Friday, May 22, 2009

Chronos Time or Kairos Time?

In my second session with the women's group at CIBC we had an open discussion lightly guided by a psychologist. He brought up the concept of Chronos Time and Kairos Time:

Chronos refers to the Greek god who ate his children, father to Zeus. When we live on Chronos time we have a sensation of never having enough, checking through lists, running through errands, dashing from one place to another, never a moment to appreciate our surroundings, our loved ones, or to breathe and take stock. It is an endless sense of movement rushing us through this existence. We're chasing after life, but it keeps escaping our grasp;

And, Kairos Time, linked to the writings of Aristotle. Kairos is the time of the moment, a chance to tussle the hair of our loved one. From it we have the word opportunity, and the concept of seizing the moment (Carpus Diem). Kairos time is enjoyed, lived, savored. Kairos is the time that creates memories, that enriches. Kairos time is what an aged person will remember, even while forgetting what he had for breakfast ... all those glimpses of childhood, the fabulous boat rides, that trip to Disneyland, swimming under the Pont du Gard, sending paper helicopters off the Tour Eiffel, the first sweet peas off the vine.

According to the psychologist, women are the bearers of Chronos time. We keep time for the family, we organize, orchestrate, get all the necessary tasks done, check off the lists, help with the homework, keep the household fed, keep the washing machine and dishwasher going, dust, and repeat. In all the rush, the daily rhythms, we can lose all sense of enjoyment, and time for ourselves.

I can honestly say that yes, during the intense years of the businesses, when the kids were little and things were at times rather hairy, I lived in the rush of getting everything done. However, I must confess that I'm an adept at Kairos, and I'm working to go further in this direction. Even when life was at its most crazy, I relished the rich conversations and personalities of my clients. I felt privileged to be with such interesting people, and to have the chance to take them to visit my special artisan friends. I loved having the "excuse" of working to be able to visit my baker, or take a gorgeous hike along Mediterranean cliffs. I was fully aware that I'd somehow created something wonderful and as often as I could, I would sit back and just enjoy and be grateful.

When Jonas was a baby, smiling, sociable "gracieux" as they say here, Erick was at peace with this babe who so resembles him in his arms, dear and much loved Penelope was our au pair, Leo was proud to be the elder, and, well, I felt bathed in rays of happiness, and knew that I was living some "perfect moments."

Much of this year I've been trying to find that ideal balance between getting things done, being "on top" of all my responsibilities, my financial situation, the numerous and necessary meetings with the lawyer, the notary, social security, family services, doctors, etc., and taking the time to be grateful, to enjoy my boys, to read books together, pick our strawberries, hug my friends, bake my bread-- each time a new loaf comes out I eye it with delight and a touch of gourmandise. This may be because my recipe is completely "au pif", that is, I just eyeball it. Ditto the timing. As such, each loaf is a minor miracle. Though I must say, they've all been damned good this past while.

And so, I make my lists, and I try to make my way through them. I take stock of the house, and once a week put it to rights. I eye my garden, and take time to remove weeds, weave the roses onto the climbing wires and harvest some strawberries. I choose a day in the week and try to group all outdoor rendezvous into it, moving from one to the next, remembering that the more pleasant you are, the more pleasant the person in front of you, no matter their stress level. And in the evenings, even if I was all harassed and stressed getting dinner on the table while Leo and Jonas were in the midst of slaughtering each other at my feet, I'll try to notice Jonas' improved table manners, Leo's more adventuresome eating, and delight in the lively conversation that flows amongst my five young folk.

I know I'm lucky. Thank you universe, and/or a deity of choice.


Denise Altobello said...

Lovely post, Madeleine. How I wish I had been able to get to know you during my stay at your B and B in Arles. I was there in late July of 2005, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina here in New Orleans.
Kairos time sigh....

I too started over with two sons on my own when they were 15 and 9. Savor the struggles and the graces of single motherhood. And savor your new romance. I found one too - and he is also a dancer. And he has given me oh so many moments.

Madeleine Vedel said...

thank you Denise. I too would have liked to know you better, and it is reassuring to hear that you've found balance as a single mother, of such big boys! And with love... I'll keep trying!