Pencil in Some Carefree Timelessness

There are a thousand ways to spend your day--here's how to set aside that to-do list and catch up with your life.

One thing can help you move beyond the tyranny of the cliché level more effectively than anything else: carefree timelessness. What is carefree timelessness? It is time together. Not five or ten minutes, but two hours or four hours, or a weekend away. And it isn’t just a lot of time together. Carefree timelessness is time together without an agenda.

All relationships thrive under the condition of carefree timelessness, but we don't gift our relationships with carefree timelessness. We try to shove them into five minutes here and ten minutes there, a cell phone call here and an instant message there. Do we actually expect that our relationships can genuinely thrive under these conditions? Do we sincerely feel that this is enough to form a significant connection with another human being? Or have we simply failed to think about it, because we are distracted by the everyday insanity of our busy lives?

If you want your teenage child to open up to you a little more, spend an afternoon together without an agenda. Do something different together. Make this a regular part of your relationship. The first time, your teenager will be understandably suspicious, but once this becomes a normal part of your lives together he or she will sense your genuine interest and will begin to open up. 

The same approach can be taken with any relationship. Simply add some carefree timelessness and watch it begin to grow and thrive.

Think back to when your primary relationship began. You probably spent a lot of time together, and when you weren't together you probably spent a lot of time thinking about the next time you would be together. Was there spontaneity and carefree timelessness in your relationship at the beginning? How much energy did you put into trying to please each other?

You may think that you spend more time together today, but do you really, or are you simply in the same place together more of the time? The world is full of people living together alone. Is there always an agenda when you do spend time together? When was the last time you woke up with absolutely nothing planned and said to each other, "What would you like to do today?" Or perhaps you simply stopped trying to please each other somewhere along the way. Did you? When did you stop trying to please her? And why? Don't you miss the happiness you found in making someone else happy?

We all want to have great relationships, but we get distracted. We all want to experience times of carefree timelessness, but we get preoccupied with and distracted by all the urgent things.

Every morning when you wake up, you face a list of urgent things to do. Your list of urgent things might be in your planner or on your desk; it might be on your fridge or on your computer. Your list of urgent things might be in your mind, it might be in your spouse's mind! But every day there's that list. We rush around endlessly doing all these urgent things, and if we are not careful we will rush around doing urgent things for the rest of our lives. 

The problem is, the most important things are hardly ever urgent.

When was the last time you woke up and said to yourself, "I urgently have to work out today"? You don't urgently have to work out; you have to skip your workout because you have urgent things to do. When was the last time you said to your assistant, "Cancel all my meetings. I urgently need to read a good book that will fuel my mind, expand my vision of myself and the world, and intellectually stimulate me"? When was the last time you thought, "What I really need to do urgently today is go down to Wild Oats and get myself some fresh organic fruits and vegetables and make myself a truly great meal that will genuinely fuel and energize my body"? You don't urgently need to eat a good meal; you urgently need to go to the drive-through.

The most important things are hardly ever urgent.

In each of the four areas of life (physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual) we know what is most important, but we tell ourselves that we will attend to those matters later, when we have finished with the urgent things. "I'll do it when I get caught up!" we tell others and ourselves. This might not be so much of a problem if we did actually do the most important things when we got caught up. But we don't. Not because we don't want to, but because we never get caught up. Seriously, when was the last time you sat down and you said to yourself, "I'm caught up now!"

It doesn't happen. Your to-do list just gets longer and longer every day. You never get caught up; you just get more and more behind every day. Some days you feel as if your life has a momentum of its own, as if it would go on with or without you. "Caught up?" Who are we kidding?

Because the most important things are hardly ever urgent, that is why we have to place them at the center of our lives. We have to put them on our schedules, because if we don't we simply won't get around to them. "Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least" was Goethe's advice.

We have to make carefree timelessness a priority.

The experts at carefree timelessness are, of course, teenagers.

Carefree timelessness. It is the reason young people fall in love so easily. The lack of carefree timelessness is the reason the rest of us fall out of love so easily. Carefree timelessness causes us to fall in love with life and others, and it will help you move your relationships beyond the first level of intimacy.

The question is: How do we go about it?

Whether you decide you need some carefree timelessness with your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your children or parents, or your friends and colleagues, there are a thousand ways to create it.

The first thing you need to do is schedule it. Now I hear that objection in the back of your mind. You are thinking, if I have to schedule it then it's not carefree timelessness. Not so. Think back to our definition of carefree timelessness, as time spent together without an agenda. I didn't say that it is unscheduled and will happen all on its own. We know it won't. We have to schedule it, but we don't need an agenda.

Let me give you an example of carefree timelessness. If you said to your wife, "Let's plan to spend Friday afternoon together next week, and we will just decide what we want to do when it comes around." That's time together, with no agenda: carefree timelessness.

On the other hand, suppose you said to your wife, "Let's plan to spend Friday afternoon together next week, and we can stop by the store and buy that new television, return those trousers you bought me that didn't fit, have lunch, pick up the kids, and then come home and finish raking those leaves." It is certainly time together, but it also sounds anything but carefree.

Do you need some carefree timelessness with your significant other?

There are a thousand ways to spend your carefree timelessness. Nobody needs help with that; you schedule the time together, and when the time arrives you simply turn to each other and ask, "What would you like to do?"

If you have the drive and discipline to make carefree timelessness a habit in your primary relationship, you will be stunned and amazed by how powerfully it changes your life together. Make it a habit.


-Adapted from The Seven Levels of Intimacy : The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved by Matthew Kelly