My husband changes the oil in our vehicles himself. When his brake pads need to be replaced, he borrows tools and goes to work. When we decide to install major appliances, run duct work for central heating and air conditioning, or redo all the plumbing and wiring in the quaint old home we’re slowly renovating, he recruits a few handy volunteers and hammers away after reading DIY books and scouring forums and websites. When I point out the need for a new desk, bookshelf, or storage unit, my husband bypasses the prepackaged kits and designs and builds them himself. When he loses a button or rips a hem, he breaks out his miniature sewing kit and repairs it. Himself.
I am impressed by his Renaissance-man-meets-Survivor-man nature. I am grateful for the tens of thousands of dollars we have saved over the past three years due to his willingness to expend hours of effort to complete intricate tasks that other men would never consider tackling. And I am, honestly, simultaneously annoyed by his ability to find satisfaction—even joy—in seeing tangible results materialize after conquering tedious, time-consuming projects.
I just don’t get it.
I’m not exactly the Proverbs 31 kind of gal, at least not in terms of burning the midnight oil to darn socks, knit potholders, design scrapbooks, grind my own wheat, or milk goats, all with a pleasant grin plastered on my deliriously exhausted face.
I tip my hat to women who have more effectively honed their domestic prowess and still seem to have excess energy. I feel worn out just writing about being so busy.
I’d rather purchase slacks that can be tossed in the dryer than spend my time—even seconds—slaving over a hot iron. I love baking fresh bread when I have a hankering for it, but I don’t want to commit to waiting for dough to rise every few days before slapping together a simple sandwich. I don’t mind going camping, but as I told my husband the first time we met and discussed it, I want to sit around the campfire and appreciate nature. I don’t want to piece together tent poles, cook real meals over a fire, or do anything that would really require exertion. I love handmade cards, home decor, and scarves—but I have no desire to spend hours learning these trades myself. That’s what Etsy.com is for.
In short, I want to spend my time on things I enjoy. Otherwise, I feel like I’m dropping seconds into a bottomless pit, wasting time I can never get back.
My obsessive desire to avoid wasting time is both a character defect and an asset. If I keep it in check, this desire fuels me to watch only the television shows that make me laugh and teach me new things; I don’t find myself sitting on the couch watching reality shows while scarfing down chips and dip anymore. This desire helps me choose friends wisely. If someone doesn’t build me up and contribute positive meaning to my life, I probably won’t feel the need to invest much time in that friendship. The desire to spend my time wisely keeps me focused on what matters most, most of the time.
However, when the pendulum swings too far in the other direction, my obsession with spending my time wisely makes me cranky as I try to rush through the minor tasks in hopes of having time to mark more items off my ever-present to-do list. I find myself lending half an ear rather than fully listening to my family members on the phone, my mind swimming in a sea of unmet goals. Ironically, when I obsess about every second spent on something I deem unnecessary or unimportant, I miss the beauty of the moment.
For three years, I’ve had a note tacked to the bulletin board above my desk with a scribbled phrase smiling back at me.
“Time enjoyed is not time wasted.”
While watching my husband carefully measure a board yesterday, I noticed the subtle smile on his face as sweat trickled across the creases in his eyes. He’s not working, I realized. He’s enjoying what he’s doing.
He has an uncanny knack for finding the sweet spot in life. He doesn’t avoid mundane tasks. He just chooses to take pleasure in doing them himself. He would rather do hard work himself and reap the reward of satisfaction in a job well done than save time by hiring someone to do it. He likes saving money, but I think he likes creating and building and fixing things even more.
Because he chooses to enjoy what he’s doing, he never wastes his time.
Last night, I nursed my growing 10 month-old daughter to sleep. She fussed and did her best to fight off the urge to close her eyes but finally succumbed to slumber. I held her little sticky hand in mine, sang her some of my favorite songs, and watched her eyelashes flutter.
I spent 30 minutes propped up in the recliner, singing and caressing my baby.
Having nursed my daughter for 10 months now, I have spent at least 45,900 minutes nursing Maggie—and that’s not taking into account the early weeks when she nursed more often and for longer periods of time. But who’s counting?
Soon, she will drink from her own cup and run away from me, toddling around on her adorable chubby legs. A few years later, she will want to talk to her friends instead of babbling with me and her father. Before I know it, she will be waving goodbye and pulling out of the driveway in her own car rather than sitting in my backseat, sipping on apple juice.
It’s easy to let myself fret the entire 30 minutes each time I feed her, and believe me, I’ve done so plenty of times.
A better option is to enjoy being where my hands are, whether I’m nursing my baby, grading students’ essays, or sweeping up rice puff piles from the kitchen floor.
Because time enjoyed is not time wasted.