I still remember a conversation I had when I was in college, some forty years ago. While we were waiting for the professor to show up, we were talking about what we were going to do with our lives after college.
And most of us were conscientious over-achievers. And most of us said that we planned to have it all. We’d have wonderful families, beautiful homes, interesting hobbies, and meaningful careers. We wouldn’t sacrifice our families for our work. And we wouldn’t sacrifice our work for our families. We wanted it all.
And as we talked, our professor came into the room, and instead of diving right into whatever the lecture was for the day, she listened. And then she joined our conversation.
“It’s a lie,” she said.
You can’t have it all. You have to pick and choose what you will do with your time. Because you only get so much of it. And whatever time you spend doing this, she told us, that time isn’t available to do that.
If you put in an extra hour or two at work to meet a deadline, that time isn’t available to cook a fabulous dinner when you get home. And there will be times when you had a deadline, and so did your husband, and when you both get home, the garbage still needs to be taken out. It won’t do it by itself.
Something has to give.
And to pretend that you can have it all, that you can do it all – it’s a form of gluttony. Temporal gluttony.
Gluttony is more than food
The fathers told us that gluttony wasn’t just about eating too much food. It’s that, of course. Eating more than you need is gluttony. It’s also gluttony when you insist on food that is luxurious, or food that is prepared just so. And it’s gluttony when you eat greedily, or when you decide you have to eat right now, and you can’t wait.
And so our relationship with our stomach, and with our food, shows us our characters. Do we accept everything we receive with gratitude? Are we satisfied with what we have? Or are we always looking for something better, something different, something more?
I’ve thought about that conversation many, many times over the last 40 years. Everything about our culture calls us to gluttony. The entire advertising industry is designed to make us believe that we’re not good enough. From our hair to our home, we need something better, something different, something more. Every magazine, every photo on Instagram, every update on Twitter is intended to make us want more than we have.
It’s the American way, right? Our businesses need to get bigger, to make more stuff. And we need bigger houses, to hold more stuff. And we need more time, to deal with all our stuff.
The struggle to accept that enough is enough
And that’s where I struggle. Time. I want more of it. Because there are so many things I believe that I must do, and ought to do, and want to do. There are books to read, and books to write. There are flowers to grow. And people to spend time with. And work to do.
There is so much that i want to do. And instead of accepting that I have enough time, I want more.
But here’s the thing. There isn’t any more. No matter what I do, I can’t find more than 24 hours in a day. I can’t create an extra minute. I can only choose what to fill them with.
And I have to choose.
I won’t pretend it’s easy. It isn’t! I don’t want to accept that enough is enough. I want to live with that comfortable, familiar old lie that says I can have it all.
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