Michelle Teheux: Time is slipping by for all of us

Michelle Teheux More Content Now
Michelle Teheux

I’m missing a lot. You probably are, too.

Times moves quickly. There are many things to do. Not all of them can be done.

The summer is quickly coming to an end, and most of the outdoor things I set out to accomplish this spring remain undone. The bricks I salvaged from the old Pekin Daily Times building demolition last fall have still not been turned into a garden path or anything else. Nor has my deck been refinished, nor has my front porch been repaired and painted.

None of the fun things one looks forward to all winter have happened, either. I haven’t been swimming or boating even one time. I didn’t swim last summer, either. Floating, while listening to music and having a beer, is one of life’s great summertime pleasures, yet there never seems to be an opportunity.

Meanwhile, my little granddaughter is 8 months old. She lives a little more than three hours away, so each time I want to visit her it’s a grueling six hours in the car. My husband usually has to work six days a week, and really needs a day of rest, so we can’t go every weekend. She is standing unsupported, jabbering adorably, and I’d like nothing more than to spend time with her every day, or at least every week. It isn’t possible.

This isn’t just poor little old me. Most people face this. There is never enough time to do all the things one wants to do.

I’d like to get more sleep. I’d like to exercise more. I’d like to socialize with my friends more. I’d like to read more books. I’d like to do more writing. I’d like to keep my house cleaner. I’d like to do lots and lots of things that I can’t do.

Money can buy time, to a certain extent — you can pay to have your home and yard maintained and gain some leisure time that way. But for most of us, if it needs to be done, we’ll have to do it ourselves.

What happened to all the leisure time we were all supposed to have? Don’t you remember the predictions, made decades ago, about how we would all be working part time by now, thanks to robots and other technology?

Of course, all too many people DO have lots of leisure time, and part-time work — if that — due to technological advances. They also have little to no income.

Those of us who have work, are working more, not less, and others have no work at all. Forgive me if this does not seem like progress to me.

I’m constantly trying to figure out ways to squeeze more out of my day. I’ve made time to bike more, but it has meant a messier house. I’ve made time to socialize more, but it has meant an even messier house. It’s slowly dawning on me that a lot of this is out of my hands; I cannot find some magic efficiency that will allow me to do all the things I have to do and all the things I want to do.

It’s like playing “Whack-A-Mole.” I devote a weekend to getting one thing done and feel great about it, until I look around and realize I’ve neglected a lot of other things in life. So I address another thing, then another, and yet I cannot get all the moles whacked at once. The thing that is most whacked, after a period of concerted effort, is me.

This is how we’ve chosen to set up our society. Americans work more hours, with fewer vacation days, than almost anyone else. Studies comparing hours worked per week show that we’re working more, and more, and more. Compare us to anyone you like — our peasant forebears or our hunter-gatherer ancient ancestors — and we’re working more than they did. This isn’t true of Europeans, by the way, who work far fewer hours than Americans and have much more leisure.

So it’s a choice that we Americans have collectively made to live this way, and we could decide we want it to change. It would mean we could no longer brag about how many days we’ve gone without a day off, or how many lunches and dinners we’ve skipped because we were working. These aren’t things to be proud of; they are failures of our system.

A little balance is a beautiful thing, and we’ve lost ours. I don’t know how we get it back, but as soon as I catch up with some of the things on my to-do list, I’m sure going to think about it.


Follow Michelle Teheux on Twitter @michelleteheux. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this publication.