Thursday, April 10, 2008

Time's Not on My Side (or yours)

Have you ever completely lost a day of your life? I lost yesterday. The entirety of it, from 9:30 in the morning until after 7 PM, was spent in a discussion/argument over something I'm not even going to explain because I'm sick of thinking about the subject. The point isn't what made me lose a day, but the fact that it was lost. Time just goes; I wake up in the morning, have some coffee, run my dog, blink and suddenly it's the middle of the afternoon.

I vividly remember childhood weeks spent in anticipation of something: Christmas, a vacation, the end of the school year. Time felt so excruciatingly slow. The days just dragged on. What I anticipated would never arrive. Now I book a vacation a couple of months in advance and suddenly find myself needing to pack my bag the night before, out of travel-sized toothpaste and shampoo. I understand that some of this might be due to the fact that I've had years of vacations, of holidays, of birthdays, and that the thrill is gone, that I'm jaded. I think there's something more at work than just the loss of the new, though.

I read once that we experience time opposite our metabolic rate. This means that when we are young, with a high metabolic rate, time appears slow to us. As we age and our metabolism slows, time is experienced as passing more and more quickly. This certainly makes as much sense as anything else. Time, after all, is a consistently measured quantity. If time itself doesn't change it must be something in us that's different.

I used to make fun of my mother for all sorts of reasons, but one reason was that if I asked her what she was up to, she'd frequently say, "Oh my, I have such a busy week. I go to the doctor Monday, and I play cards Tuesday, and on Wednesday I go to Walgreen's." What was unimaginable to me a few years ago is today a reality: I understand where she was coming from. I understand how having one thing to do can feel like a day's worth of activity, when days disappear so quickly. I understand what time really is. I understand my (and our) mortality.


Sandy said...

I also believe that the changed perception of how fast time passes has something to do with the proportions of your life events. For instance, last November, I celebrated my 50th birthday. So what. I had 49 of them before. It was 1/50th of a series of events. It slipped right by. My 10th birthday, however, was one of 10 such events, and maybe the 5th one I could actually remember at the time. A much bigger deal.

When you have experienced only 10 cycles of life, repeating events are still pretty darn big; they last longer in proportion to the experiences you remember. 10% is a lot more impressive than this year's 2%.

That's my take on it. And I feel it too. I was 16 when I woke up yesterday. Tomorrow I'll be drooling. If I'm lucky.

Anonymous said...

I remember as a kid, summers lasted forever. Now at 49 years of age I won't sleep in late on the weekends for fear of losing one great day.

J. Spike said...

Atleast your Mets won. Granted Jimmy Rollins did not play.

So at least after 7PM it was ok.