Friday, February 22, 2008

Sacred Time

One problem for the writer today is the frenetic daily pace that many of us maintain. Work, which means emails, phone messages, projects, proposals, letters etc., is a big source of this fast paced lifestyle, and in a world of computers and cell phones even home is no haven. But our jobs are only one source of strain. Children if we have them, bills, grocery shopping, maintaining automobiles, households, and adult relationships are other sources. Some of these can be pleasant but they all require time. And Lord forbid we try to maintain friendships and attend social events. Or that we get involved in blogging!

I don’t know about you, but if I allow it then every moment of every day soon becomes filled with chores and commitments. And there is no time to write. But worse, there is no time to think, and thinking is an absolute necessity if we are going to write well. For me, thinking is also a necessity for maintaining my own mental health. When I have no time to contemplate I get frustrated, irritated, and short tempered.

I’ve struggled with this problem for years, juggling the demands of my job, my commitments to other people, and my writing. Too often I’ve let the writing slide, giving up my own self fulfillment to meet the needs of others. I’m sure most of you are the same.

But lately I’ve been thinking about “sacred time.” This is time set aside to feed one’s own needs, and not the needs of others. This is time that has to be kept inviolate, or as near as possible to that goal, because without it we can’t do that which makes us more than a collection of impulses and behaviors.

Right now I have two ways of trying to achieve sacred time. One is my daily commute, an hour and fifteen minutes each way. In the morning I am usually planning lectures and going over my to do list on the way to work, but in the afternoon I allow myself to day dream. And I have a tape recorder in the car in case something really interesting comes to mind. The second sacred time is when I go on walks alone around my neighborhood. Walks have always been the best way for me to escape into my own thoughts, but I can’t always manage them.

How about you? Do you have sacred time? If so, how do you achieve it? How do you learn to put yourself first sometimes without feeling guilty or selfish? How do you break away from the frenzy and find the calm?


WH said...

Your post makes me think of the great Wordsworth poem:

The world is too much with us; late and soon/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:/Little we see in Nature that is ours./We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

Cell phones and PCs have been mixed blessings. I'm ready to go to Innisfree with Yeats. If I have to rememember one more password or pin # ...

I unplug the phone, turn off the TV, chase everyone away, and make my mind blank. Before I can find sanity, I have to get rid of the INsanity first, like clearing out a computer cache.

SkyNymph said...

Namaste', even when commuting as you do daily, one can *commune* with the soul, I am glad to see you take such an opportunity to also do this.

I find even when doing dishes, I can find a connection within and feel simply peace and stillness. Within chaos in life, there will ALWAYS be the oppposite to oppose such, and calm it.

I certainly cannot blog like some others I have seen. I post when I can, as it takes a *part* of me, and as you state yourself our parts are extended sometimes a bit too far over the edge. And sometimes there might be a very hungry shark below that edge down below. he he. ;0)

I simply try to always be *aware*, so that I do not LOSE any moment, that all things sacred are done justice and are *honored* in my life.

I allow the *expectations* of who I should be, in the eyes of others, not allow such a hold as to be *rooted* so deeply, I cease to grow.
Metta razored zen.


SkyNymph said...

Namaste' me again, I tried looking for something to subscribe to your posts but found nothing?


Danette Haworth said...

When I have no time to contemplate I get frustrated, irritated, and short tempered.
Charles, I am absolutely the same way. And regarding friends, blogging, appts., they're desirable and necessary, but you're right--they're all competing for time, time we want to think or write. Or read.

One of the best vacations I've ever had was when my husband and I went alone to Beech Mountain, NC. We stayed in a mountain lodge, and our suite had a balcony with a hammock, a hot tub, a mountain view, and no cell phone/Internet connection. It was wonderful.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I absolutely need my sacred time. And as you know, driving is good writing - thinking time (thanks for the advice!). But with three girls, teaching, family and writing, it is really hard to carve out that time.

Steve Malley said...

I start with the sacred time. Everything else builds from there.

I can't help this strange calling, but I can prevent the feelings of sadness and loss that rise from letting my few humble gifts go to waste.

It ain't easy, and there are a lot of sacrifices. But for me, it's the only choice.

Miladysa said...

"How do you learn to put yourself first sometimes without feeling guilty or selfish?"

With difficulty! LOL

A problem for me is that for years and years I really did put everyone else first and this possibly contributed to my having high BP at what is considered an early age.

I found myself medically 'forced' to take it easier, this was really very hard to do and how I first got into blogging.

Now I pace myself - accepting that I do not have to do everything to an exceptional level and all at once.

I do feel selfish when I take time to blog and my older children are always telling me that I should be doing something else with my time. That's when I tell them - "It's my time!" :-D

FANCY said...

Charles ...

First I'm a woman , then on the first place I'm a mother, Then I'm from Sweden and on the top I'm human - and with that I mean that if I don't cant find the "sacred time" for just me ...there will be no other who can give it to me. Sometimes we have to make priorities and delegate to other and not be so damn lusty the whole time...It's not easy to be human, but, it sure can be fun...;-)

virtual nexus said...

Charles, if you turned your life inside out, you'd get mine,
(very broadly speaking).

Could be that the contact with the frustrating real world fuels the impulse to write in the first place. Guess we all have to have a custom-made solution to finding balance in our particular circumstances.

If I've remembered the title correctly, the Talking Stone was a short story in one of Asimov's earliest collections; think it had
'I'm in Mars Port without Hilda',
Lennie (LNE) and other gems in it. Probably before the Foundation series.

virtual nexus said...

.....Yep, it's listed in WikiP

Shauna Roberts said...

Boy, this reflects my own struggles so well! My life seems to be on constant red alert status.

My "sacred time" is an hour I give myself on the weekend, no matter how many chores need to get done. Usually I spend it reading, but sometimes I sleep instead.

That hour is not enough to clear my head and put me at peace. I need to find some other sacred time.

An important post for everyone, not just writers.

Charles Gramlich said...

Billy, great quote. And yes on the mixed blessings. When I'm home alone I often leave the TV off and don't even play music. The quiet is important to me.

Skynymph, I find myself too focused on getting done when I'm doing routine chores to really enjoy or let myself "commune." But the drive works out well for me. I don't know how to set up anything for subscribing to posts. There is some kind of thing called RSS feed but I don't really understand it.

Danette, that sounds wonderful. Lana and I have done similar things. Just get away from everything.

Ello, I don't know how you do it. With three young kids. When Josh was little I seldom managed to complete a full thought.

Steve Malley, I think that's because your head is screwed on right, Steve. Mine is hanging by a thread.

Miladysa, it's very hard with children.

Fancy, I think for each of us it comes down to doing what we need to do to stay human.

Julie, I have a couple of Asimov collections. I'll look through them. I may have read it long ago and just forgot.

Shauna, I know the feeling of "red alert status." It is so draining, so exhausting, though. I have often said that what I really crave is "peace of mind." In the past couple of years I've begun to find it on occassion, but I could always use more

Inside our hands, outside our hearts said...


What a great post. I am not sure I have much time for anything, let alone myself. When I am blogging, I am also chasing a toddler and a 6 year old. I have graduation this year, and maintaining the normal things as well as work and I am a single mom. If I have any sacred time it is between midnight and 6 am. But it is then I am to sleep right? ha! Perhaps when life is calmer I can sit back and dream.


Josephine Damian said...

I've turned off the ringer on the phone so that I'm never disrupted by anybody - I talk to people when I want to talk to people, not when they want to talk to me.

I do not own a cell phone. I do not waste time on people who send long-winded emails and expect a long email in return. I tell these people flat out that I just can't devote that kind of time to any one person.

I never answer the doorbell unless I'm expecting someone, and I rarely am.

Little by little, I've been dropping out of writers groups. I hold two officers positions right now (same group) and am counting the days till the next election (early May) and I can step down - that'll mean more free time and less stress/less going out.

By determining not to read a bad book, I've become ruthless about stopping a book the second it loses me.

For several months, I had a maid to take care of some of the housework, but she quit the cleaning biz in December. I'm going to hire new gal in April so that I can spend more time writing and reading, and less time cleaning.

I try to stay home every other day - I don't waste time washing my hair, or wear makeup or clothes I have to iron because I'm not going out.

I try to instil limitations on the anmount of time I spend online.

SzélsőFa said...

Whenever I don't have that sacred time I become irritated, too, Charles.
Strangely, my escapes are going shopping, b/c I have to go on bicycle and the mart is at the other end of the town. It takes 30 minutes to get there on bike, another 30 to back, and all the while shopping watch people in the shop.
That is a most relaxing thing for me.

Erik Donald France said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erik Donald France said...

Couldn't agree more. I call it "sacred space," but it's exactly the same thing.

Technology can be used as much to filter out b.s. and overcommitments as to let them in.

Caller i.d. is a great boon, and channeling people through other time-space filters.

Here's to sacred time and space! Amen . . .

Charles Gramlich said...

Tara, Children are tough. I loved playing with my son and taking care of him when he was little, but it was certainly a long-term time committment.

Josephine, I think your point about having to be ruthless with your time is well taken. I really need to be stronger in this for my own approach, and be insistent that at work folks don't just waste my time.

Szelsofa, I used to really enjoy riding my motorcycle and considered that sacred time, especially if I was off in the country. But the idiots who can't drive and kept hitting me or pulling out in front of me successfully took that away from me here.

Erik, I haven't mastered using technology to help me yet, but you've got a good point.

ivan said...

Thirty years ago, I decided to chuck everything everything and be a professional writer in some remote place.
For the longest time, I experienced a "white canvas-not even gesso!" feeling, but I finally got a novel together.

Hah. Tradest thou a family and hearth for a novel in thy head?
The jury is still out on that one, though parts of the family are coming back.
Egad. What if I succeed and they all come back. :)

moonrat said...

i have an option to take one of two trains to work. one gets me to the office in 25 minutes but it very crowded; the other gets me there in 50 minutes but is almost empty and always has a seat open. i always take the empty one and read the whole way there and back.

still working on the finding time for writing thing. although you'll be proud--i locked myself in a cafe all day today. so far i've written almost 2,000 words. sigh. now if only i could get myself to do this more than once a month.

Travis Cody said...

I used to have sacred time during an hour commute. But lately I haven't set that time aside for myself.

steve on the slow train said...

My "sacred time" for writing is currently Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. On the swing shift I work middays on Friday, mornings on Saturday and Sunday, and evenings on Monday and Tuesday. So I've got a 23-hour gap between end of my Sunday shift and the start of Monday's. I've used long commutes before, plugging in my ancient laptop on the South Shore commuter train. But the Sunday-Monday break is one good thing about the swing shift.

Monique said...

Your comment on Middle Ditch intrigued me and now I have the answer ... The (sometimes) lack of privacy and quality time.

My partner works for seven hours a day for four days and then has two days off. I work part-time in a boarding school with plenty of holidays. We are not too anxious about material wealth, as long as we eat well, are able to pay all the bills and can have the occasional time out. Therefore we have plenty of time for writing, blogging and relaxing.

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones.


Chris Eldin said...

Yes, you said it well when you mentioned 'thinking time.'

I often tell my boys, especially the younger one, to get quiet in his thoughts. They both rely too much on stimulation. There's no down time. (or not enough)

Right now, my downtime is the same as you. In the car, and the occasional walk. By the time the kids are in bed, I'm so exhausted that it doesn't count.

Michelle's Spell said...

I couldn't agree more about the need to get away from noise and bullshit to think. People assume that you can just crank writing out on demand -- few know that you have to sit there for long periods to get anything. Being sick and unable to do anything, I had a lot of time to think and realized that most of what I worry about can be dropped by the side. So I'm going to try. The time alone doing nothing did help kickstart the writing of my rape memoir so it wasn't all bad!

Charles Gramlich said...

Ivan, I'm the same way when I think of making new friends here locally. Uhm, what if I succeeded?

Moonrat, that's a good strategy. I'd probably opt for the same.

Travis, it does become an act of "setting aside" in today's world. Otherwise you'll never find the time.

Steve, I'm glad there's an upside to the swing shift. I find sometimes with my "weekend" that I'm so tired from the weak I allow myself just to watch mindless TV. I definitely have to stop that.

Monique, when I don't have to work during summer break I'm one of the lucky ones too. But having a couple of months of such time really makes it hard to go back to 18 hour days.

ChristineEldin, I always tried to encourage that in my son as well but I don't think he has yet to develop it really. I also see very few of my students who are that way. Today's generation is learning to stay constantly connected to others around them.

Michelle, I've gotten a lot of thinking done at times when I was sick. Sickness would not be so bad if it wasn't for feeling like total crap.

Lana Gramlich said...

I have plenty of sacred time because I live with the most considerate man in the world. :)

RRN said...

Awesome post. Raises a lot of thought.
First...What is it with writers and walking? I know of many writers who enjoy taking walks? Lots of people enjoy walking sure...But it always seems writers love them quite a lot ? Personality trait perhaps ?

Beyond that... This post made me think of some of the training I have had. Just the idea that in order to ever be helpful to others you must first and foremost maintain yourself....Taking care of the body and mind and always keeping your safety and well being at the forefront of your mind. I find this to be applicable to almost all things....Even blogging and writing in general.

Thanks....As always , just a really powerful and great post.

Bernita said...

Maladysa has it right.
It's very difficult.
Especially when putting others first has become a habit of years
Thinking time is essential.
Too often those moments feel stolen.