loves reading, but by the time you get to bed with your precious novel you’re so exhausted you can’t even get through a paragraph without falling asleep. You might dream of owning and training a dressage horse, but can barely afford to feed the cat. Your vision is to paint a ten foot panoramic depiction of the sea, but your living room is so small even your visitor’s chair is a fold-up.

All the wishful thinking in the world won’t make these limitations go away, at least not in the foreseeable future. Yet there is also a cost in abandoning your dream altogether – life can start to feel dutiful and dull. So we need to get creative, adapt, and find a way of keeping the spark alive in the midst of our many other demands.

An artist friend of mine did have a studio, but not much time between work and family. So he used his daily commute on the train to sketch post-card sized portraits of other passengers, and then held an exhibition at the end of the year. It was one of the most moving exhibitions I’ve been to – hundreds of portraits of people sketched with humanity and compassion. The famous novelist Kafka wrote his masterpieces in the morning before going to his job as an insurance lawyer. Even if you only write for 20 minutes a day, by the end of the year you’ve gathered 118 hours worth of writing. How often do we fritter away 20 minutes on Facebook, or watching something on TV we’re not really interested in, or trying to find the car keys yet again?

Perhaps your passion is gardening, but you live in an apartment? You might be able to volunteer once a month in the therapeutic garden at your local hospital. You didn’t end up becoming an astronaut, but can explore space travel through websites and magazines, and teach your granddaughter about the galaxies and nurture a sense of wonder and curiosity in her. A wholesome passion brings out the best in us, and as long as we’re not rigid about it, with a bit of planning and prioritising we can allow that passion to enrich our lives and nourish us year after year.

Weekly practice idea:

Think of something you love but have been neglecting. Plan one way of bringing it into your life this week, even if it’s only for ten minutes, and notice how you feel afterwards.

Anja Tanhane