The bitter medicine that is confronting time's limitations
aka choosing the "I do yoga sometimes" butt
In Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman doesn’t offer a fancy new productivity system to finally wrangle your life into working order. He does quite the opposite. He says all your plans are irrational, and the only way to achieve peace is to decide what few things you will do—and everything else that you won’t.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. As I write this, I am missing a yoga class. This means I am choosing my dedication to my creative endeavors over my pursuit of a yoga butt. I would like a yoga butt, however I’m making peace with an “I do yoga sometimes” butt. The “I do yoga sometimes” butt is creatively fulfilled, albeit more fleshy.
I could also be calling my mom right now (sorry Mom). Or getting back to emails. Or meditating. Or doing taxes. Or saving innocent animals from factory farming. Or planting trees to save the planet. Or be doing the million other things that myself or others would like me to do.
But I am here, committed to publishing one thing per day.
And I don’t think the world needs more content, or that my scribbles are special. But for whatever reason I have to write, I have to create art. When I don’t do it, I feel haunted. When I think about dying, I feel suffocated at the thought of everything I didn’t create. It may make me a bad, selfish, foolish, and jiggly person, but dedicating my time to creativity is my choice. This is what I choose to spend my precious little time on.
And by owning up to that, by being clear that this is what I am choosing to spend my time on, I clear myself from being haunted by all the people I think I ought to be. I accept the disappointment that I’m not a better daughter, aunt, friend, yogi, environmentalist, Buddhist, and world citizen. It’s not that I ignore these roles and desires, it’s not that I never go to yoga or call my mom or respond to friends, but I acknowledge that it’s a losing game to attempt to play all those roles perfectly. And by accepting that, and by being clear about my priorities, I free myself from living in constant anxiety that I should be spending my time differently.
And that, my friends, is freedom.
If I haven’t yet convinced you to read Four Thousand Weeks, here are a few more illustrated quotes to tempt you to spend some of your precious time reading it.
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