Mar 052009
 
The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

Time… there’s never enough of it these days!

You’d think, being linear, that time would be an easy thing to manage — sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 52 weeks in a year and so on. It’s steady, predictable, and one of the few things in this world that really is a constant. But the reality, of course is that managing time is anything but simple.

The human mind is an incredibly powerful piece of kit — and nowhere is that better illustrated than in the way it takes the steady, linear progression of time and warps it into a convoluted mess that leaves us wondering what day of the week it is.

Time stretches out…. time compresses… time stands still… time accelerates. Time is, indisputably, a constant, and yet our perception of it is anything but. It’s fluid, dynamic, and it drives me insane.

Take this morning for example. I have several deadlines to meet — this column, for one, and I can guarantee that because I have something I need to get done by a given time, this morning will zip along at breakneck pace. Hours will evaporating faster than I can tap keys on the keyboard. But if I was waiting for something then the tables would turn… each second, minute, hour would draw out to eternity.

Why can’t we just see time as the constant it is? What cruel twist of evolution instructed our brain to twist it so? To what end? How is it helpful in the slightest?

The one consolation I guess is that this happens to everyone. There’s never enough time when there’s something you need to get finished, and there’s always too much time when you’re waiting around for something to happen. It’s a universal illusion that affects the entire human race. Time marches along its merry way at the same pace regardless of what’s happening in our lives, but somehow knowing that doesn’t seem to help.

Our perception of time fluctuates enormously, and that’s never truer than when you have children. They imperceptibly steal huge chunks of your day: getting them ready for school, helping with homework, resolving the inevitable disputes and, occasionally, averting all-out-warfare all take time. Some days it seems that I only have to blink and it’s bedtime, and another huge chunk of time falls into the temporal black hole that is parenthood.

With work, jobs around the house and the inexorable demands of parenthood to deal with it’s little wonder that 2009 is disappearing fast. I hardly seem to have drawn breath since Christmas, and without warning it’s March. How did that happen? To say it’s been a blur would be an understatement, but the real issue looking back at the first two months of this year is that I can’t really remember spending quality time with the family. A stolen hour here, an afternoon there, but certainly not enough, and always with the distraction of a busy life lurking on the periphery of my subconscious.

I’m self employed and work from home… a conscious decision to give me the flexibility to spend more time with my family. Somewhere along the line the pressures of earning a crust and the duplicitous nature of time have contrived to steal that away. It ends here!

If you can’t make the time to go to the beach with the kids, to take an hour in the evening to read with them, to play the occasional mindless game just for the hell of it… to share in the boundless fun and enthusiasm of their childhood… then what’s the point? We can’t control time — but we can control how we make use of the time we have, and it seems that it’s time I re-aligned my priorities. How about you?

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