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A Woman’s Time – by Yvonne Navarro


The Husband: “Did you get [X*] done?”
Me: “No, I didn’t have time.”
The Husband: “What did you do all day?”
Me: “…?”
*X=latest or new writing project, new or waiting art project, etc.

This is a conversation that happens often enough to make me uncomfortable. In fact, in my more brutally honest moments, often enough to make me wonder (a) if I’m having memory problems, and/or (b) if time actually runs slower for The Husband than it does for me. Why? Because most of the time I can’t answer him, and even if I do, I seem to be able to account for only a fraction of the day. Yet I know I was busy all day. Every day. So what’s going on?

As it turns out, I’m not the only one wondering about this. In fact, you could say I’m just a drop in the…ocean. Discussing how fast or slow a person perceives time to be passing has been going on for centuries. That, of course, means scientists and psychiatrists, sociologists and psychologists, ad nauseum, have weighed in on the subject with studies, papers, articles, more ad nauseum. I’m certainly not going to read all that stuff, or even a fraction of it—I already have a problem with time management, right? But get this: reading just two articles about the subject on the web was worthwhile because I no longer think I’m losing my mind (or at least my memory).

A couple of things really stood out for me. How and why children perceive time, for instance. Think about it: for a five-year-old, very little of their life has been repetitive. Almost every experience is new and memorable, and they actively seek these out. A year in the life of a five-year-old is 20% of her life (wow!), while a year in the life of a fifty-year-old is a meager 2% of it. To oversimply it, we base our perception of how fast or slow time passes on the best of our memories. For a child, the approaching summer vacation is a memorable event; then it gets here, the first couple of weeks are awesome, then the child starts to get bored. The next memorable event? Going back to school. I don’t know about other people, but we didn’t do stuff like Disneyland or fabulous summer vacations, so I started think about September pretty early in the summer vacation game. The result? *Blink* and that summer was gone.

As we get older, we take on more responsibilities. We start new jobs. We have relationships, maybe get married, have kids of our own, yadda yadda yada. We immerse ourselves in the things we thought would be so cool to do when we finally grew up. And somewhere in there, the word responsibilities becomes synonymous with drudgery.

And who wants to remember that?

The Husband: “Did you get [X] done?”
Me: “No, I didn’t have time.”
The Husband: “What did you do all day?”
Me: “Fed the dogs, did the dishes, picked up dog poop, exercised, took a shower, pulled weeds, paid bills, cleaned up the kitchen, organized the [fill in latest part of house that has gone into destructo-mode], gathered up the recyclables, drove to the feed store, returned a dead plant to Lowe’s, picked up the dog toys, played with the dogs to burn up some of their energy, worked on the taxes, answered emails…on and on.”

Not so memorable, huh?

The tricky thing is that for a woman, a lot of that stuff goes on the premise of WASH, DRY, REPEAT, every single day. And it does that whether or not you have a job outside the home. In which case, by the way, you run the risk of going through the WASH, DRY, REPEAT cycle with your job duties (I hope not, for your sanity’s sake).

I sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I’ve got a great life, I’ve got a great husband, great kids, great dogs (even if they are prone to misbehaving). But time is getting away from me, running through my fingers and my mind at a waterfall pace because there aren’t enough unique things—memorable things—that I do during my day. I look up, I *blink*, and voila, the day is spent. And whose fault is that?

Mine, of course.

I’m doing the same stuff because, let’s face it, it has to be done. But this is my life. Do I really want to let it pass in such an insipid and uninspired way? To be crass…fuck no. I’m a creative person, I live with a creative person and I’m surrounded by creative opportunities. There were a lot of interesting things and good advice in the articles I read about the passage of time, but one sentence stood out:

Use time wisely.

As a woman, I’m doing exactly the opposite. Yeah, I’ve got responsibilities—don’t we all?—but I don’t have to let them drown me. The things I love the most, creatively, have fallen by the wayside. I’m a writer. I’m an artist.

Let me say that again:


As a woman, I’ve got that tendency to put everyone and everything before myself. I’m taking care of the Significant Other when I’m sick, I’m picking up poop in the yard after hip surgery, I’m painting the powder room woodwork after having had my lower spine fused. (I am not kidding. I’ve done those things.) But I’ve come to realize that for me being all selfless is not necessarily being all good. Yes, it satisfies a part of me to spoil my husband in whatever way I can, to make my pups think Mommy’s world revolves around them, to do a thousand other things to keep my universe working smoothly and happily. But the down and dirty fact is that all is not happy in my universe if I’m not using my creative muscles. And thinking about doing something, someday

Does. Not. Work.

I need to create, to make stuff. Words, pictures, things. In the month before this last Christmas I satisfied that urge by making a couple of ribbon Christmas wreaths. I tried to sell them on eBay but it didn’t happen, and it’s taken me awhile to realize that this is okay. If I dig at myself, I realize that somewhere along the years I developed the self-expectation that everything I did had to be (a) perfect from the start, and (b) had to somehow make money. I may be awesome (ha ha), but I can’t live up to that kind of hype. I can’t sit down and tap out a perfect novel on the keyboard. I can’t open the precise tubes of acrylic colors and brush a perfect painting. But guess what?

That’s okay.

Use time wisely.

I have notebooks full of ideas, and they can be fiddled with and poked at, and if they grow into something good, that’s cool. It’s time to go back to the pre-professional writer me, the one who [still] has folders with partial stories in them, pages of notes, a few bigger files with failed and unfinished novels. The me that wasn’t afraid not to sell every single manuscript I churned out. In the corner of my fully furnished art studio—in which I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve never painted or drawn a single piece of art (and yes, we’ve lived here over four years)—is an old, jumbo-sized portfolio, the kind you carry like a suitcase. It’s stuffed with artwork created in my twenties and thirties, and also on the shelves are sketchbooks that date back to when I was a teenager. That’s the artist who’s going to resurface, the gal who isn’t afraid to get her hands full of graphite and pastel chalk, who doesn’t care if she has eighteen shades of paint on her hands, forearms, and even her face. The gal who wants to try the Luminance pencils just to see the difference in the colors.

That’s me. The me who realizes that enjoying life is not just meeting mundane responsibilities, it’s creating—writing, pictures, memories.

Yeah, that’s me.

Using time wisely.

–Yvonne Navarro


EDITOR’S NOTE:   Yvonne Navarro lives in southern Arizona where, until recently, she worked in one of those super-secret squirrel buildings on historic Fort Huachuca. She is the author of twenty-two published novels and well over a hundred short stories, plus numerous non-fiction articles and two editions of a reference dictionary. Her writing has won the HWA’s Bram Stoker Award® plus a number of other writing awards. She also draws and paints, and once sold a canvas print of a zombie painting.

She is married to author Weston Ochse and dotes on their Great Danes Ghoulie, Groot and Grimm, and a talking, people-loving parakeet named BirdZilla.



Comments: 2

  • Lucy Taylor February 26, 20162:36 am

    Loved your essay, Yvonne. It definitely helped me to realize I am not alone in feeling weird about time, like I know my days are full of doing “stuff” but often can’t think of one thing I accomplished. And I have a set of acrylic paints that I bought last year in a burst of optimism and that I have not yet opened. So you give me hope and a renewed determination to actually doing those things I enjoy and that will make interesting memories, not just a muddy blur of minutiae.

    Looking forward to your story in PEEL BACK THE SKIN! — Lucy

  • Sabrina Kaleta February 26, 20163:56 am

    Thanks, I needed that. Once I get over this strep throat and tendonitis while taking care of my husband with Pneumonia, I’m going to write those poems and make a few necklaces
    …I really felt this one…all day long I’m busy. .but if I list what I’ve been doing, it bores me to death, not so.much in the moment, but in the going over it, which makes me so depressed, so I just don’t go over it and move on.and on.

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