Daylight Savings Time, known to our European friends as summer time, was invented for the purpose of extending daylight hours past the end of a normal working day. This, in theory, is supposed to allow one to get a lot more done whilst one can actually see what one is doing. I am one of those folks who actually likes Daylight Savings Time – not because I get any more accomplished, but because I find the immediate darkness of winter a tad depressing.
With the recent change to Daylight Savings Time, it occurred to me that, perhaps instead of merely joking about it, we should actually explore increasing the number of hours in one day. Because there simply isn’t enough time.
A wise nurse practitioner once gave me her opinion of why so very many people are taking antidepressants these days. She doesn’t think that people are getting psychologically weaker and just taking the easy way out. She believes it is because the human brain was not intended to take on the level of stress – due to multitasking – that we load on it in our very busy society.
People once lived simply. They got up – after a full night’s sleep. Presumably, more folks had a good night’s rest due to the lack of TVs, video games, and other electronic distractions. Some of you who have ever forgotten to pay the electric bill may have discovered this for yourself. They ate breakfast – because the kind of work they would be doing required it. Then they went about their day and worked – the physical kind. Because physical work reduces stress, they worked out many of their frustrations. Then they went home. Where, because they didn’t have telephones, cell phones, computers, passive entertainment, etc., they passed their time actually talking to their families. Connecting to their loved ones. Discussing their difficulties. Perhaps reading a book or writing a letter. Before too long, it was dark, and they went to bed – repeating the cycle over again.
They were not jumping in the car, racing to take Child A to dance class and Child B to soccer practice. They weren’t on hold trying to get their cell and TV service switched. They weren’t filling out paperwork or online forms for the million things we must do each day. They worked hard, yes. Very hard. But they didn’t multi-task to the extent we do today. So, despite all that needed to be done in their lives, their tasks didn’t increase in complexity from one moment to the next.
Contrast that with today’s world. In the course of my day, I arrive to work, observe the bells, teach, discipline, talk to parents, answer the incessantly ringing phone, order books, process books, utilize 4 to 5 completely different databases/software programs, email multiple persons, copy, scan, direct aides, assist teachers, proofread, talk to students, recommend books, and so much more. I have no doubt that most of you experience days similar to mine. All while keeping in the back of your mind who you have to call tonight, what meeting you must attend, which doctor’s appointment to go to, which items you must buy at the grocery store, your child’s band concert, the birthday gift you must order online, the reservations you must make, get an oil change, pick up prescriptions, etc.
It’s not what our minds and bodies were designed to do. Please do not misunderstand me. I am by no means a nature girl and would not be the least bit thrilled if you invited me to ditch it all and live on a farming commune. I like the modern world very much thank you. But it doesn’t mean this was what nature intended for me. So, in that nurse practitioner’s view, antidepressants are helping people’s brains to adjust to unnatural circumstances. And, while I personally am not taking antidepressants, I happen to think she is correct about the unnatural mental burdens of the modern world and the need for modern medicine to alleviate it sometimes.
I thought she was correct years ago when she first said it. But now it is beginning to take on new truth. Callum has been having six private therapy sessions and one Early Steps infant child development specialist session a week. He has to return for a look at his ear tubes. We need to meet with the doctor to discuss trying him on melatonin. Which brings to mind the insurance fiascos I have been having and the three separate phone calls I am supposed to make to 1-800 numbers constantly busy. I am supposed to meet with a CARD representative soon and follow up through the university regarding behavioral therapy. Last week he was diagnosed by an out of town specialist and yesterday was his IEP. We are supposed to model language at all times, keep non-engaged stimming to a minimum, train him to tolerate joint attention type activities for increasing periods of time, attempt to engage him with the books he is completely uninterested with, use PECS, engage him with the iPad, and on and on and on. All this while doing all the parenting things we would already normally be doing for both him and his typically developing – though exhaustively precocious – 4 year old sister. While I’m working full-time and my husband is working on his degree.
I am not complaining about parenthood. I am so very blessed to have my beloved little stinkers and know it. But I am complaining about the lack of hours in the day to get done everything that must get done and still have time to sleep, catch up with loved ones, feel like a human being. I am complaining about the ever-increasing speed and complexity of our lives. Because the world wants way too much. It wants too much if you aren’t parenting a special needs child or being a caregiver in some other capacity. But, if you are, all of those must-dos for a loved one who cannot do them for themselves build up into a cacophony of mental strain that can cause insomnia, depression, lack of immunity, and exhaustion.
In researching a university behavioral therapy study for my son, I found another study being done by the same department suggesting that depressed mothers complete less child interaction homework than non-depressed mothers. It occurred to me that, perhaps, the depression isn’t causing less therapeutic homework. Maybe those mothers are depressed because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do said homework. I know that I wouldn’t likely be posting to you if insomnia weren’t aiding my writing time. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. I have felt enormous guilt over the things that I don’t have the time or energy to accomplish. The extras I can no longer take on at work. The repeated requests to have to take time off to go to this meeting, that doctor, or whatever keeps coming.
And the hard reality is that the world is too busy creating new demands upon itself to worry about how we are keeping all the juggling balls in the air.
No, I don’t want more daylight with my hours. I want more hours with my daylight.
Years ago, I read a poem by the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai titled “A Man in His Life”. It is about all the things we must do that we do not have time for in our limited existence on Earth. I’ve read a few different translations* of it, but this one is the most beautiful to me:
“A Man in His Life”
A man in his life has no time to have
Time for everything.
He has no room to have room
For every desire. Ecclesiastes was wrong to claim that.
A man has to hate and love all at once,
With the same eyes to cry and to laugh
With the same hands to throw stones
And to gather them,
Make love in war and war in love.
And hate and forgive and remember and forget
And order and confuse and eat and digest
What long history does
In so many years.
A man in his life has no time.
When he loses he seeks
When he finds he forgets
When he forgets he loves
When he loves he begins forgetting.
And his soul is knowing
And very professional,
Only his body remains amateur
Always. It tries and fumbles.
He doesn’t learn and gets confused,
Drunk and blind in his pleasures and pains.
In autumn, he will die like a fig,
Shriveled, sweet, full of himself.
The leaves dry out on the ground,
And the naked branches point
To the place where there is time for everything.
* Translated from the Hebrew by Benjamin Harshav and Barbara Harshav