Bill Cosby is HILARIOUS.
I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming with this particular blog title. But as the Cos himself says, those of you with children will understand. Yes, and without, you’ll get it, too. But not really. I’ve listened to Bill Cosby since I was a kid. If I wasn’t listening to music, I was listening to him. I have most of his routines memorized: drop the needle and I can still go along with them word for word. He was the Beatles of spoken-word records for me.
Anyone who has been reading regularly will note that I have become rather obsessed with time. Clearly obsessed. I’ve been trying to solve some really serious problems lately, all having to do with the math of time, and each time I just meet a giant brick wall of impossibility, stretching as far as the eye can see, the top covered with broken glass in the mortar.
Something about the Bill Cosby stand-up experience has helped me break through and realize the singular reason behind my obsession. Obviously, being a dad makes it hard to find time to do, um, just about anything. But when I listen to his stories about parenthood, after almost two years of living through it myself, I now know that the ridiculous frustrations and scenarios are very true, and they all point to one thing.
My time isn’t mine anymore. And it never was.
It was a truly devastating realization. I feel rejuvenated by this epiphany, and it’s already turning me around, the same way that marriage and parenthood have changed my life, and the same way that my love of music has vastly diminished my enjoyment of nearly every other form of art, leisure, or entertainment.
Before I had a child, I could make decisions about what to do with my time. On a Friday night, I could go to the movies, have dinner with friends, go catch a show, or even nothing at all. When my daughter was born, at first I thought that the luxury had been temporarily misplaced, but that I would see it again one day. Now I know through and through that this shift will never go back to the way it was before. Sure, it gets easier as she gets older, and my wife and I get a little more freedom, but that carefree ship has sailed for good and will never return to port.
I could then decide that life is a prison whose walls and cells are made of many things—my body and mind, my abilities and limitations, my decisions and hesitations, my commitments and my refusals. In this prison, Time is my warden, and I do what he tells me to do, when he tells me to do it. I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately, and it’s really exhausting and unproductive.
But Time is not a warden, and life is not a prison. Time is a god, perhaps the only one that truly oversees and has control over your life. The only thing you can offer to this god is your action, what you choose to do with the time given to you.
My offerings to the god of Time come in three primary forms—have to, need to, and want to. “Have to” actions are the simplest to define; if you don’t do them, you die. For example, I have to sleep at night, so I offer my act of sleeping to the hours of midnight to 5:30 or 6. I have to eat and digest, and let’s be honest, both ends of that take up time every single day, at least if you’re lucky.
“Need to” and “want to” are a little more nebulous, but I can loosely define them as follows. If “have to” actions help you survive, then “need to” actions help you thrive. So exercise fits here for all of us, whether we like it or not, along with a whole lot of health-related hygiene activities like flossing. “Want to” actions are brought about by desire, the kind that only exists as a result of both survival AND thriving. If you are homeless and haven’t eaten in a week, I can’t imagine that your preoccupied mind has the ability to “want to” go to a baseball game, unless it’s part of a hunger-induced hallucination.
Now depending on whether you are a working stiff or a transient hobo, making money in order to buy food, clothing, and shelter could be any of these three, or not even make the cut. Which brings to light an interesting notion—almost all of our actions are at least a little nebulous in these regards. It’s an ongoing organic analysis of what time you seem to have before you, and what you have to, need to, and want to get done. Sometimes laundry is at the top of the list, and sometimes you have to let the dishes sit dirty in the sink. For someone who LOVES to categorize things—that’s me, by the way—this fact takes me completely out of the equation, and forces me to evaluate each action one at a time.
I am no longer a noun, I am only a verb. I am a perpetual list of actions, and Time is my god.
I think that I have officially over-appeased the god of Time with too much blog action. I think I “need to” go drink some wine and relax. I feel like a reformed monotheistic pagan. Is there such a thing?