After I took this (failed) self-portrait today, I was struck by two things. First, I need to get a remote control if I want to take self-portraits without cursing and gnashing of teeth. Second, although not my intention, this self-portrait revealed something telling about my relationship with time. As the nice little blur from the photo reveals, I couldn’t sit still long enough to let the camera do its work, just as I often can’t pause long enough to savor the moment, to be lost in what I’m doing, or to soak up the present.

As I continue on this journey of re-picturing women, representing “real” women with words and photos, I am struck by how women do anything and everything to bend the rules when it comes to time. Don’t get me wrong. With the many demands on our time – work, family, cooking, cleaning, mowing, trying to fit into our clothes, creative ventures (if we’re lucky) – something has got to give.  There simply aren’t enough minutes in an hour, hours in a day, or days in a week to get it all done.

I have little to no respect for time and the feeling is mutual. The faster I try to push time, the faster it pushes me. Last week, I noted that most activities take 3 X longer than I think they will. However, this knowledge does little to stop me from pulling out pen and pad, making lists of often 30+ items, and prioritizing all of them as “must dos” ASAP. Of course, I never get these activities all done and I am left feeling impatient, incompetent, out of sorts. When I have the weight of the next step bearing down on me, it is very difficult to enjoy the activity that is right in front of me. I don’t enjoy cooking when I’m thinking about the dirty dishes that inevitably follow. I don’t get into the flow of running when I’m thinking about how quickly I’ll need to return home to shower. Writing a manuscript (or blog post or whatever) isn’t much fun when I think of the next three I need to finish when I’m done with this one.

So, I use little tricks – I say tricks because it gives the illusion that we can do it all – when in actuality like all illusions, realistically we can’t. Multi-tasking – doing two or more activities at one time – for example, cooking dinner, responding to e-mails, washing dishes, and talking on the phone – is one such trick – a frenetic flurry of activity that makes us feel like we’re getting a lot done and makes us crazy at the same time.

Like a runner who somehow missed her turn (probably because she was so focused on finding the finish line) and is now running down the wrong road and doesn’t realize that the race ended hours ago. She’s tired, she’s getting no where fast, but she can’t stop because she’s got to finish this race, damnit!

I wonder what would happen if I tried to take one step at a time. Might I be able to create just a little time, a little space, a little stillness for me?

What would your self-portrait reveal about you?

    • Lesa
    • July 25th, 2011

    Sarah, you’ve hit the nail on the head! I couldn’t agree more, great post!

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