Life Tetris

I’m at the gym spying on the girls’ swim lesson with one eye and watching the clock with the other. Twenty-nine minutes until I’ll need to whisk them into their bathrobes, usher them to the showers, and begin the forever-long process of drying and lotioning and braiding. They’re off to Kidsville then, and it’s to the weight room for me, followed by Zumba, followed by supper and the girls’ bedtime routine and the reluctant winding down of evening. Twenty-seven minutes now, a pittance.

My mind has always bent clockwards this way, warily monitoring that old taskmaster Time. Each minute registers as a loss punctuated by a quick chime of guilt, so I tend to play my days like Tetris, filling every possible space and trying to best the previous day’s score. It’s a crummy way to live, and I know that, but old perspectives die hard, and I long believed “redeeming the time” meant treating each and every second as an emergency.

(Nineteen minutes now.)

I write about prioritizing so often because it is an all-encompassing part of my thought life. When I was a child, prioritizing was a biblical mandate; now, it is simply how I try to make practical sense of my limited and ever-full time. Even if the passing of time does not qualify as an emergency (a point on which I still waver), I still have to choose what will get done and what will be callously neglected not, and folks, it’s hard! All the things I want to do with my time are good things, worthy things; I’m not agonizing over how to fit an extra hour of Angry Birds in between soap opera reruns here. My debates are over how best to love the people around me while taking care of myself and finding satisfaction at the end of the day… and the process might as well be ancient Sumerian calculus for how well I comprehend it.

(Twelve minutes.)

According to my imagination, finding balance would involve morphing into a Pioneer Woman-style superhuman who lovingly raises a houseful of children, cultivates a social life, cleans All The Things, and keeps up with the latest TV shows while rocking at her dream career. In the real world outside my weird and dramatic head, balance probably means something a lot less glamorous—choosing between quantity and quality, for instance, or accepting sleep deprivation as a way of life. Almost certainly, it necessitates making peace with that clock on the wall, so that’s where I’m focusing this afternoon.

Tick. Not an emergency. Tock. Not even a minor peril. Tick. Definitely not the end of the world. Tock. Not evidence of failure either. Tick. You’re okay. Tock. No, I really mean it. Tick. Even if all you’ve done for the last three minutes… Tock …is stare into space looking for the right word. Tick. It’s part of the writing process. Tock. Just as listening is part of the relationship process. Tick. Just as sleeping is part of the daily process. Tock. Just as breathing is part of the living process.

(Zero minutes. Enough.)


Do you play Tetris with your time as well? What helps you release your grip on the controls and relax into the process of living?

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  1. Since I have spent the day telling everyone how much I have to do, and I HAVE DONE NOTHING on my list, you really shouldn’t ask me questions like this.


  2. “redeeming the time” – ayiyi, them’s triggering words, girl! 🙂 Yes, I was always a crazy, Tetris-timer-person for years. I love how you described it as “everything is an emergency”. No wonder I was so tired. 🙂 I’m learning slowly but surely to linger in life, to savor work and play and rest, to be in the moment instead of always planning. Since moving to Australia I’ve indulged moments of being late – a cardinal sin in my old life – and given myself days to go with the flow (so hard!), but I’m getting much, much better and life is so much more enjoyable. 🙂

  3. Megsie – Haha! I love your honesty. I also know that you are a real live superwoman, so I’ll let you off the hook from answering. 🙂

    Krista – Sorry, I didn’t put a trigger warning at the top. 😀 You are a queen at taking the time to linger and savor and live in the moment and absorb beauty, and your blog always helps get me back on track… er, remember to step off the track? xo

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