Jun 14 • 11M

Make time your little (or big) spoon

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Nisha Mody
Audio transcription and meditations for The Healing Hype
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Hi friends, I just wanted to let you know about my new four-month group mastermind, From Work to Worth. It will be my most intimate container I’ve facilitated yet, limited to 8 humans. I can’t wait to explore our relationships between work and worth and how we can shift them. Click the link below to learn more and apply. Now, on to making time your little (or big) spoon.

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This weekend, my purse was stolen.

Saturday night, I went on a hike with my boyfriend. The last hike I took was in Denver almost a year ago for my friend’s bachelorette party, and I was in a lot of pain after because of pre-existing lower back and foot injuries. As a result, I decided to do what I could to address it by getting stronger, being diligent about stretching, doing body work, and seeing a chiropractor, and it has paid off (yay!). So going on a hike was a big deal for me, and I was so excited about it!

Here is me before we turned around to head back to the trailhead. I was so excited that I was able to do this hike without constantly wondering how this could completely suck for me afterward.

Nisha standing on a hiking trail with her arms up with the air. She is smiling. There is a blue sky above her.
Yay I did it!

We headed back to the trailhead where my boyfriend’s car was parked. I went to the passenger side to get in, and I saw a bunch of glass on the ground. The window was bashed in, and my purse was gone.

My wallet, keys (home, car, and others), and glasses were in my purse. I felt so violated. For the rest of the night, shock, sadness, and anger swept over me. And…gratitude did as well. I was grateful that my boyfriend’s things weren’t taken. I was grateful he had an extra set of my house keys. I’m glad he could lend me some cash while I replaced my credit cards. I was so happy to have him with me, even if I wasn’t the best company. This is not something fun to deal with alone.

So what does this have to do with time being my little spoon?

While I was experiencing shock, sadness, and anger, my survival mind went to thinking about next steps: “What’s going on for me next week? What will I have to cancel? Why do I have to deal with this now? Where might I need my driver’s license? Which keys do I need to replace? Should I replace my deadbolt? I don’t have time for this!” etc etc etc.

When something like this happens, we think about how it totally messes up the schedules we have for the following days or weeks. What was automatic and easy is no longer secure. The next morning, I remember just looking at people thinking “they probably have their wallets with them.” They didn’t have to deal with what I had to do. The time I thought was mine felt like it was stolen, too.

I’ve been listening to Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (affiliate link) by Oliver Burkeman on audiobook at the recommendation of Hima Batavia’s post on her lovely Substack, afternoon dreams. Burkeman talks about how we often feel like we are running against the clock and never finishing our to-do list, which leads to feeling defeated or unworthy or unproductive. He says:

“There’s another sense in which treating time as something that we own and get to control seems to make life worse. Inevitably, we become obsessed with ‘using it well,’ whereupon we discover an unfortunate truth: the more you focus on using time well, the more each day begins to feel like something you have to get through, en route to some calmer, better, more fulfilling point in the future, which never actually arrives. The problem is one of instrumentalization. To use time, by definition, is to treat it instrumentally, as a means to an end, and of course we do this every day: you don’t boil the kettle out of a love of boiling kettles, or put your socks in the washing machine out of a love for operating washing machines, but because you want a cup of coffee or clean socks. Yet it turns out to be perilously easy to overinvest in this instrumental relationship to time—to focus exclusively on where you’re headed, at the expense of focusing on where you are—with the result that you find yourself living mentally in the future, locating the ‘real’ value of your life at some time that you haven’t yet reached, and never will.”

He continues:

“At the end of your life, looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been.”

So, on Sunday, as I was mentally and emotionally hungover from what happened the night before, and as I called credit card companies and looked at my bank accounts and got a replacement drivers license, using my time in ways that I had not planned, I remembered this part of the book. I thought to myself, how can I be with time while I’m with this pain? How can I remember these moments?

So I didn’t feel bad as I just lazed around my home, felt my feelings, emotionally ate macaroni and cheese, and watched Fire Island. Then I went live on Instagram to talk about how to be with time and pain.

Given what Burkeman said, and how I’ve been reflecting about how joy can be with pain in this post and this podcast, I decided to reframe things. Instead of thinking that the week was ruined because of all the things I needed to take care of, I imagined how my pain can be WITH time rather than time being an enemy. I call this making time your little (or big) spoon. It stays with you and gives you comfort and co-regulation. While time might be ticking away, that isn’t what matters, it isn’t what you hear.

Here’s how I visualize it. Let’s say you’re just going about our day, and you’re in your window of tolerance. Time is going as-is and your level of pain (or fear, discomfort, etc) is on par with it. Here’s how I imagine that looking:

An image of two straight lines. One line is green and one line is black. Pain is green and time is black.

But then, something happens. You hear bad news, someone steals your purse, you feel sick, you get into a fight with your partner. Your pain level starts to move in different directions, ways that you can’t really control. But the time on the clock keeps going as usual, it’s not waiting for you to feel your feelings. It’s not pausing because you have other things to do. This looks like:

An image of two lines. One is squiggly and the other is straight. The squiggly line is green and the straight line is black. Pain is green and time is black.

When it feels like the above, how can you make time bend with you? This is where you can imagine time as your little (or big) spoon while you experience the feelings and sensations that come up within your body—when clocks are not a priority and you allow yourself to be a measure of time. Notice that in the previous sentence I said “where you can imagine time” not “when you can imagine time”—because I believe time has a location within us. As Burkeman said above “Yet it turns out to be perilously easy to overinvest in this instrumental relationship to time—to focus exclusively on where you’re headed, at the expense of focusing on where you are” (emphasis is mine). The visual below shows how you can allow time to help you focus on where you are.

An image of two squiggly. One line is green and the other line is black. Pain is green and time is black.

Obviously it isn’t as easy as this when we have obligations and responsibilities—if it were easy, I wouldn’t be writing this. But if you consider this, even 10%, I believe that time doesn’t have to feel like it’s the problem. Because the fact is, if you work against time, you’re working against your feelings. If you work against your feelings, they will catch up to you. They will show up when you least expect…and then time will feel like a thief again.

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I know this all sounds very abstract, so here are some concrete ways I imagine making time my little (or big) spoon.

  1. Sit somewhere comfortable and imagine a clock’s second-hand slowing its pace to match your state. Maybe this is realllly slow, maybe it’s just a little slower. Or maybe it has a totally different flavor. Maybe it’s playing a song that goes with your mood.

  2. Place your hand on your heart and feel your breath. Feel your feet grounded on the surface below you. Say to yourself: “My pain is not a problem. Time is not a problem. I am not a problem. Time is my friend. Time is with me.”

  3. Lie down and literally imagine you being the big (or little) spoon to time. Imagine time as another sweet human or furry friend you cuddle with. Is it telling you that you are wasting it? Running out of it? That you can’t keep up with it? Or is it just hanging with you while you work with what your body is telling you?

  4. Think of time in terms of how much you can do instead of how many minutes or hours a task takes. For example, walking to your nearest bus stop can take “drinking half a cup of coffee” or “two Don’t Stop Believin’s”. This way if you get injured or sick or your capacity shifts for whatever reason, you can change your measure based on your joys and capacity rather than the standard measure of time.

Please let me know if you try any of these and how it went!

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When I made time my little spoon the day after my purse was stolen, I did a few things I needed to do and then I sat with the opportunity of slowing down, listening to the heaviness in my body. It didn’t want me to speed up. This looked like sitting on my couch with my cats, having gratitude for the resources I had during this time, reflecting about how resources are inequitable, canceling a phone meeting I had scheduled, experiencing the joy of Fire Island, and allowing myself to not make this heaviness a problem.

Yes clocks are ticking, but priorities can shift when you no longer feel the need to pressure yourself, or allow others to pressure you. I always want to add a caveat that there is great privilege in doing this. Even beginning to think about this if you don’t know how to pay rent or put food on the table is a monumental task. This is why systems of oppression win because they don’t allow the most marginalized to care for themselves or to think of time differently. We are all capable of this until choices are taken away from us. Our nervous systems always want us to survive, and its clock is always at now-o’clock and not in a mindful type of way. This is why I’m so passionate about collective care. How can we, as a collective, do what we can to make life easier for those who don’t have access or capacity to make these choices?

One reason I’ve been considering time a lot lately is because I think it’s deeply connected to our sense of worth. Our accomplishments and “success” are, unfortunately, measured by time and meritocracy. The quicker you’re successful, the more amazing you are! Think about this the next time you see the 30 under 30 list (I was going to link this list, but nah.)

Our mortality can motivate us to do all the things while systems are shaped in a way that make that motivation a punishing force if we don’t do those things quickly enough or if someone else does it better or faster…ahem hyper-individualistic competition.

And this is what I want to explore with you in my new four-month group mastermind called From Work to Worth. Time will just be one area we look at to reclaim our sense of worth and to look at work as regenerative and not just a way for capitalism to exploit us. We will also look at disability, nature, values, capacity, and money. I am elated about this program! It is a mix of group and one-on-one support. We start July 9!

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Leave a comment if you have questions or comments about any and all of the above!

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