Like Alice, Billie keeps going through the looking glass. (Image from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, via Daily Mail UK.)



I’m supposed to be doing something else right now, but I’ve chosen to steal these minutes to set down my thoughts on my time and how I choose to use it.

Wait a minute. “Supposed?” Where did that come from?

Old habits die hard. Theoretically, my life is at a point that allows me to choose what I do, 24/7. Yet, as Andrew Marvell complained in “To His Coy Mistress:”

. . . At my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.

Every spring I give away an hour of my time in order to enjoy more daylight during the warm months. And I miss it terribly until the fall, when I get it back again.

I don’t have much choice about Daylight Saving Time, but there are many other, more subtle manipulations of my precious moments that I could resist if I were stronger-willed.

The man I married in 1964—let’s see now, that was 46 years ago—was constantly in a hurry. We couldn’t walk anywhere without his abjuring me to speed up: “Come on, now, let’s go,” he’d say, pacing furiously and turning back to prompt me. He died in 1999, but his voice is still with me, urging me to step lively. The only way I can slow down is to take a deep breath and make a conscious effort.

Okay, here’s a case in point. Just now, as I was immersed in thinking about this subject, the telephone rang.

Did I let the machine pick it up? No.

I stopped writing, got up and answered. Long story short: someone asking me if I would like to do something that I’ve already said three times I don’t want to do.

Another poem springs to mind: Samuel Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan.” Deep in my own thoughts, I respond to an external stimulus and what do I find? All too often, a “person on business from Porlock.”

This phrase, used by Coleridge as the reason for the poem being unfinished, has become synonymous with an unwanted intruder. And I use the redundant term advisedly, to emphasize the undesirable nature of the interruption.

In Coleridge’s England, the word “person” connoted a lower-class, non-genteel entity. Being in business, or the trades, was not desirable; one could not engage in business and be a gentleman. Why Porlock, a picturesque village in Somerset, England? Not clear, except possibly as a symbol for a place without importance or meaning to the poet.

Many scholars believe Coleridge’s excuse for the unfinished work is part of the work itself, a fiction tantamount to “The dog ate my homework.”

And that’s part of the time management issue for me, too. Even when it’s no longer necessary, I feel a little guilty if I choose to do something that conflicts with what others ask of me. It’s still a struggle, but I’m getting better.

Here’s why: The decision to cooperate (or not) with others’ requests for my time is now pretty much mine most of the time. I don’t have to punch a clock or pack a lunch. I can—

Oops, gotta stop now. But you know where I’m going with this, right?

Yep, that’s right: Porlock.


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