Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time Of Your Life

Throughout my whole life, I’ve heard people say that the older you get, the faster time seems to go.  Clearly, time doesn’t speed up.  Last time I checked, a minute was still sixty seconds long.  And an hour?  Still sixty minutes.  I Googled it to check.  So what’s with this “faster time” nonsense?

There’s another expression that goes: “A watched pot never boils.”  Obviously, it must boil sometime.  If not, there’s either something seriously wrong with your stove or that ain’t water in your pot.  I guess if you tried to boil a tuba – in a pot and without water – that pot would not boil even if you weren’t watching it.  Not that I’ve ever tried to boil a tuba.  At least not yet. 

I think that expression is really talking about anticipation and the perception of time.  If you’re watching the pot, it probably means you really want that water to boil fast.  And it is precisely because you want it to boil fast that it feels so interminably SLOW.  My guess is the pot takes the same amount of time to boil whether you watch it or not.  It’s only our perception of how long it takes that changes.

I can see how that can apply to real life.  If you planned a fun family vacation – a trip to Disney World, an African safari, a Caribbean cruise – you’re probably looking forward to it.  And depending on how far in advance you plan your trips, it could be days, weeks or months until that day arrives when you weigh the suitcases, lock them up and head for the airport.  Days of school, work, chores, piano lessons….  Suddenly that vacation is feeling a lot like the pot we want to boil.  If we focus on the vacation, it will feel like forever before it gets here. 

OK.  I get all of that.  When I’m really looking forward to something, time seems to go slowly until it gets here.  Check.

So flipping that on its head, I guess it makes sense to say that if there’s something I’m really dreading – something I don’t want to come – time will seem to move faster.  If there’s a big test at school or a crushing deadline at work, odds are we’ll feel like those arrived before we knew it.  Like getting to the bottom of a box of my favorite cereal or a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips – inevitably I get to the bottom before I know it.  Eventually I hit the bottom.

If I’ve cracked the anticipation code correctly, then fun stuff = time moving slowly and bad stuff = time moving quickly.  That would mean that as we get older, there are more things we dread and therefore time seems to move faster?  But I don’t buy it.  It doesn’t add up.  Not to mention the fact that every year I have more of those fun things to look forward to and anticipate than ever before.  More fun stuff should mean time moving slowly.

But wait a minute.  Maybe this whole concept of “more” stuff is the crux of the issue.  As you get older, your life gets filled up with more stuff.  More work, meetings, phone calls.  More parties, vacations, dinners, movies.  More email, Facebook, YouTube and the like.  More of the fun stuff.  More of the not so fun stuff.  But either way you slice it, there’s more. 

Instead of watching that pot boiling, if you were shooting some hoops, answering email or calling your friend, I bet that pot would boil before you knew it.  While we may have more fun stuff in our lives to look forward to as we get older, we fill up those hours, days and weeks with so many other things that we don’t have time to anticipate the arrival of those things.  Instead of toiling away counting down the days, the days are gone before we know it.  Now I feel like we’re getting someplace.

So maybe the whole secret to this “faster time” phenomenon is not to fill every waking moment with other things.  We need to allow ourselves time to watch that pot boil.  To slow down and savor every bowl of cereal and every potato chip.  We need to live in the moment.  We need to live in the moments between the moments.  That’s why every day I try to find something, even if it is fleeting, to look forward to and enjoy.  It is things like catching up with the rest of the Calling Birds, sharing a laugh, a funny story, a silly moment, a hug, a tickle, a kiss.  It is remembering now, even after the kids have gone to sleep, how their hair smelled fresh from the shower.  Boy, I love that smell!

Each moment savored puts off tomorrow’s arrival by the same amount of time.  It slows the world down just a bit.  And for me, knowing I have the power to make that happen, and actually causing it to happen from time to time is enough for me. 

So here’s where I’m netting out on the subject – Everyone’s pot will boil eventually.  We should have a heck of a time watching it until it does.

Thanks for reading!
-- Frosty

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