“Time is a cruel thief to rob us of our former selves. We lose as much to life as we do to death.”
- Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
As 2020 and 2021 slipped by in a blur of lockdowns, travel restrictions, heart-stopping politics, and safety measures; our perception of time became heightened. Our fixation with time became overwhelming.
From my husband’s exclamations of “I resent that 2020 has stolen a year of my life”, to my own sense that 2020 was in fact a void where time goes to die. We experience time differently depending on our circumstances. Let us examine some of those fixations here…
Our Sense of Self
Our age and sense of self have such a large impact on how we view time. That is, are we running head-first into it, are we wasting it, or do we have our heels dug in trying to avoid meeting the future any time soon?
It is generally observed that when you are young you spend your time wishing you were older. When you are in your 20s your sense of invincibility may lead you to think you have all the time in the world. When you reach any big milestone birthdays, the tendency is to wish you were younger. And once you retire, well, if there’s anyone who turns their back on time more than any other, it’s you.
Why Rally Against Something We Cannot Change?
The circle of life, the biological cycle of procreation, birth, life, and death (and in the animal kingdom, predation) — an inevitable journey, which we must all take.
We swing on the spectrum of acceptance of this fact throughout our lives. At our most insecure, it feels like we are hurtling towards imminent death; at our most pragmatic, we are meandering.
Yet, it is not time passing or the circle of life that has changed, it is our attitude.
Measure Your Life By Value Added, Not Time Passed
Once we have seen our own relation to time, not as a static object, but as an active participant, we can start to change our relationship with time.
- Time is not passing us by, we are walking in that direction
- Time doesn’t stand still, we choose to savour a moment
- Times they aren’t changing, we are changing
- Time isn’t a cruel thief, we give away our memories and our agency
- Time passing isn’t the most important measurement, our use of that time is
Don’t Be Afraid Of Stillness
That isn’t to say that you must use your time by always being active and DOING, stillness is a perfectly valuable use of your time too. Doing nothing isn’t necessarily ‘wasting time’, as so many lament. The fact that we fixate on time wasted only proves that we are looking at time all wrong. It fosters the idea that when we are still we aren’t adding value.
But what if stillness is what is needed? What if we need to recuperate, or take time to make decisions, or stop to savour a moment? If that process is enriching to your life, then that value needs to be acknowledged.
When the land upon which you stand is unstable, then there is no surprise that you can’t find the horizon line — it impacts your perspective on things. So when time feels like it is speeding by you, don’t fixate on time and how unfair the speed… look down and find your footing. Change your perspective and find your own agency in the equation — time will seem less scary as a result.
Time + Agency + Perspective = A life well-lived.