Do you control your schedule or does your schedule control you? I found myself caught in the vortex of schedule over load the other day. All day long, driving from one important appointment to another with almost no time to decompress in between, I felt out of control. It was almost impossible to get a grip on who I wanted to be that day. It turned out that while I was busy busy busy, I only had double-booked twice that day—which of course meant that there were only two people who felt totally disregarded by me.
As luck would have it, once I dropped my daughter off at school the next day I experienced a painful moment of not knowing what to do with myself. I didn’t have anything on my calendar that day. I was in a semi-panic because even though I knew I had work to do and would eventually outline what all needed doing, the out-of-control day before got me so wired that I felt the insecurity that I must surely have been missing something. This is really not how we’re supposed to feel about our lives.
So, in the car, on the way to my office, I decided I needed something to help me make sense of things. I put on the Coldplay song, "Clocks."
The song is founded on a syncopated and drivingly metronomic piano and rhythm section. Chris Martin’s voice floats almost ethereally over the incessant rhythm. The lyrics aren’t definite, but instead vague enough that the song can mean whatever a listener might find there. Like most great songs, I get to find my own connections to the song, relate to it for whatever reason I need.
What I found was the message that time incessantly ticks away while we try to rise above it and live the lives—including the relationships—that we want to live in spite of all of the challenges and obstacles to living the life we choose for ourselves. At just the point when the lyrical loftiness and instrumental insistence start to be accepted instead of feeling irreconcilable, Martin sings the line, “Am I part of the cure or am I part of the disease?”
There it was: the hardest part for any of us to reconcile—ever! How do we know if we are part of the cure or disease? For sure we are our own worst enemy in so many ways—we are easily blinded by our need to be right, our inability to recognize that we have become the worst of our parents, or that the Doritos are starting to show up on our bellies. When it comes to our relationship to the time we have (that clocks keep ticking away) I can’t help but wonder how often we become part of the disease of our world by too easily surrendering to our schedule—which too easily doesn’t belong to us but the collection of others and other stuff—instead of demanding that our schedule submit to us. This question about schedules has everything to do with the other question about how desperate we often feel and our inability to experience joy, culminating in us being unhappy and making those around us unhappy, too.
When I got to my office I first asked myself a big question: is this the life I want? When I told myself that it mostly is, I moved on to the things about the work I had to do that was important and that I loved. I listed those things. Then I made a list of the things that had to be done that day sifted through to decide which of them actually had to be done to accomplish something important for my work and for making me a better person.
Many of us are so stupidly busy that when we have free time we can’t enjoy it. Many of us are so bored at what we do that we can’t enjoy it. Many of us are working out some deep seated guilt that makes us skeptical of any kind of happiness. All three of these are part of the disease.
The cure, however, is actually harder. It means floating above and seeing ourselves objectively and asking hard questions about ourselves. But it also means embracing happiness, resisting the urge to surrender our schedules to the myriad of needs that can take our time away from us and the people we most need to give our time to. Your time is yours. Don’t sell it out.