by Deborah Owen
Life goes by fast. Very fast. And every year goes faster. If the next one swooshes by as fast as the last, I may not have time to finish this so I’ll type faster.
In 1948, there were no strip malls or shopping malls. If you wanted something you couldn’t get at a drugstore or gas station, you found a little Mom & Pop place like Harry’s Market or you went downtown.
I didn’t like Harry’s Market. Old men sat in a circle of rocking chairs around a wood stove, seemingly unaware of the tobacco spittle that drooled through missing teeth into white beards while they spun yarns longer than their arms. Occasionally, one would spit at the old spittoon that sat on the floor, which was obviously missed more than hit. I gave both it and them a wide birth. Harry’s Market was both scary and amazing.
I held Daddy’s hand a little tighter in there, scared one of the old codgers would speak to me. I stared at them and they stared back at a little bit of nothing propped on skinny legs wearing a short skirt. My eyes said FEAR and theirs said WONDER, but nary a word passed between our generations in all the years I visited Harry’s Market.
When I think back on the things those men could have told me about living in the 1800’s and fighting in World War I, I could kick myself. There it was, in the palm of my hand and available for the asking and I wasn’t smart enough to recognize the treasure in front of me.
I wish I had grabbed a notebook and tape recorder and jumped on the dirtiest old man’s lap and flooded him with questions until he begged me to stop… but this blog isn’t about missed opportunities or Harry’s Market. It’s just that Harry’s Market has been stuck in the front of my brain for ages and I had to write it out so it would leave me alone. This blog is about taking control of your life. Slowing down. Doing what you really want to do.
You DO want to slow the rat race down, don’t you? You DO want to do more writing, don’t you? Then listen up and follow the leader.
I’m 77 years old. I have seen the turn of a half century, the turn of a century, invention of TVs, dishwashers, and cell phones. Seems like only a few years ago when Dad came home from work and said, “They have invented a new thing that shows moving, real people in a box and you can see whole movies in your living room.”
“That’s impossible,” Mom said.
“No. It’s the truth. I saw it with my own eyes. You plug it into a socket and somehow it brings pictures through the air.”
We thought Dad slipped a cog or two that day, but three years later he brought one of those thingamajigs home and we saw a television for the first time. There they were, people talking and singing and dancing in our very own living room. Old folks that already had one foot in Alzheimer’s slid the rest of the way quickly. One old fella said, “How do they get all those people in that little wooden box?”
In those days, all TVs were console models, meaning they were built into a cabinet and the screen was only about twelve inches across, but children whose parents owned a TV could lift their social status a full notch by letting it be known.
So, we glued our faces to the black and white screen that mesmerized us. I memorized all the TV commercials and said them aloud with the announcer without even trying. Parents had no idea how their children’s minds drank everything they saw and heard like a sponge collecting water. By the time three or four years had rolled by, everyone’s family was addicted to the boob tube. Conversations had to wait for a commercial. Family outings began to wane.
Two years later (about 1951), Dad came in grinning like a Chessy Cat, holding something mysterious behind his back.
“Wait ‘til you see this,” he said, as proud as a peacock and he pulled a square of colored cellophane out in front of him. The top was blue, blending into a flesh color in the middle, and merging into green on the bottom. With one voice, the three of us said, “What’s that?”
“Colored TV!” he declared to the stupefied crowd. Dad dusted the TV screen with his handkerchief, and I could hear the crackle of static electricity. He pressed the cellophane against the screen and lo and behold, it stayed there, held in place by static electricity. Man, oh man! We had colored TV! Never mind that John Wayne’s hat was sky blue, black people had orange skin, and the dessert was green… WE HAD COLORED TV!
Gone were the days when the four of us huddled around the radio eagerly listening to an announcer clopping half coconut shells across his desk to represent a galloping horse. Gone was the shaking and crumpling of aluminum foil to resemble lightning. Gone were the pictures each of us painted in our own mind as the narrator read the story. Our imagination was painted for us on the TV and we collectively watched it acted out – in color! For the first time, all of us imagining the same scene in the same way and the same color. Individuality and creativity died in our house that day.
Fast forward through our children’s weddings, births of grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I turned around twice and woke up mired down to my neck in technology and a crazy world that is spinning so fast it will surely fly off its axis any time and here I am, a slow-moving, heavily loaded freight train on a super nova highway, horns blaring all around me as I try to keep up with smart phones, texting, social media, and computers.
My husband and I have been full-time RV’rs for nineteen years and I don’t even have time for a wienie roast any more! No time to cook out. No time to sit around the fire. Heck… no time to even make a fire! My husband has retired three times. Officially, I “don’t work.” I’m a housewife – who hasn’t had one full day off work in nearly thirteen years. Now, this is just plain stupid, so I said to myself, “Self, things are going to change, and it’s up to you to do it.”
If this crazy, crashing, whining, spinning, reeling, clammering, mad world of terrorism and technology is going to engulf me and enslave me, I must build in compensations to keep my sanity and feel that my living is not in vain. I am responsible for doing this for myself. No one can do it for me! So I am doing the following:
- Shutting down The Writer’s Choice Newsletter and with aching heart dismissing my precious volunteer staff.
- I own three websites for Creative Writing Institute (.com, .org, and cwinst.com) and I am closing some of those down.
- I have laid off CWI tutors and am changing the courses so they are now available for only $79. For $130 extra, a student can have a tutor.
- I will train a few somewhat experienced writers who want to write full-time for a living. Present cost is a flat fee of $200, but I imagine that will go up quickly. I only have room for two more students at that price if you’re interested.
- My husband and I are going to settle down, slow down, and travel a couple of years.
Look in the mirror and have a talk with yourself. If you’re going crazy in the swirling madness of today’s foolishness, sit down with pencil and paper and make a list of priorities. You can’t do everything you want to do, right? Life is too short. Time too pressing. But you can work two things into your life if you try hard, so decide what those two things will be. Next, see where you can trim time by combining chores or meeting both sides of the family on the same day.
Consider what you can change and what you can’t. Social media is fun, but do you have time for it? Decide how much time you should give it and literally time yourself when you get online. Opt out of groups that people invite you into without even asking. Choose your favorite social media and give up the rest. Keep the one that is most beneficial to your business and/or mental health.
When researching, don’t chase rabbits. When you find something irresistible, make a note to pursue that website another day and move one.
Most homes have no strict guidelines. Back in the day when I practiced piano, I forbid my children to interrupt me during that hour of practice unless someone was bleeding or dying – and they didn’t! Draw some hard lines in your household and make them stick if you want this madness to end.
No one can take control of your life but you. Here is my new priority list as of Feb. 1:
- God, worship and devotions
3. Limited work
The rest of my time is my own… at long last.
There ARE ways to deal with your issues if you will just try. I know it’s tough, but you can do it – and ONLY you can it for yourself and your family.
Share your approach on time management with the rest of us in the comment section.