It’s crazy how time seems to go faster and faster the older we get, isn’t it? I read that somewhere once. Whoever wrote it explained that it was something about the measurement of time related to the ratio of years we’ve already lived versus the years we have left to live. Trying to explain this further or understand it more precisely makes me think too hard and hurts my head, so I won’t. (It also makes me all philosophical and edge precipitously close to an all-out existential crisis, which I’d prefer not to do. Especially now.)
That’s because I recently suffered what is mostly one of those “age-related,” crisis-y things that happens: a detached retina.
I’ll spare you the details, or rather invite you to read all about it here.
But getting back to my reason for this post … slowing down time.
I’ve often thought that besides growing older, another reason time moves so quickly is that I’m trying to cram too many things into too little time.
Do I overestimate the power of a minute, an hour, a day, or do I underestimate how much time each thing will actually take to do?
And then, of course, there’s this: Time seems to move quickly when we’re enjoying what we are doing. Ah, the bliss of being fully immersed and in that “zone.” You look up from what you’re doing, and, in what feels like a flash, it’s four hours later.
Conversely, time crawls when we’re bored or unhappy and all we want is for that chunk to break into tiny little pieces and be over—quickly.
But I digress. Back to my detached retina.
This was a medical emergency and I needed surgery, after which I had no choice but to rejigger the way I spent my time. For the first week I had to rest my eyes (doctor’s orders!) which meant no reading—at all.
That gave me a lot of time to think about time itself—how I spent it, how I wasted it, how I missed it.
And it was about time that I realized a lot of things, both good and bad, about time. Sometimes, it takes a little shaking up to bring you to your senses, after all.
My name is Sheryl and I am an addict. I discovered that the overwhelming pull of emails, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is real and feels truly physical and as close to a pure involuntary reflex you can get short of being tapped on the knee with a rubber mallet during your annual checkup.
I had been on a newspaper hiatus, since reading the news every day put me into a funk. But suddenly all I wanted to do was sit with the newspaper and delve into everything—even politics. (Do we always crave what we can’t have?)
I realized the true power of reading to help you relax before bed and the value and power of a ritual. I can’t remember a time, since learning to read, that I got into bed without grabbing a book or magazine to ease me off to sleep. (Podcasts offer a good, though not equal, alternative, I discovered.) Read more about why you need a bedtime ritual.
I rediscovered the lost art of conversation. No more emails, no more texts, no more shunning phone calls because I was too busy working, or at the gym, or running at a zillion miles an hour off doing who-knows-what. I had time to sit still and catch up with so many of my friends in real time. I remembered how it was possible to stay on the phone for hours, like I used to do as a teenager. I’d forgotten the pure joy of hearing a familiar friend’s voice, sharing stories, asking a question and getting an immediate answer—the power of the spoken word and its ability to lead you into an uncovered and unpredictable treasure trove of tales.
Rather than rushing through my mornings, time opened its arms to me. The combination of cold bleak winter days and my forced hiatus (I was not yet allowed to drive, either) rendered me restless, and I ambled aimlessly through my house throughout the days. But soon my pacing morphed to leisurely lingering. When I stopped to gaze out my rear window, I was struck to see, in the near distance, the blazing reddish-yellow light rising from the sky. Normally around the time of sunrise I’m either sleeping or awake with my attention either on the morning paper or yes—you guessed it—my computer or iPhone. Now I know precisely where to position myself to catch the sun rising each day and where to stand to catch a glimpse of its reflection as the day wraps up.
I enriched myself with TV-worth-watching. (While not permitted to read, TV watching was OK.) Remember the days of seven channels? My children still marvel at the fact that we grew up with just seven channels, instead of seven hundred-plus. Some memorable movies and series I discovered: Wanderlust (Tony Collette is one of my favorite actresses); Schitt’s Creek (so funny and touching at the same time); Beautiful Boy (tough to watch but very powerful and real); Dirty John (like a soap opera you can’t stop watching); Tidying Up (Do we really need everything we have? Still considering that one … ); and Queer Eye (those guys are the cutest!).
- I gained a newfound appreciation for my sight. We often don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone. A good reminder to never take our health, our senses or our minds (or friends, for that matter) as a given. They are not. And if we’re fortunate enough to have them, we must treasure them, care for them, respect them and savor them. Find out What You Need to Know About Age-Related Vision Loss.
Once cleared to use my eyes more, I checked in on social media to see if I’d missed anything (see #1, above). It didn’t take long for me to question this decision. While I’ll admit that social media can be valuable in certain ways—professionally, I belong to a few very helpful groups, and personally, it has connected me with long-lost friends—did I really need to read someone’s post boasting that they’d finished the crossword puzzle in record time or to look at someone’s series of selfies unabashedly reaching for compliments (why else would someone post so many selfies, I wonder)? And seeing an endless reel of photos of another’s perfectly warm and wonderful Caribbean vacation really got on my nerves. (Maybe a little envy on the last one.)
It might be Pollyanna-ish for me to say so, but I do think it’s important to try to look for the silver lining, as much as possible, in unpleasant experiences. It may not come to you right away (I moped for a few days after my incident, I’ll admit). While I’m not from the everything-happens-for-a-reason school of thought, I do believe that the trauma and sorrow of our unpleasant and unfortunate experiences hang around long enough to teach us precisely what we need to know.
Please, don’t wait for a medical emergency or a medically induced reason to slow down. Because if you do, you’re bound to miss a whole lot of things along the way.
This post originally appeared on mysocalledmidlife.net.