A few days ago I got a request to co-lead a course this fall. Years ago, it's true, that sort of thing clenched me up. I was already doing too much, scattered all over the place, and it seemed I had to say No to someone twice a day, when saying No made me anxious. But then, I wanted to say yes to everything. Sometimes I did, and ended up having to cancel out. My life isn't like that anymore - an advantage of poor health - and the request felt like a compliment. I thought maybe I'd do it.
Then I remembered why I didn't want to. It has been impossible for as long as I can remember now to count on an hour a day of time/energy for my real work, my poetry. I am putting together a collection, and I'd like to get it out. I am pretty sure I'm not going to enjoy being posthumously published. Teaching this course would not only eat up an evening a week, it would take preparation, which takes more time. Time I want for my work.
There is some great mystical stuff in Zen about time and space. I have read it closely. It seems to imply that time is not real. I confess, it is for me, real as a puppy that has not been leash-trained. My control of it is uneasy at best. It keeps running along every day, downhill, and slips the leash to run out of sight when I turn my back.
If that metaphor makes you nervous, here's another: You get so many units of time at the start of the day. But with each passing minute, the units grow smaller and weaker, and more and more Things To Do appear on the scene, not your fault, and then your Special Forces Anti-To-Do Weapon seizes up and won't fire. It is like some horrible video game. You are almost relieved when you lose.
This afternoon I called the woman who asked me to do the course and explained to her, not feeling guilty, and we had a pleasant conversation. I got to know her a little better, and to admire her professionalism. When we hung up, I realized I felt warmed by this contact. Ten years ago the need to say No would have fretted me all morning and depleted my energy. It might seem like a small, ordinary thing to show for years of spiritual practice and therapy, certainly not a great mystical vision. But most joys are small and most days are ordinary.
[image: Gravity Probe B and space/time, courtesy of NASA]