My one big busy messy life

English: An artist's depiction of the rat race...

“Human lifetime is less than 1,000 months long. For only 1/3 of those 1,000 months will you have time for serious thinking, serious loving and serious acting – that gives you only 300 months.” (The rest of the time you’ll spend doing things like sleeping, eating or being stuck in a traffic jam)

It’s a quote from Prof. AC Grayling, who teaches philosophy at the University of London, at the Jaipur Literature Festival 2012. He was arguing for the return of philosophy.

You read it right. We live for only 1,000 months (or less!), and then we are no more; we return to dust. The big question hits me, like one of those anvil dropping on your head moments in cartoons. How many of those 333 months do I spend them unhappy in a job, complaining or wishing I were doing something else other than what I’m doing at that moment. What kind of life am I living? What kind of life do I want to lead?

Carine Roitfeld said in an issue of Gentlewoman magazine, when asked how she juggles her work/life balance, ‘what is that?’ She only understands that there is one life, her personal and work life criss-crossing into each other. This division between work and life is a modern phenomenon which keep mostly the British and Americans awake all night. Tons of books are devoted to this subject, about how to help one ‘get more out of life’ or ‘have a 4-day work week’.

I’ve tried all kinds of productivity methods. From prioritising inboxes, scheduling meetings in the afternoons, to synchronising my Gmail calendar with to-do lists. Any newspaper or magazine article with the words get-things-done has my attention. What happened is, I just worked harder and faster. Not necessarily happier. And falling on the old cliché, I became a ‘human doing’.

Nothing was working for me. So in a last ditch effort, I decided to dispense with achieving the ideal work/life balance. To hell with it. So my life now is just one big busy messy existence. Moving from working at my desk and cooking dinner, school runs and work meetings, there are no boundaries. I even write in spurts of 15 minutes, when the children are in the bath or in that lull between them finishing their tea and bedtime.

I do work in the day. But what I’m saying is that my working doesn’t have a clock-out time. It just goes on even after picking up the children  from school. Of course this is only possible because I work for myself. The kids and I have fun together and I get to work.

An unexpected outcome of this big messy way of living is that I’ve learned how to live in the present. Concentrate hard on whatever it is I’m doing before moving to the next thing. It’s much more pleasurable than referring to my to-do list all the time then stressing over how much there’s still left to be done. Because I’m chipping away at things in 15 minute bursts, things just end up getting done. Like magic.

I don’t stress because I’ve sat at my desk for four hours and only produced two sentences. I get off my chair, do something else (probably some boring household chore), and then go back to work with a clear head and some solution would have worked itself out. Actually, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s messy, it’s busy and it never stops. But weirdly, I am content. And this is how I choose to live my 333 months.

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