BLOG: Madame Guillotine - Why I got tired of running out of time

Avril Millar on making time for the things that matter.

by Avril Millar
Last Updated: 21 Jun 2013

Sorry I’m late. Really, really sorry. You know how it is: things to do, deadlines to hit, tubes running late, phone rings as you’re leaving the office…

Time. What on earth can we do about time? When you’re rushed there’s too little of it. When you’re sad or lonely, there’s way too much of it. It really does stretch and shrink. And usually in the opposite direction you want it to go.

It’s a constant battle, with time winning every time.

Which is why, at the grand old age of 59 I decided to write a book. The fact that it’s taken me to 61 to finish it is just another example of time taking over. Everything took longer than I had expected; free time in which to do it seemed less and sometimes in what free time I had I simply couldn’t be arsed. The muse had left the building.

Until I heard my oldest, best friend got cancer.

Gill and I used to live near each other. Now I’m in London and she’s out in the sticks, so for the last few years meeting up has been sporadic, supplemented by phone calls. Both of us at fault, of course, both busy, me with work and she with her now teenage daughter.

We used to joke that when we were old we would end up living on a beach together, two old biddies, toes in the sand, drinking margaritas.

Now we spend a whole day together every three weeks. Eight, sometimes ten hours at a stretch, side by side in armchairs in the oncology unity at Hammersmith Hospital, while they pump her full of chemo.

We laugh a lot. I make a picnic so that we are on a metaphorical beach, the location indicated by the menu.

And I, who cannot be prised from phone and emails, put it all down and am just there.

I, who hasn’t taken a day off for months and months, who cancels personal events because I ‘have to work’, block out a day every three weeks plus the days for scan results and think nothing of it at all.

Gill feels that I have been a gift to her – being there able to listen to doctors and question when she’s too scared to remember what’s been said or challenge what she’s being told. To just sit for endless hours of drips and cold caps and blood tests and results and waiting and crying.

Gill’’s gift to me has been priceless. The value of time.

My entire use of time has changed. Now, I do what I want to do and need to do with full focus and attention. I don’t stress (so much) about having too much on. I just get up earlier or stay up later.

I socialise properly and lavishly with people I want to be with, not half-heartedly with lukewarm wine and tepid ‘friends’.

I consciously ask myself ‘Is this how I really want to spend of my time now?’ Because when it’s spent, there’s no getting it back.

And I finished the book. The muse still went AWOL quite a lot so I decided that Dorothy Parker was right when she said "Writing is the art of applying the ass to the seat."

It’s called ‘The Kama Sutra of Work: Why work is the new sex and how to make sure you’re getting enough,’ and it’s ready for pre-order now on Amazon and Waterstones, and is out at the end of this month.

Buy lots please. And then I’ll buy two business class tickets to somewhere hot with ice cold margaritas for me and Gill.

Toes in the sand…

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