Lindsay and I have an ongoing joke about my life.
Lindsay, being my primary secret squirrel, always finds a little nook of day to tuck a conversation into. Frequently we talk about all of the things that I do – work, blog, play music solo and with Arcati Crisis, Lyndzapalooza, freelance writing – &c, &c.
She, one of the more overachieving and time-conscious people I know, marvels at how I actually advance my goals in each of those areas all of the time.
The joke is that, in order to fit in all of those things, I must not do anything a normal person does. I don’t watch television, sit down for meals, or talk to people on the phone. I don’t sleep. I’m like some sort of T-1000 or Cylon. Or Madonna. I’m purely focused on achievements and achieving them, and nothing else.
That’s a slight misrepresentation. I am not a robot, and only aspire to be Madonna. I still do all of the things that human beings do.
Occasionally. And quickly.
When I graduated from college and started my career I resolved not to do any theatre or music for an entire year. No art, essentially. I would focus solely on being a good employee and a good boyfriend, because I wasn’t sure I’d be good at either. If I had free time I would sit and play video games until another opportunity to be a good employee or boyfriend presented itself.
After a year I allowed myself to get involved in a theatre project with Gina, and from there my natural inclinations for art and recklessly large personal projects took over.
I made a very elaborate chart. It included every possible thing that I could do in a given day. All of the regular human things, all of my time at work, all of my special goals, and everything else. Washing dishes. Walking from one place to another. Making out with Elise.
I tracked what I did for three months, every minute of every day.
At the end I had a beautiful graph of my life. A rainbow of lines interwove with each other to show me the relationship between work and sleep, guitar-playing and housework, or blogging and masturbation.
The area under some of the lines was the shape of my success; the area under others a dimension of dead space.
My priorities snapped me into focus. Before the chart I would have told you I was already busy enough with life. After I realized that I wasn’t writing songs because I was reading TMZ for 20 minutes a day.
The chart was almost three years ago.
Today Lindsay initiated the latest iteration of our joke, querying if I planned to sleep at all in the next few months while chipping away at my list of measurable goals for the year.
The chart was about sleep too. I tried to live on just five or six hours a night, and suddenly all the useless things expanded. The chart showed me that I need sleep to stay focused.
It was a disappointment, sure. I work and commute for almost ten hours a day, and if I have to sleep for seven that leaves just another seven hours in which I can live my life.
The punchline to our joke is that every minute counts, awake or asleep. 60 seconds to flip channels is a quick email reminder. Three minutes to set the table is rehearsing a song. A half an hour on the phone is this post.
Which would I rather look back on in December, or when I turn thirty, or when I die?
I always eat with the wrong fork, anyway.