On the pilgrim way: Taking time
Something strange has happened to me. Since the beginning of this year, I find myself saying, with a kind of wondering delight: “I have plenty of time.” It is a risky thing to say – almost as risky as: “I have plenty of money”. I am making myself vulnerable not only to all the good works other people then try to load on to me, but also to the “oughts” and “shoulds” lurking within me. What is this all about?
I have never really approved of New Year’s resolutions, but, this year, I made one: Spend more time with friends. During the peak activity years of my life – between 40 and 65 – full-time work and full-time family life (aged parents as well as demanding children and grandchildren) squeezed out my time with friends. I am surprised, looking back, that I did not lose them altogether. I remember feeling rather resentful that it was always I who made the effort to get in touch. Then, an honest old friend explained that she hesitated to get in touch because she knew I was always so busy. It was a hurtful but important remark for me to think about.
Then, when retirement came, I was anxious to make good use of it. I think I probably meant responsible use, as I am rather an over-responsible person. So, I was soon very busy again with quite heavy responsibilities. I don’t regret that, but I also envied those who took up new creative pursuits or interesting studies. Somehow I never got round to those – there was always a responsible commitment which prevented the regular involvement in such things. However, I did begin to see a few friends more often.
Recently, I talked with my wise guide about my New Year resolution.She, like me, disapproved of such resolutions. She said they tended to be about making an effort, doing one’s duty, and that seemed no way for me to think about feeling free to spend enjoyable time with a good friend. She favoured the word “desire” – a favourite word of St Ignatius. She sensed that I “desired” to spend more time; I would love to; I wanted to. A world away from “ought to”.
I still have responsibilities, but something has changed in the way I feel about them; they have their place, but they no longer take over my life. Above all, I have lost that guilty voice which has always been so quick to accuse me of wasting time. I don’t suppose I have lost it for good, but, perhaps when it tries to come back, I will have the spiritual strength not to give it the time of day.
Perhaps I will put a gold star in my diary to mark those meetings with friends – or is that just too light-hearted for someone like me?
Sheila Maxey is book reviews editor for Reform
This article was published in the March 2014 edition of Reform.
Read more articles by Sheila Maxey