I didn't have to think about it for more than a minute. I told her that even if she gave me thousands just to show her work around I wouldn't do it. I said, "It's not about the money any more. It's about the time."
It was a moment of revelation for me.
I'm 64. For some of the population that is considered old. Yet for the older generation that now seems young. I'm in a sense retired but then, as a writer, I've been retired my whole life. I've had a myriad of jobs to support my creative life; teaching at universities and conservatories, directing plays, curating art shows, and writing a number of books that are yet unpublished. Currently I write for a number of New England magazines and sometimes substitute teach for public schools in the area. But I've never had a regular job and somehow I've managed, since the age of 16, to make enough money.
Money has been a leading force in my life. It has been my survival. It pays the rent, feeds me, and occasionally gives me something nice. I've shopped in thrift stores and acquired hand-me-downs from friends. Years ago, when I traveled, I hitchhiked and slept on church steps on top of a skinny insulate pad. Other times I stayed in cheap motels or hostels. In the Middle East, for two years, I lived on cans of fol and bread while working on archeological digs, at a kibbutz and in a foreign film. I've cleaned houses and given shiatsu massages to rich clients in New York City. In other words, I've done whatever I could to make money and keep afloat.
A few days ago I reached my 64th birthday. Why this should make any difference in my habit of survival, I'm not sure, but it has. My life just can't be motivated by money any longer. Or survival. It's needs to be about having the time to relish, to lounge, to love, to converse, to read, walk, canoe, and sit by a lake with nothing but the sound of loons and a soft breeze. I need time. Time that is mine and not for others. I have done so much in my life for others. Making money always has to do with someone else.
I need to change my perspective, and it's about time. Time is unique and irreplaceable. Time is finite and therefore precious. We have only a finite amount of time here. Money, on the other hand, is fungible -- one dollar can be replaced with another dollar. Its value is only contingent on what we do with it.
Now is the time to spend long extended moments of time. Time to languor with my husband over a glass of wine or lie on the couch and read a novel. Time when I can sit under one of our old growth sugar maples and watch the squirrels swinging overhead. Snowshoe through the field at dusk. Swim naked in the pond. Go to an auction at a farm, not to buy anything but to talk to the "old folk" and see what they grew up with that still works and is not planned obsolescence. Time to call a friend that lives far away and chatter on about the 'small stuff' we sweat over. Not the big stuff, like am I going to have enough money to pay the rent on time but rather, do I have enough time to hike down to the beaver pond before I have to go to the garden to pick lettuce and tomatoes to take to dinner at a neighbor's house tonight. Those kinds of decisions. Not cramming my moments with selling or trying to get published, which leads to disappointment, exhaustion and fear (not to mention complaining).
All that, for me, has revolved around making money. Having money is about having more money. And what revolves around the issue of having time is having more time. That's what I need now; time. I'm glad I've made the shift. May I not forget this the next time, if there is one, when I'm offered some work for money. The older I get, the more I feel time is running out. I can live if I have no money. I know my edible wild plants. I can't live when I've run out of time, and no amount of money can buy me that.