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Thursday, 24 January 2013

On Time, And How It Whooshes By

Time is an extraordinary thing.  There is always the same amount of it floating around, but sometimes it seems that there is not enough, and at other times that there is too much.  Sometimes we don't know what to do with it, and sometimes we long for fifty times the amount that we already have.  When we are young, time is a very big thing.  It means waiting, it means we can't have what we want now, it is what adults have.  We don't have time for it.  It is not really for us.  And then, by the time we are old, time is a precious thing.  It has become smaller, faster, and we see how much we need it.  And when we are very old, time is something that once was, we inhabit time gone by, and do not bother so much about time now and in the future.

Everyone experiences the passing of days and nights, everyone experiences the passing of years, hours and minutes.  But we all experience the passing of this time differently.  For example, I may sit in my studio painting and thinking nothing of the passage of time, while my son revises for his exams in a chair nearby.  I may look up after what I think is no time at all, to see him falling off his chair with his eyes crossed, next to me. Son! I will say, You have to study!  What is this falling about that you are doing?  And he may say Mother, it is half a day past feeding time.  The hours are passing so very slowly, they are dragging along and I am quietly dying of hunger and boredom.  How is it that you have not noticed?   And I will wonder how this has happened.  The same amount of time has passed but we have both experienced it differently.

Time does it's own thing around and about me, it has no interest in me at all, but I am constantly grappling with it and how to cope with it.  How I am feeling affects how I use it.  If I have much to do, and feel chipper, capable and enthused, I start my day well.  With a merry little hum, I write lists, and make time into manageable bits, I apportion it, mould it and make it all mine.  That, I say as I write, is time well spent.  I shall have a day on this project, an hour on that, and a week on another.  I have it all sorted and within this time frame that I have so carefully constructed, I will achieve all that is on my list.  And in between this time that is going to work so well for me, I will do other small jobs and it will all fit in together because I have the time.  I have time under my belt, I know what I am doing.  I am in control.

And then, I may feel tired, droopy and not very clear about what to do and how to do it.  This makes time into an anxious thing.  My plans seem foggy and indecisive, I do not feel like doing what I have planned, and time becomes a fearsome force that is flying past me, out of my grasp and gone for ever.  I can't catch it and stem the flow, I can't see how to make it stop and I can't find a way to channel it all to suit me.  So then, time becomes a liability.  It flies all around me and away and I cannot do anything with it.

When I am unsure of what I am doing, and when I am feeling that I ought to be achieving but am simply not doing so, I find myself unable to stop wasting time.  I am sitting in my studio, not enjoying not doing anything, hearing the whoosh of time swirling around my head and rushing on, gone for ever, and thinking Lord!  If I don't get a grip, if I don't work out what to do and how to do it, I shall fall behind my life and time and the future shall gallop on without me!  I should be using this time to do my stuff, but I can't work out what my stuff is and therefore time is passing me by!  The answer here, of course, is to stop being so silly and put down my pen, put away my paints, turn off my computer, and go and have a bath. 

I have found that time, that thing that does not really exist, that thing that we like to take, capture, spend, use, and enjoy, is nothing but a state of mind.  I notice it when I am using it to organise myself.  I fear it when I am unable to make use of it, and I am temporarily a little guilty when I make up my mind to waste it.  If I am concentrating, then I don't notice it.  If I am happy, I don't care about it.  If I am feeling gloomy, then I am aware of it and I resent it.  Mostly,  I am concerned with it, not it with me.  It is working on me, I am getting older, but I can't take that personally.  It is just doing it's thing, and probably has not singled me out for any particular special treatment, it probably wouldn't notice one way or another if I had two projects or six projects, to be done by tomorrow, or else.

The last few weeks have been very busy, full of hours placed within a well constructed timetable.  I know what I am doing! I said to myself every morning recently, come along time, let's get the show on the road.  While working, I said to myself, I can do all of this, see here, my plan, my list, my timetable.  I shall stick to it and all will be well.  It is all in order and there is a beginning, a middle and an end.  But when I finished the projects, suddenly, my time is in free fall again.  My time has been filled and have I become accustomed to being busily in control and now, the work has come to an end and I am all of a dither.  I know, I say, I shall clean the house, and so I do.  But once that is done, and the projects are done, I find I am tired.  I have no energy, and I want to sit on my comfy kitchen chair for at least a day and a night, watching the washing machine go round and round.  I want to stop talking and stop planning and rest.  But - here is what happens - I had a routine, I was used to having my day planned and I can't quite let go of this idea that I should still be doing something.  As I sit on the edge of my beloved chair, blankets and cushions at the ready, I hear the whoosh of time passing me by again, rushing at me and rustling the pages of my book as it passes, taking with it the chance to have done something, whatever it was, and leaving me behind.

And this is where I have to take a stand.  Getting to my feet, I say with authority to whoever is in the kitchen, time is but a concept! Enough of this nonsense, you are, after all, wasting time worrying about wasting time.  Put on the washing, count your blessings, and if time is not interested in you, do not be interested in time.  Time is a paradox, it is both there and not there.  And on that happy note, it is time to enjoy some time off, it is tea time, and what is more, if time is of the essence, it is time to sit down and enjoy it.  OK?  Good.  Sorted.