Saturday, March 28, 2009

Time is Treasure

I dropped the "Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers" for a while, partly because I feel like a phony even talking about perfection. Lent has demonstrated dramatically how far I am from it! (I always knew that, please believe me, but I definitely KNOW it now).

Chapter IV is about the "Value of Time". Related to what Msr Lejeune says here about the American saying, "Time is money", I found this "Know the Value of Your Time" that lets you enter your earnings, your hours of work time, your expenses, and then tells you how many hours of work it takes you to "earn" an hour of leisure. Of course, since I'm not paid for my work except in little bits and pieces here and there, my time either falls into the "priceless" or "worthless" category.

Msr Lejeune would echo all the saints by saying that EVERYONE's time is priceless. It has nothing to do with cash value. Rather, he says that time is the coin by which we purchase heaven. How do we use it? Do we "kill time"? (gruesome way to treat something so precious). Do we squander it or fritter it away?

His examples of wasting time seem somewhat quaint:

  • Indulging in day dreams
  • Filliing our minds with the rubbish of newspapers
  • Reading dangerous novels for no good reason

If I had to come up with modern equivalents it would probably be silly fascination with celebrities, following the latest "hot story" about some colorful crime or scandal, or excessive devouring of junky TV.

Those don't really hit home for me -- what would be my substitutes? I'm afraid it would be excessive lesson planning, consuming a book in a sitting rather than pacing it out properly, and web=surfing. I can get on the internet or in a book or into a notebook and for me it's not too much different than what happens to some people in a casino. Better watch that.

More general cautions that he mentions:
  • "passing time" not just as refreshment from work but just for the sake of getting through the day. A friend once told me about the AA warning --- HALT -- be especially vigilant when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Those are the times when an attachment to something can really attach and not let go. Pastimes can sometimes attach themselves in these conditions, even if they are harmless things in themselves.

and finally:

  • By doing something that you want to do rather than what you ought to be doing. That is, something fine in itself but out of place in the moment. Say, you decide to do the laundry rather than sit at your devotions as you had planned to. You can't be accused of idleness but still you are losing your time.
His recommendation is to design a Rule for yourself. And he devotes the next chapter to this. This is what made me want to get the book when I read it, because he made the rule sound simple and yet very valuable, not a matter of regimenting your moments like little miniscule soldiers, but rather a matter of collecting them and gathering them around your true priorities.
I'll quote his suggested resolutions:

I shall never remain idle, nor lose one single instant of my time (oops, I flunk that one every single day -- is there any hope?)

I shall draw up for myself a rule of life, adapted to my state, comprising only a few articles, and capable of being applied to the diverse circumstances of my life. I shall ask myself every evening if I have observed this rule in all the essentials (more on this in the next chapter)

I shall be faithful to the following rule which, so to speak, multiplies time, and permits even the busiest person to find time for everything. The rule is this: I shall never put off what I can do now.


Amy said...

Uh oh, when am I *not* hungry, angry, lonely, or tired?? Does that get me off the hook? LOL

This is probably just wishful thinking, but I often wonder if a man from many years ago can possibly understand the life of a woman who is a mom of many in this day and age. Meaning, an admonition to "never have an idle moment" could *possibly* be unwise to a 40 something mom of many, in an age where certain things are expected, more kids than in the past have medical and/or learning issues, food is potentially not as healthy, etc.

Yeah, it's probably just wishful thinking on my part. ;-)

Laughing Stars said...

Fascinating post -- and I like the way you tied in the bit of 12-step philosophy. :-) I think it makes sense to be aware of when we're vulnerable to doing anything we enjoy (eating, watching T.V., video gaming, reading blogs --*LOL*) in an addictive way, pushing aside things that are important to personal and spiritual growth. It sounds like there's a lot of wisdom here. And his examples of dangerous, idle pastimes made me laugh.

On the other hand -- aren't periods of idleness (when we're not working, praying or thinking about anything important) necessary in their own way? I always think of "down time" as a way of replenishing your energy, or processing and absorbing things you've been thinking about or learning. Just as our kids -- when they're lying around daydreaming and goofing off -- are probably getting the time and rest they need to regroup and assimilate things they're learning.

Just a thought. :-)

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of "Mother's Rule of Life" in a way. I can see how having a Rule would be very useful.

Willa said...

Amy, I thought of that.... I think he was talking to the kind of woman that Charlotte Mason was talking to. The leisured class, in other words, who had a nanny for the children, a cook for the food, etc.

Not the women who spend all day homeschooling their children and getting food on the table, sit down for a moment, and then ... their eyes fall on a major dust bunny! What to do? It's ALL up to us, but we're not superheroes, at least not 24/7!

I may have to blog about that sometime because I think you are right. I think his principles are sound but the application is somewhat different for different "states of life".

Melanie B said...

re: "I shall never remain idle, nor lose one single instant of my time "

I personally have a problem with drawing up rules for myself that include "always" and "never". I'm such a perfectionist and that kind of thinking sets me up for failure and then for abandoning the attempt when I fail rather than picking myself up and trying again.

I laughed at what Amy said: when am I not hungry, angry, lonely or tired. One of those always seems to apply. I suppose that means always being vigilant, but there are so many things to be vigilant about.

And yet reflecting I can definitely see that I lose time most often when I just sit down at the computer for a quick break, planning to do something else. So often something else does not get done. That's my real moment of vulnerability.

And yet like Susan says there is a genuine spiritual need for recreation, for idleness and daydreaming and play. Oh there was a passage in Aquinas I wrote a paper on in a philosophy class about the need for play and leisure. I have no idea where it was now. It can be a hard tension for us stay at home mothers to find that recreation that we need to refresh our spirits and yet not let it become a selfish thing that pushes our priorities out of whack.

So much to think about... I could write on all day. I struggle with the issue of time management more than any other.

Thanks for good thoughts to chew on, Willa.

Willa said...

I struggle with time management, too. ... and "all or nothing thinking" and with the other questions you all brought up. Basically that's why I hesitated to blog this chapter for so long. I knew I didn't have it all cut and dried by a long shot. Thanks for helping me think through it!

Melanie B said...

Ha! There goes that all or nothing thinking.... "If I haven't figured it all out, I can't post a blog entry on the subject." I do that all the time too. Whereas I've found that sometimes if I let it go and just write something off the top of my head and post it the resulting discussion gets me much further than if I sit on the topic until it's perfect.

lissla lissar said...

There's definitely a difference between idleness and leisure. Among other things, leisure recharges us- idleness makes us unwilling to ever get back to work. At least, that's how it affects me.

And I'm usually at least TWO of that list all the time. :)