“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)
I used to bemoan that time was not my own because I was constantly running errands for other people everyday, or bending my time to fit the schedules of other people.
All I wanted was the freedom of time. I wanted to use my time on my terms. I wanted to use time how I wanted when I wanted. I wanted to free my time from the obligations of other people.
Frodo wished the horrible things didn’t happen during his time because it put him in a position to do something. As content as he was to stay in the Shire, life had other plans for him.
Have you ever wished the same? I have. I’ve wished things were different, or that what was happening to me was happening to someone else. If only I was born in a different time or lived in a different place. Life would be different. Maybe better. Perhaps more manageable.
Gandalf tells him that everyone going through something feels the same way. And friends, we’re all going through something. Life. Happens. We cannot always control it. We cannot always change it. All we can do is decide what to do with the time we have.
After going through burn out, I finally learned how to achieve the freedom of time. I learned how to make sure I’m deciding what I do with my time. I learned to say NO.
It sounds simple and for some people, it’s easy to do. For me, it’s very hard because I was taught to say yes. I was taught to be obedient even if obeying means putting myself aside and rescheduling my plans to accommodate other people.
It doesn’t sound like a bad thing to be a sacrificial person, but you can only sacrifice yourself so much. I had become frustrated, stressed, and burn out because I wasn’t taking care of myself.
Saying no to others meant saying yes to myself. To self-care. To making sure I wasn’t taking on too many things. To make sure I wasn’t taking care of others at the expense of my health.
When we say no, the world isn’t going to end. People can figure out their problems without you. Things will get done.
When we say no, we are deciding to use our time on something else. Hopefully to take care of ourselves, to prioritize what is really important to us, and to be intentional with where and how we spend our time.
If you want to have the freedom of time, learn when to say yes and when to say no. I’ll be the first to tell you that doing it is easier said than done. You might even end up feeling guilty. But you’re also taking steps toward that freedom. You’re deciding what to do with the time you’re given, and it’s in that choice that you can find freedom.