Sunday, February 06, 2011

How You Spend Your Time

I've been going with my parents to the new church they've been checking out, Mission Hills Church, for the last couple weeks. It works out better for them because then they don't have to be late for their service because of dropping me off at the Carlsbad campus of our old church, which I've been going to since they merged the off-campus site in South Carlsbad with the one meeting by our house at Madison Middle School. Interestingly, the sermons the last two weeks have been on the subject of time. I think there is some providence in this, because time is something that has been on my mind. I am quite certain that I am obsessed with time, not in some weird pseudo-science, time-travel-loving sort of way, but in the sense that I try to get so much done in a day in order to please everyone, including myself, and if I don't accomplish everything, I get upset at myself.

The pastor cited a study that says that productivity in American workers has increased since 1987 (when they started this study), and that our rate of productivity shows that we are working as if there were 31 hours in the day and not 24. An extra 7 hours. That's crazy. I guess in a way we're all workaholics, aren't we?

To be honest, there are only so many things I have to do in my life right now. I have school, work, and church. I have made commitments to those things and I keep them. Granted, I don't have to go to school, go to work, or go to church if I don't want to. No one's forcing me. But I go because I have made a commitment to those things. Then there are the responsibilities that grow out of these three big things - showing up to school on time, doing my homework, showing up to work on time and in uniform, following the rules at work, etc.

But in the hours of the day when I'm not in class, not at church, and not at work, my time is my own. Or rather, it is God's, since he "numbers our days" as it says in the Bible (in Psalms 139, I believe). But he has given me the time. It is because of him that I am fortunate enough to wake up every morning and to live in this great country where I am free to worship him (despite whatever other woes this country may have; I won't go there).

So how should I really spend my free time? The time I'm not in class, in church, at work, or engaged in responsibilities branching from those, such as homework? Wisely, I guess. But what does that mean? Like I've said before, I'm not the kind of person who goes out and evangelizes every person I see. Yet, with all this supposed free time, I should be doing something that matters for eternity, right? Not just sitting at home with my face in front of a computer screen, watching YouTube videos or randomly grazing Wikipedia. (Yes, I do do that. I'll find one article and then jump from that to a related one, and then another, and then another. I did that the other day and read a great deal about the Japanese Imperial Family). But what does that mean, doing something for eternity? Most people assume it means going out evangelizing or doing community outreach or what-have-you. I think. And to be honest, who am I to judge people who think that?

Life is so complicated. Everyone's trying to tell you how to live, how to have better sex (and it's not just Cosmo that's to blame for that one), what to eat or what not to eat, how to think, how to dress, how to do your hair...the list goes on and on. It is quite literally sensory overload. And for someone with Asperger's, sensory overload is something that can quickly become untolerable. This is because Aspies have heightened senses, which makes things stand out more for us than for other people. In my case, every sense seems to be enhanced at some point in time except for smell, but this might be because my nose is usually stuffed up or something, making it basically impossible to smell anything half the time. I'm particularly sensitive to taste and touch, which makes me picky about what I eat and whether my clothes are comfortable. Thus, I tend to eat the same things all the time, be picky about what water I will drink, be picky about flat soda, and wear a lot of cotton (the added bonus with cotton is that it breathes, which helps because I seem to have overactive sweat glands).  I also notice more than other people when I am touched, even if it's my dad putting his around around my back or kissing me on the cheek. My sense of sight is somewhat impaired by my nearsightedness, but like a typical Aspie I notice everything. My hearing is also not always the best because I have an earwax problem (sorry...I know that's gross, but it's true), but again, I tend to hear everything. I think this, combined with my seemingly incurable reporter's nosiness, is why I have a bad habit of eavesdropping. As if that wasn't bad enough, I don't always watch what I say and I also have a bad habit of gossiping, which I know is a really bad thing.

I think it is when you consider these issues that you really can self-reflect. It's as they say at North Coast, the Bible is meant as a mirror to see your own heart, not a pair of binoculars for you to use to point out everyone else's problems. In my Writing Process class this last week, we were given an in-class assignment where we had to read Mary Pipher's "diagnosis" of the United States, written in the style of a psychological assessment report (Pipher is a psychologist) for a client named "Mr. USA," and then write our own diagnosis of someone or write a letter to Mr. USA. I chose to write my own diagnosis, and for some reason I did it on myself, more or less following Pipher's formula. It's always hard to write about yourself in the third person (actually, it's harder for me to write in third person rather than first person period), but the exercise was pretty enlightening. I wrote way more than I probably needed to, using almost all the class time except for when Dr. Wilson called me to talk about my writing project proposal agenda (we have the first draft of our first project due this Friday, so she wanted to give us feedback on our projects last Friday so we could do our drafts). I'll be curious to see what Dr. Wilson thinks of it (yes, we had to turn them in). I also got into a spirited talk with my CWCW friend and fellow classmate Derek, first about poetry (a favorite subject of his), then about linguistics (a favorite subject of mine). One thing Aspies are known for is being able to talk in great depth about their "restricted interests" (hence Hans Asperger's term for the children he studied; he called them "little professors"), and I know I can definitely do that.

I suppose it's not a sin to have interests and pursue them in our free time, be they music, web design, art, taking Zumba (as my friend Marina does), or running (like my mom does). As it says in the book of Ecclesiastes:

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13, ESV).

Well I have to be at work super-early tomorrow, so I should go to bed. I think I may have to give this matter much thought and prayer.

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