Scarcity / by India Choquette

"I haven't heard back from them, but I'm going to wait another day," my friend was saying.

Or I think she was saying. Because I wasn't really listening.

I was hungry, so that was pretty much all I could think about at that moment. I've always been that way: when I'm hungry, my brain pretty much shuts down until I've inhaled my next meal. And I know a lot of people are the same way. Otherwise the word "hangry" wouldn't have been invented. And I'm not trying to be rude and ignore my friend, but my brain is redirecting me to what seems to be the more pressing issue.

Now this scenario is particularly ridiculous because I am not going to go hungry. I don't struggle with hunger and I am fortunate enough to be able to feed myself more than I could even possibly need. My brain does not need to go into red alert mode: there will certainly be more food. On the other hand, I don't get to see my friend that much and time with her is precious. It seems that I should be able to refocus my attention on my friend knowing that food is imminent. But that's not how it works.

This is the phenomena of SCARCITY. When we lack food, time, rest, or money, it consumes us. We are creatures built to survive, so when we perceive that we are threatened in some way, it takes over our brain. It colors our behavior, shapes our thoughts and takes all our attention.

The hunger example is the more obvious, but the one I feel most (and I think many New Yorkers feel) is the scarcity of time. I have several jobs that I love and a person that I love. I also invest considerable time in working out and training, and while I am aware that I choose to do all of these things, it doesn't leave much unscheduled time for pursuing whims. And when I do have free time, there is always laundry to fill it. I'm not saying this to complain--I am 100% aware that my schedule is the result of my own choices, However, the result of these choices is that I am left with a scarcity of time. 

Scarcity of time is slightly different than scarcity of food in my case. This difference lies in the fact that I don't really foresee any point in the future when I am going to have swaths of free time to luxuriate and restore my soul. So the question becomes how do I manage my scarcity. Or, more aptly, how do I live my life without allowing my mind to be consumed with having so little time? Because just like hunger, my lack of time is all I can find myself thinking about.  But when I spend all my time thinking about how little time I have, I lose all my time. Does that make any sense? Instead of mining my day for pockets of useful time, I try and multitask and complain my way into a complete to do list, always thinking several steps ahead without being present. 

This scarcity of time is why I've allowed my writing to disappear for several months. Because I forgot that the only way to manage scarcity of time is to give complete focus to every moment so that I experience it fully. And when I do that, I can put the restorative, non rushing activities back onto the schedule when possible. I can't write if I am thinking about my next sessions, but I can write if I am thinking only about writing for twenty or thirty minutes. I can build time into my day to be creative, to read, to take a walk with no music. Whatever it is that makes me feel less frantic. But I have to plan ahead and be realistic. And when I'm writing, I can't be thinking ahead to programming or training or a hard conversation. 

One thing I notice is that, like a college student who should be studying, I feel guilt when I have downtime. But unlike a college student, this is my whole life, and I won't have a break once I pass the class. If I don't make an effort to do all the things I want to do but never seem to have time for, I never will.

I am lucky enough to have a full life, but that doesn't mean that I should shut up and stoically plod along going from one great thing to the next. I need to adjust that "hunger brain" that makes me lose my presence and focus. When I am always rushing to the next thing and trying to keep ahead of myself, I miss what my friend is saying in the moment. When I feel rushed, I forget to appreciate this full life that I have.

Life is always busy. The inbox is always full for me. So what am I going to do about it?