Where does the time go?
I've had occasion to think about 'time's winged chariot' over the past few days. My sister celebrated her 50th Birthday on the 29th January. She had a 'do' on Saturday which almost everyone attended, obviously not me because I'm here and not in Scotland and my niece Caroline couldn't be there because she and her husband are busily caring for the newest family member, Millie Isabelle, born at the beginning of January. She already has a story and is the loveliest baby I have ever seen.
Anyway, photographs were duly posted on Facebook and it looked like a great time was had. One of the photographs was of another niece, Jessica, and the last time I saw her she was only a wee thing just started school but there she was, looking gorgeous and grown up. Her brothers, Rory and Rowan, have also grown - I would have been hard pushed to recognise them.
Between us, my sisters, my brother and I have two hundred and fifty three years.
253 years...That's a lot of time.
It started me wondering what we had done with that time. My sisters and brother can account for a lot of theirs. They've had families of their own and my nephews and nieces have carved out some interesting stories for themselves as they've grown up and into their lives. It hasn't always been straightforward for some of them. Others have been like golden sunshine, welcoming and warming, loved wherever they go. They are a decent bunch and I wonder what they'll do with the time they have.
I'm preoccupied with the notion of time and time-wasting for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that it's my birthday next week. I'll be 54 and it's really quite a shock. How did THAT happen?
Feels like I just kept on going to bed at night and getting up in the morning.
Nineteen thousand, seven hundred and ten times...maybe add an additional 13 if you want to take account of the Leap Years.
And now I'm 54.
I'm not complaining you understand...I'm just taken aback. I was 10 and then I blinked.
And now I'm 54.
Of course, I have questions about what I've done. How have I used the gift I've been given? What have I made of this 'one wild precious thing' called my life?
As the answers come back there are some things that I'm proud of and some things I can't bear to think about. But mostly, my sense is that I just have not done enough. Sometimes there have been reasons for my half - heartedness but often there are not.
The truth is that I simply have not appreciated what was there for me...the love; the opportunities to grow and contribute; the forks in the road that gave me the space to consider what I was becoming; the richness and plenty of my life and circumstances; the darkness that cast some long shadows but which also made the light precious...
So, where the time is wasted, I only have myself to blame. There is plenty that I regret but I still have today to make something count. I designated 2014 'The year of YES'...it's early days but I think it can be different.
I said there were a couple of reasons I've been thinking about time and time wasting and here's the second reason...
It's one thing to make decisions for yourself and to have to live with the consequences. It's quite another when the way the world works is organised against you and the capacity to fritter your life away is built in to the way you have to live. Through my work I've been up close to a couple of Services that provide day time activities for people with intellectual disabilities and I am bothered by what I've been learning.
I knew that it happened.
One part of me knew that people spent large parts of their day either hanging around waiting to go somewhere or for something to happen. When they were not waiting they were often travelling towards the place where the thing was about to happen. And then, if the thing ever started to happen or they got to the place where it was going to happen, they could never stay for very long because they had to get back to the waiting place so that they could go to the toilet and wait to go home. Not much happened there either.
If they were lucky, they got to do it all again the next day...and the next...and maybe even the next...
When I think about my own life, I've least felt that I wasted my time when I was something that had a point to it. It didn't have to be that profound...cooking food to share with friends or keep me healthy...learning to drive so that i could have some ease of getting around...figuring out how my phone worked...reading, talking, engaging with people around a whole variety of issues...it all had a point. It meant something to me in the context of my life and it gave me some sense of my purpose in being alive...
The occasions when I've most felt rootless and disconnected have been when I've felt trapped or like I'm treading water. Nothing's happening...nothing means anything...I'm going through the motions. I know that I've spent enough time just filling in days...waiting for the day to end and for sleep to come. It isn't good for me to have too many pointless days. That road leads me straight to the jaws of The Black Dog. Now, I reckon I'm fairly 'typical' and that anyone who's reading this will, to a greater or lesser degree, share my experience or know someone who does.
Meaning and purpose matter.
If they matter to me, chances are that they matter to someone with a disability. Maybe differently expressed. But they matter.
And so I don't think that it's good enough for services to organise to waste people's time.
I don't think that it's good enough to be constantly focussing on filling up people's days without first considering why you what you do and do it in that particular way. The activity needs to be designed and structured in line with the person's choices and wishes and with some idea of how this will contribute to the creation of, and the finding of, some meaning and purpose in the routine of life.
People shake their heads and accuse him of exaggeration when I talk about two of the consequences of Devaluation as described by Wolfensberger, '...a wasted life and an early death...'
It's sad enough to feel regret and frustration when your can see how your own choices have led you there.
It is tragic and reprehensible that so many of us over so many years have colluded in the waste of people's lives.
The time flies by...and we don't get it back.
It has to stop.