Spending time

“He asked me out again. I don’t really want to go. But maybe I should. What do you think?”

It’s a common conversation among women.

We continue to have a system in which he is more commonly the inviter, causing plenty of problems for him, and she is more often the invitee, causing another set of problems for her.

She deals with the invitation that never comes, or comes too late, and with finding creative and kind ways to decline the invite she is positive she does not want. Perhaps the trickiest one, though, is the chance to spend time with someone she’s pretty sure she’s not going to want to see more often, but …

This problem, of course, isn’t confined to dating. We’ve all had nice enough acquaintances who’ve tried to include us more, but we just didn’t see that much in common. We’ve been invited to be on teams or join groups that sort of sounded like fun, but weren’t really. It’s usually flattering to be invited, and for reasons of upbringing, personality or societal expectations, most of us find it hard to say no.

We shouldn’t.

Too many people spend too much of their limited free time doing things they aren’t all that interested in, with people they don’t particularly enjoy. I think it’s time we give ourselves far greater permission to treat our time as the resource it is, and learn to say “I don’t want to join you” in a way that is both kind and firm.

Yes, doing this requires a certain amount of courage.

A few days ago I found myself on the listening end of the conversation I started this post with, and was surprised at the vehemence of my answer. Maybe it was because she had just been telling me how hard she was trying to save money, and how poorly it was going. Something clicked.

“What makes you think your free time is any less precious than your spending money? It’s more precious. Hell yes, you say no if you don’t feel like going!”

Then I started to think about the words we use to describe both of these concepts. We have money. We spend money. We have time. We spend time.

Do we spend anything else? I don’t think so. Even our language acknowledges that time is a resource as precious as our wealth.

A few years ago, two former co-workers I hadn’t seen in years came to my home town and invited me out for the day. They seemed surprised and miffed when I declined. The reaction bothered me, and I remembered writing a post then about saying no to things you don’t want to do. I just found it and it’s called No, I actually don’t want to spend time with you.

I reread it and I stand by it. It’s never necessary to be rude. It is fair to be tired, over-committed, in need of some down time or just plain not interested. It is okay to try something, including an activity or a relationship of any sort, and decide this isn’t a thing you want to keep doing.

We go to great lengths to keep a thief from from spending our money. I think we’d be well-served if we were as vigilant about not letting others take over how we spend our free time.

(For more thoughts on how to use one’s precious time wisely, or poorly, see Live like you are going die?)



Greener Grass

I’ve never liked the expression “watch what you wish for”. I think it discourages dreaming, and pushes people to settle for what is, rather than encouraging them to make positive changes in their lives. It feeds that innate fear that anything we do will make matters worse.

Gathering vibes 1But there is a reason that we share this collective fear. Often we idolize what we want and once we do get it, the reality falls short of the the dream. It still may be an improvement over what we had, and it might even be a big improvement. It’s just not perfect. It doesn’t make us perfect. It doesn’t make everyone around us perfect. So another dream looms. A different job, a new lover, another town, or maybe better friends. The tough part is figuring out when it’s time to stop chasing perfection and embrace the life you are living.

Do this too easily, and you are settling for less than you should.  Never accept anything other than perfection, and you have chained yourself to a life of discontent. This living life well shit is so damn difficult, isn’t it?

Obviously this little tirade is based on my current situation. I recently quit my job and moved across country, to live in the mountains. I’m off a dirt road, surrounded by beauty, fresh air and all the time in the world to write. It was supposed to be perfect. Unfortunately, I really wanted to move to the Rockies. My life partner wanted to go the the east coast. We wanted to be together, so, we moved to the Appalachians.

There are trees everywhere. So many of them that you can’t tell where you are. It’s not quiet. This damn place is full of something called cicadas and they make a shrill racket worse than any city noise I’ve ever heard. I’m hoping I can write here, but I wouldn’t know because after two months I am still unpacking. This is not what I had planned. It is not perfect.

Pick up and move again? Difficult and very expensive, but possible. Or try learning to love this new home?

Yesterday, I learned how to use a chain saw.  It’s not complicated, but it takes a little confidence with power tools that I needed to gain. Point forward,  I’m going to take down one tree every week until I can see out in at least one direction. I like trees. But I figure that there will still be four million of them within my view, so I’m not exactly affecting the amount of oxygen on this planet.

grassI’ve also discovered that cicadas die off at the end of summer and the really good news is that summer ends here in September like it should. So there is hope for quiet. As to the writing? The stories are starting to form in my head again, in spite of the time I am spending unpacking. They’ll want to be put on paper soon.

They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Here in my new home, the grass is actually greenest right above our septic system. I’m not sure exactly what that proves, but I think I’ll stay put for now and try to figure it out.

(For more thoughts on making major life changes see my blog posts Wise and Quiet, Am I a Shape Shifter Now? and If You’re Going to be an Old Car.)

Am I turning into a wild animal?

Hip and HumbleI’m finding it ever more difficult to stay indoors these days. Cooked food doesn’t even sound good. I suppose some of it is stress. There is a big change coming up, and a move across the country, and of course a lot of new things are going follow. Still, I’ve been through these sorts of upheavals before, and my normal reaction is to, you know, eat chocolate and drink wine. Watch more TV and sleep late.

This time around, I can hardly make myself look at a clock, and my electronic devices all irritate me. I’m waking up before my alarm and I get though my day watching and waiting and I’m not sure for what. I mentioned to my husband that once we moved, I might just live on the porch for awhile and not come inside for days.

“Do you think maybe I’m turning into a wild animal?” I asked him. “Like, I used to be domesticated and it’s wearing off? Sort of like, I don’t know, rose bushes that revert back to what ever it was that they really were before some nursery grafted something else on to them?”

I can tell that I’ve lost him with the roses thing.  He’s not much of a gardener and he’s got no idea of what I’m talking about.

“You’re fine,” he laughs.

“How do you know?” I want a little concern here, some acknowledgement of the oddity of my situation.

“I know you. You love being outside. It’s where you go to calm down. But you are always going to come inside to use the bathroom, and you’ll never get so wild that you’ll turn down ice cream. That’s good enough for me.”

Me too, I guess. Once we move, maybe I’ll metamorphose into a creature that craves the sun and the wind and sky, but who won’t give up her indoor plumbing and can always be called with a dish of frozen sea salt caramel yogurt. That could work for us both.