I don’t write a lot about writing because, well, I talk about it enough already. But I’ve been thinking about time: the obvious sort of stuff that you forget about until you’re discussing death or illness with a friend.
And it is obvious, you only have a finite amount of time in your life to write. And it will be less than you think. And, most of it won’t be when you are at your best, because most of the time we are not at our best – and that’s not just because of illness.
You only have a limited amount of time in your life.
Life is a limit, life is like some sort of asymmetrical sonnet – its laws constrain everything we do. And in that rough poem with its beginning, middle and end, you only have a certain amount of time to be a good child, parent, lover, partner, worker, member of society. You only have a certain amount of hours to sleep.
And I am all for planning and goals, and outcomes, and timelines. But all of these things need to be made in the shadow of failure, and with the knowledge that a life isn’t a list of successes and failures or goals made and met, it’s a series of moments made out of that all too limited time.
We set goals, but forget that we aren’t clocks, but that we are bound up in a clock the size of the universe. We forget that in that time we will meet challenges and pain that we cannot overcome, and that we will be far less than the best we can be (and often, just OK, which is, just OK). We forget that we will fall in love and fall out of it (probably many times). We forget that we will struggle or suffer chronic pain, or colds or flu. We forget that those we love will become sick.
Most importantly, we forget that our limited time doesn’t run flush with those around us, that their time might be more limited, that their lives might be truncated well before ours, and if we neglect that shared time we won’t get it back. Our time is so terribly and painfully brief, and it doesn’t understand goals.
I believe that pain shapes us as much as love. The pain we cause ourselves, and others, the pain the world brings to bear against us. Maybe the best work comes out of pain. Maybe the darkest stuff is what we need illuminate.
I don’t know.
But I hope that when I am done, I will look back* on my writing with a bit of pride (and a bit of embarrassment – I’m far from perfect). But I don’t want to have neglected those other things. I don’t want to be defined by my work, because, lets face it, I `ain’t Austen or Shakespeare.
We’ve only a finite amount of time in this world. And you never know when that will be done. We don’t get time back, and one day it will be gone**.
*What a foolish thing to say, I might just drop dead without a moment’s reflection, or suffer some sort of brain damage and spend the last years of my life barely able to think.
**All this is null and void if time ever reverses itself, just putting it out there.