Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can We Slow Down Time?

The older you get, the faster life seems to move.  We all know that, and generally accept it is a reality of life, but maybe it doesn't have to be so.  After all, the spacetime continuum does not actually change as we age,  just our perception of it.  And if it's just a matter of our perception, can't we just choose to slow it down?

I started thinking about this because I got a notification from a financial institution about our 2012 tax documents the other day and, as I think I do every year, I exclaimed "is it that time of year AGAIN?" as if it were an f'n surprise.  But alas, January 2nd waits on no one. While you are still closing the loop on the prior year by returning gifts from Christmas, the world has moved on to new deadlines and plans.  It seems like you have to stay on that moving train and actively manage what really amount to redundancies that recur in your life year after year...whether it's planning life around your kids' school schedules (back- to-school, Christmas, spring break, summer, repeat!), buying your tx/ou tickets, booking your annual summer trip to [x], coordinating holiday traditions with particular sides of the family, whatever your annual "stuff" is.  The year sometimes feels a bit pre-determined.  Though interspersed might be important and unpredicted life events like starting a new relationship, having kids, or getting a new job, the general structure of our year in large part stays the same after we reach a certain age.  And as each year gets busier and we are forced to think about what we're doing next week/month/year instead of just living in the present, life seems to move faster and faster. 

Interestingly, if you think about it, your memories of the past probably aren't sorted by specific bouts of time in your mind, but instead are grouped by experiences.  Time, or our perception of it, feels more stretched out in the past.  You may think back to the overall experience of high school generally, rather than specifics from, say, 1997 (unless you're my friend D.S, then you do think in terms of specific dates).  Or if you used to spend just a week each June at a lake as a kid (a trip that whizzed by while you were there), it may feel like you spent your whole summers there.  I think back to opening one measley gift  (a Barbie Ferrari!) as helping define my overall memories of Christmas as a child.  Perhaps it's all of our past experiences (including those "redundancies" I mentioned earlier that in retrospect are valued traditions) clustered together over time that ultimately give us a sense of our "life." 

So why shouldn't we be able to think like that in the present?  What if I thought about today, January 8th, not as a day when I have to accomplish xyz, but instead as a small piece of a longer arc of experience -- being mom to a fun toddler, being in my 30s, living in the city, etc.  Then maybe it doesn't seem like today goes by quite as quickly, because those experiences will still be true tomorrow and for awhile thereafter.  By defining today as part of those longer-term experiences that I love instead of in terms of ephemeral measures of time, perhaps I can be more present and appreciate them even more (smell the roses, if you will).  It's quite possible that none of this makes  sense to anyone else and I swear I'm not smoking anything, ha,  it's just a theory about how we perceive time/our lives that I'm willing to test in order to slow it all down.  Thought I would share it in case anyone else was having a "where did last year go!" moment :)

1 comment:

  1. Mindfulness meditation has really helped me learn how to be in the moment-- to slow down time . I've also had mindfulness lunches before and had mindfulness walking breaks. After a while a engaging in these activities, I naturally started becoming more mindful as I moved through the world. Paying attention to little things brought me to the present. Paying attention to my breath eventually extended to paying attention to the wind in my hair or a cardinal singing in the trees. It helped me really feel what I was doing rather than floating around elsewhere in my head.

    Kudos to you post.