Exploding Schedules

If you’re in France and you’ve got kids, you’ll know that June is a running-around month. Your tight schedule, which can be thrown off kilter by a child’s sickness or a broken-down car, explodes in June.

The end-of-year concerts, competitions, shows and school fetes mean weeks of rehearsals and meetings. You spend every minute driving kids around or organising car sharing. Forget balanced meals. Forget cleaning (actually, I forget that all year). You just don’t have time.

Throw in a wedding or two – with the obligatory hen night (‘burial of the young girl’s life’, as they say in French) – a something-ty birthday party with 200 guests, and drinks for a work colleague who’s leaving: and your energy source bleeps out a feeble ‘depleted’ warning. You can’t keep up. No wonder the raspberries in the garden are rotting on their stalks. Roll on the holidays – except that you have to book the campsite before it’s too late… aargh!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s imperative to be efficient in June. This is the month I regret that teleportation isn’t available yet.

Or do I?

Most technological advances help us become more efficient. They allow us to respond more quickly and to increase the number of things we can do in a day. With the Internet and smart phones we’re in contact all the time. High-speed trains get us to places more quickly. Airlines make faraway destinations accessible.

How often do we stop to think about why we want to increase our speed? Why is it so important to fit more things into our lives? Is quantity really more important than quality?

In the month of June, my definition of luxury isn’t a 5-star hotel on a sweep of sandy beach. It’s having an empty evening so I can relax in my rocking chair and look around me. Perhaps I’m getting old. Or wisdom may finally be on its way. In any case, I’m beginning to value those precious moments of nothingness when you can savour the quiet present. In those breathing spaces, the unexpected can happen. You are receptive to the myriad of detail that lies beyond your focus on your schedule.

Today, we can plan how to get from A to B and do it either immediately or, at least, directly. The problem with this is that it leaves no room for chance.

Imagine you have a teleportation booth in your garage instead of a car. You must make a long journey to get to a meeting. You have a shower, dress for your meeting and step into your booth. A couple of time units later you arrive at your destination.

Full marks for efficiency. But you haven’t smelled the fresh rain on hot streets. You haven’t stopped for lunch in a roadside café and met that interesting travelling photographer. Your car didn’t break down, leading to the discovery of a deserted troglodyte village on the Spanish plains. You didn’t see the spring blossom or hear the first cuckoo of the season.

Doesn’t it strike you that we’re turning from animals with 5 (or 6) senses into machines?

OK, teleportation isn’t an option – yet. But we’re getting there, step by step. Think about how much more you can experience when you walk or cycle somewhere rather than taking your car. Think about the potential for discovery when you go on a 3-day road trip instead of catching the plane. Isn’t it liberating to give yourself space to lose control, to allow room for good and bad surprises?

We tend to forget that the journey is as important as the destination.

Well, I can’t hang around here blogging all day. I’ve got a writing workshop to prepare for this afternoon and a ‘voiture balai’ to make for tomorrow’s wedding. And I must buy the kids some clothes in the summer sales…


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