The Question of Time.
I walked outside with my almond milk latte and indulgent chocolate-peanut butter chip cookie, and immediately saw a friend, sitting, drinking in the long ago forsaken sunshine on a glorious spring afternoon between clients. I had been granted a rare block of time to sit and read all by myself, and figured I would sit outside at a coffee shop instead of in the office, where it is so easy to get distracted with actual work, and it was finally a nice day in a string of weeks of rain. When I saw her, I sat down, and we chatted of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, which we'd planned to spend together. We talked about what other families and children would be there. What wines we'd like to sip on. Basically we were adulting in the sun.
She had to run soon thereafter so I turned around and sat at a table in the shade. (Making this choice...also adulting.) In my new line of sight was a pretty girl, sitting by herself. I noticed her, but pulled my books out to dive in.
Soon after that she too got up, pulled her backpack on and turned to leave. I was immediately plunged into memories of being in high school and going off campus for lunch. Being in high school and wearing John Lennon-y sunglasses. Being in high school and spending an inordinate amount of time at a non-Starbucks, local coffee shop (much like the one we were at now, as I still like that) to the point of getting heart palpitations from drinking way too much caffeine. ...Being in high school.
Though I had just been adulting, seeing this girl and waxing nostalgic at my own teenage years touched me with a pang of "I'm still that girl somewhere inside". Of "what a beautiful afternoon to be simple". Of "how do I have a three year old? Wasn't I just sitting at the coffee shop five minutes ago myself"?
Don't mistake my musings for regret. It's all been a beautiful ride. It's just that time is such a slippery fish. There is a cliche tossed around often in the parenting world that frequently it can seem as though moments can drag on for hours, and then you look back and years have passed in the blink of an eye. What is that? Why is it that our perception of time is so unreliable? Is time so malleable? Textured more like swiss cheese than like the smooth surface of glass like we imagine?
We humans have conceptualized time down to these tiny increments that we can theoretically measure, but why are we so militant about it? I am not so naive as not to understand that we need a common denominator to communicate with other humans. That we need a socially agreed upon standard to have shared experiences. But what if we let go of that construct for a minute, and just lived in that weird space of life being less measured and more payed attention to? In which I could be both that teenager in high school, and the (very slightly, in fact, not much at all) more mature version of that girl - the "long ago me" and the "now me" kind-of all at the same time. And I'm not talking about those memories of myself, housed in my medial temporal lobe, that inform this moment, but that actual girl.
It was so palpable, that moment of watching the girl walk away, conscious of getting back to school on time. I remember so clearly those feelings of both feeling a little unsettled to be alone and not with my peer group, but excited to have the independence to explore the world (one coffee shop at a time) by myself at once. I'm sure that feeling intensified for some time once I learned to drive. Anyway, I digress. I was clearly experiencing a memory, but the sharpness was striking and made me feel like that girl was so close...like she was in my skin currently, like her thoughts were my thoughts and I was thinking them in the present. And instead of chiding myself for getting lost in a reverie of the past and not being aware of this moment - I actually felt more present than ever, seeing through eyes of the past, maybe, but watching this moment from that perspective in the present. Not wishing for it back. I didn't have to do that. It was here.
It was wild and actually got me thinking more about our interpretation of the space-time continuum than my glorification of the simpler time of my girlhood. While usually, we take time at face value, there are these occasional moments where it just drops out from under us, like a trampoline that someone is bouncing on with you, in opposite rhythm.
I remember when I rolled my Jeep, about 7 years ago on a windy section of an icy highway in the Vail Valley in Colorado. I was commuting to work and going a little too fast for the conditions. The Jeep fishtailed on ice and spun around, started to tip over, the guardrail caught it mid-flip and I hung upside down, suspended by the seat belt for a few seconds before coming back down on all four tires. That felt like the longest 30 seconds of my life. I remember it happening like it was a movie on slow motion playback. Every second was in high definition. Nobody was hurt, thank God, and the moral of the story is that in inclement weather the law is that you drive 10 miles below the posted limit. That's your new limit. But that's not what links this experience to the girl at the coffee shop. It's my wonky perception of time. Another wormhole in the continuum.
Moments can drag on for hours, and then you look back and years have passed in the blink of an eye.
I suppose an easy way to think about this is that we get old. When we are young we do not have context for time. When a parent says "You need to tie your shoes because we are leaving in five minutes" they might as well say five hours. A kid doesn't have a sense of how long five minutes is. And I remember that lasting a long time. It may have been lessened, but the sense of no/low consequence because I had forever to deal with any situation stayed with me through high school to some degree. And of course, fast forward to having a child myself, and it feels like the years are passing so quickly that I'll never have a chance to do anything because, before you know it, I'll be in assisted living dying my hair blue and playing mah jongg. This speaks to exactly the shadiness of the space-time problem. And it's subjectivity to our changing perceptions. So how could it be dependable or a constant? Exactly! It can't. Because we humans invented the concept of time as a way to order our days, our years, and our lives. We cannot stand the feeling of not having control, so we try to give order to everything. Do hummingbirds or sloths have an understanding of space and time? Does one know that it operates at hyper-speed and one on uber slo-mo? Doubtful. They just live it. They live each moment fully because they don't remember previous ones and cannot conceive of future ones. That's actually a little bit cool, I think. It's like being 3. My daughter is always saying stuff like "last night when I was opening my Christmas presents"....ummm, baby...it's June. She has no idea. That is kind of very cool. Instead of impatiently waiting for her to get more indoctrinated with our concepts and "order", I will just take her, each day, each moment as she chooses to show up. It's a beautiful and innocent way to see the world. And I can be the girl at the coffee shop, late for high school and the mom, dreaming about a cool glass of rose at a hot Memorial Day picnic at the same time.
6/29/2016 08:55:04 pm
I love this. I miss my son every day. It's true. Only yesterday he was Vera's age and the most precious adorable human being on my planet. It truly does go so quickly. I am right now fighting back tears (not successfully) because even though other moms tried to tell me this was true I had no way of understanding the concept they were trying to impart to me. Time and space are incalculable in reality. We just think we have a handle on it because we can look at the minutes ticking by on a clock. It's simply an illusion we accept in order to function in our modern day society. At least, this is the conclusion I have come to in my advancing years, of which I have many more of to spend, I hope.
7/5/2016 09:59:51 pm
Thanks Caroline. It is really crazy how time will flash by like that, huh?
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As a student of yoga, massage, meditation , poetry and other such introversions, I figured some of my inspirations might also touch the hearts of others. Read, ruminate, digest, create...always returning to this well of deep love inside to renew ourselves and rediscover what we are. Enjoy!