Time is what prevents everything from happening at once. ~John Archibald Wheeler
My kid is pre-occupied with numbers.
He wants to count things, add things, subtract them, and wants to know what time it is; what’s the order of the numbers on the clock. I have the time set ahead on almost all the clocks in the house, but none of them are ahead by the same amount. He knows this, so asks for the time ‘in real life.’
He wants to know how long something is, how much time it takes. I say he can have two more minutes to play. “Is two minutes long?” “It depends on what you are doing. It’s not very long to eat a hot dog, but it can feel long if you are holding your breath.” “How long is that?” he asks again. Unless we agree to measure it, the idea of time seems a bit useless.
When the time (to leave or to stop playing) is 15 min, I compare this to recess at school. “Then we have hours!” he says in victory. I want that kind of time. It’s what you do with your time that makes it valuable.
Time goes faster as we get older, as we have more to do within those same skinny hours. We tend to borrow time, and by this we mean we sleep less. We are constantly trying to get one more thing done before we have to move on to the next thing. Why do I still have time to do dishes when I really should have left the house two minutes ago?
Time seems bendable, but often not in our favor. Emotionally uncomfortable situations can take minutes, but seem like hours. Uneventful and obligatory appointments can bore us into clock-watching. Why is so much of our life spent in time vortexes: sleeping, commuting, idling in traffic, waiting at doctor’s offices, waiting to be seated in restaurants, waiting in lines? This is part of our reality now, but maybe it’s what we do within these waiting spaces that can help us do more in our time.
Time isn’t holding us, time isn’t after us. – Talking Heads
Waiting is like using the ingredients for daytime. The day is like a beautiful meal, planned and prepped, but as you wait you start to eat away at the ingredients, leaving less and less for the finale. I don’t like waiting and when I do I ponder all the things I could have done with that extra time at home. Fifteen minutes is loading the laundry, a few sips of tea, feeding the cat, and probably watering some plants. I like the feeling of enjoying the quiet when I wait, but then you never know when the wait will be over, so how can you be restful?
If you are present, there is never any need for you to wait for anything. – Eckhart Tolle
An hour before I have to leave the house, time is golden. I have so much time to do things – make lunches for kids, have a shower, check email, have breakfast. Time moves so slowly, with such a buffer. Then 30 min before I need to leave it turns into an Escher-scape. Everything twists in and on itself, simple things take forever, there are more things to do, and suddenly I need to leave and I am in the shower instead.
I stopped wearing a watch for a while. I found that I wasn’t always so stressed and micro-managing my minutes. No one complained. Maybe I was late some of the time but the relief was in not knowing.
We are all a bit pre-occupied with time in our own ways. My brother never wore a watch when he was younger. When asked why, he said someone else always told him the time. We want efficiency and express how we control our lives through our adherence to time. That control is malleable only within our expectations of what we will accomplish. But also how well everyone else tolerates waiting for you.
*How do you spend your time waiting? Do you wear a watch?