‘How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives’ –Annie Dillard
When did you last think about your relationship with time? Me and time? We just don’t get on. Time pressurises me, makes me tense and controls my days. Our relationship is what some might call ‘dysfunctional’. It all came to a head this week when I was out with a friend during a day-off work. We’d arranged to meet for a morning walk followed by a lunch-time bite to eat. I had anticipated being home by 2pm-ish, aiming to get on with my household jobs.
My friend, however, has an altogether different way of relating to time. She is a stroller, not a strider. She likes to browse, not just buy and run. She potters and sometimes procrastinates. She is also the most content person I know. My friend has regular weekends away and takes several holidays a year; she nourishes her family and friends with home-cooked meals at weekends; she never misses attending her weekly wine club. On top of all this, she works almost full-time hours as a nurse.
As our morning progressed, I found myself getting twitchy as the minutes ticked away and we still hadn’t reached our lunch destination. During our walk, my friend stopped several times to respond to text messages from her family, trying to organise an evening get-together. She made several visits to the bathroom. She lingered over the plants and gifts in the shop next to the picnic site we were visiting. She drank several mugs of tea from the huge pot we shared as we sheltered indoors from the pouring rain. I was irked. Uptight. I’d never get home by 2 o’clock at this rate.
Lunch was eventually delicious. But still, my friend just wanted to call in at the supermarket on our way home. Through gritted teeth I agreed to accompany her around the aisles. Maybe, I thought, we are just not compatible. It’s rare that we spend more than a couple of hours together, usually just snatching time after work to grab a bite to eat. But then I realised that the feeling I had been having all day was very familiar- that sneaky old time pressure had crept up again.
In our Western culture, we have been trained to believe that ‘faster is better’. In my girlhood, I wrote letters to pals around the world and waited patiently for a reply. Now we are both blessed and cursed with emails and text messages, sent with the expectation of an instant reply .
Our family history can also influence how we relate to time. My parents were ‘planners’, always looking to the next project or house move. Both of my parents had a very strong work ethic. Go figure. So I’ve finally picked up a book I bought years ago, always meaning to get around to reading it but never quite finding the hours. It’s called ‘Slow Time: Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life’ by Waverley Fitzgerald. I’m planning to make it my companion on my journey to develop a more playful relationship with time. Here’s a fabulous quote to start things off:
‘Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Year’s Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls.’ – Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn.