“I don’t have time.”
This is one of the many phrases that English-speakers have developed for saying “no” without actually saying “no”. For whatever reason, we as a society have agreed that a simple, “No thanks” is too flippant — borderline aggressive, even — and requires a further explanation that implies, “I would, if only…”
“Sorry, I already have plans that night.”
“I can’t — I haven’t slept well and feel like shit.”
The worst part is when we internalize this idea and start lying to ourselves about why we’re not doing things we say we want to do. My personal lie, for many years, has been “I don’t have time.”
I want to get better at drawing, but I don’t have time.
I’d love to record more Christmas music, but I don’t have time.
I want to read this stack of books, but I don’t have time.
There’s a resentment that comes from believing reality is structured specifically to prevent me from engaging in everything that catches my fancy. Time is a finite resource, but my fascination is boundless! Surely the greatest tragedy in life is that I won’t be able to watch everything available on Netflix in my lifetime.
Recently, I learned a magical incantation that reshaped reality to my benefit: “I don’t care.”
Look at this stack of books… eh, I don’t care.
I keep hearing that I should watch Orange is the New Black… I don’t care.
I still haven’t tried all of the games I acquired through Humble Bundle… I don’t care.
Revolutionary, I know.
Like “no, thanks,” the phrase “I don’t care” seems to have negative connotations. I get it — it can feel judgmental when someone shrugs and admits they don’t care for something you feel strongly about. It’s certainly not a phrase I’m about to deploy against other people.
But, when I use it on myself, it cuts through the nonsense and shows me where I’ve been lying to myself. Sometimes, saying “I don’t care” rings false. Over the summer, I tried to tell myself I didn’t care about working on my drawing skills. It backfired — I realized I do care; I care enough that for the last six months I’ve made time to draw almost every day.
However, I was getting stressed out about the fact that I wasn’t writing music. I love writing music! It’s amazing! One of my favorite things! Why was that particular interest gathering dust if I loved it so much? Cautiously, I tried out my incantation: I don’t care about making music.
It rang mostly true, but I had to amend it to “I don’t care about making music right now.”
That felt great. It felt like giving myself permission to focus on something I was excited about without feeling guilty for not doing everything that I was interested in.
On top of the mental improvement, learning to say, “I don’t care” has made it possible to delete a ton of stuff from my Netflix queue.