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Write on WEdnesday – ‘time is relative’

October 4, 2008

Becca asks: “Do you find yourself moving too fast through life?  How does slowing down affect your creativity?

In my house, Veronica is the chatelaine of time.  You can tell by the look in her eye that she is pretty serious about it.

There are clocks all over the house.  My father repaired and restored clocks as one of his many hobbies.  I moved here three years ago, but I still have clocks in boxes in the basement.  My favorites are out, however.

This is the first clock he gave me.

I took the face off of this one because the mechanism is so beautiful.

This is my favorite; my mom gave it to me after my dad died.

If you look closely at these clocks, you will notice something.  Each announces a different time, because none of them are running.  They sound beautiful when they chime, but I can’t bear the sound of them ticking.  Ticking away time, counting the seconds.  “Time flies when you’re having fun!”  It is so true.  Time is definitely relative.  I feel as though I was twenty-seven, and then I blinked and found myself here today.  I am afraid that the next thirty years will pass and I will feel like Rip Van Winkle, awakened to find myself old, and in another place in time.  When my grandma was ninety, she said to me, “I can’t figure it out… I feel like I am seventeen, and I look in the mirror and I am shocked at what I see.  The time went so fast.”  That frightens me and I have to take a deep breath and focus on the heart palpitations that are spinning me out of control into a panic attack.  So there you have it: my phobia is out on the table.  I never say, “I wish it was the weekend!”  I never wish time away, but prefer to be right here, right now, in this moment, as it slips away into the past.

That brings me directly to Becca’s question.  I do find myself moving too fast sometimes, but as soon as I catch it, I tell myself to slow down.  I leave early enough for work in the morning so I don’t have to worry about being late.  I am not a Type A driver.  I cruise along with traffic, and if I have to stop at a light, it gives me a chance to take a sip of coffee, look at the people waiting for a bus at the corner, and make up a story about what the day might hold for them.  I do that kind of thing all day long.

Yesterday I read my requisite pages in Bird by Bird, and Anne Lamott talked about her method of taking notes about ideas that strike her throughout the day.  She uses notecards, sticking one in her pocket when walking the dog, or having a pack in her bag when heading out for the day.  That sounds like something that would work for me.  I have notebooks spread out all over my life, scraps of paper litter every surface of the house, my bag is stuffed with receipts that have writing on the back and are ultimately thrown away, unreviewed.  Note cards would be so much more organized and accessible, and seemingly just right for me.  So now, when I sit in the back of a classroom and a student says something that strikes me as hysterical, or I am at that stoplight and a man pulls out his fabric wallet to retrieve his bus pass and I imagine where he is going, I will have my little pack of notecards to write it down.

Slowing down feeds and nurtures creativity.  How can you let that inner voice speak if you are squeezing it’s vocal chords with frenzy?  It doesn’t work for me, anyway.

But back to clocks.  There is an article in the Telegraph which describes a clock, created by Dr John Taylor.  It is incredibly modern, and uses very old technology at the same time.  The video is a little fuzzy, but still interesting.  And check out that Grasshopper escapement!

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2008 12:36 am

    Great take on time!

  2. October 5, 2008 7:20 pm

    Thanks, Bobbi.

  3. October 6, 2008 2:10 am

    Great post, as always! How clever to integrate your marvelous clock collection into the prompt.

    I find myself doing the same “self-talk…” Slow down, I have to remind myself perpetually, take a breath. And yes, all that hurrying about does choke the creative vocal cords!

  4. October 6, 2008 2:13 am

    Hi Becca – thanks. I went to Office Max today and bought my note cards – purple and green for some interesting variety. I am going to stick some in every purse/bag I use, some with the dog’s leash, and some on my desk. I am ready to go… slowly!

  5. October 6, 2008 7:03 am

    Just browsing through your past posts. Isn’t Annie Lamott the best. I always read her books to fast and then I’m mad at myself when I’m though. Why can’t she write faster.
    Judy

  6. October 6, 2008 7:51 am

    Hi Judy, I agree – Annie Lamott is great. I have to get her other books from the library.
    Slow down!! That is the whole idea – then you don’t have to be mad at yourself for finishing. You could always read them again!?

  7. October 6, 2008 4:22 pm

    I am 64 and I can tell you that your grandmother is sooooooo right about time. one day you look in that mirror and it will shock you and depress you to realize you have so little “time” left… the problem is, the way things are, no one can slow down and still afford to even eat anymore. I believe that as fast as my life has gone by… my sons lives are going by even faster… now that really is scary!

  8. October 6, 2008 11:04 pm

    Your clock collection is lovely, but I am completely taken with Veronica! Amazing painting.
    I find that I store up ideas and experiences and then require a bit of down time to interpret them all. Sort of …. speed up… slow down. But time does seem to be much faster now than it was when I was little. Strange how that is.

  9. October 6, 2008 11:09 pm

    I love this post. And Anne Lamott–and clocks! I collect them too, though mine aren’t nearly as pretty as yours. Nor do they have family meaning as yours do.

    For me, running around KILLS creativity. I wish it weren’t so, but it’s true! And yet my tendency is to run around. I have to constantly discipline myself to slow down and think. I use the index cards too, thanks to Bird By Bird, and I agree–it’s a great system for keeping the creative mind engaged and recorded.

    Super post!

  10. October 7, 2008 6:24 am

    This doesn’t address the issue of time exactly, but I’d like to comment on how very beautiful your home is. I can see the artistic side of you, the aesthetic qualities that make you individual. The pictures were quite refreshing to me, especially as they reflect not only you but your dear father. And his impact on time.

    The only trouble I can see with Post It notes, is that there would tend to be rather a lot floating around. Getting lost. For me, I’d rather keep it all contained in my Moleskine.

  11. October 7, 2008 8:18 am

    It was a coincidence Deslily – today I read an article about a daughter who asked her 90 year old father how it felt to be old. His reply was “I don’t know. I don’t feel old. When I pass a mirror I think, ‘Who’s that old man?'” I guess there is no such thing as old in the heart…. just our dang bodies take on alien form!
    One of the things I thought important to teach my children was to not wish their lives away. “I wish it was the weekend, I wish it was my birthday, I wish…” I think they understand the concept of living in the moment very well. I hope time passes slower for them than it did for me!

    I know what you mean about speed up, slow down, Pamela – it makes perfect sense.
    I guess we just didn’t think about time when we were little, and took it for granted that it would last forever!

    Hi Becky – I was so pleased to hear you use the Bird by Bird note card idea. I bought my cards and stuck them all over, and even wrote on some today!
    I run around too – it is hard not to when you have children. I try not to hurry in my mind when I a doing that, however, and really take notice of the world around me…. except when I am listening to a book on tape, which I like to do when I have to drive a lot.

    Thanks for the visit and the compliment, Bellezza. The problem I have with Moleskines (which I am not so lucky to own – mine are simple journals and notebooks) is I tend to have 5 or 6 going at one time because if it is just one, it is never where I need it to be. I just can’t seem to get in the habit of taking that one with me wherever I go, so I have a few and then it all just spins out of control! So, we shall see. I will let you know how the notecards work.

  12. October 7, 2008 12:26 pm

    I can relate to the anxiety and the fear that time is ticking away – and for what? Slowing down is really difficult sometimes but I like the idea that it’s a deepening of experience and not a narrowing of living. Taking time to consider the options and then allowing the rhythm to emerge from the work, rather than forcing an unnatural rhythm onto things. Love the cards idea that Lamott mentions.

  13. October 7, 2008 10:06 pm

    Veronica definitely looks like she would brook no argument on any subject! 🙂

    I love clocks, always have. It has as much to do with the clockwork mechanisms themselves as it has to do with time and the concept of time. And I just like all the symbolism wrapped up in the clock as an image. I was so fascinated to read:

    ““I can’t figure it out… I feel like I am seventeen, and I look in the mirror and I am shocked at what I see. The time went so fast.””

    because I was having that same thought the other day. I am younger than my fellow Directors, Vice President, President, etc. at work. Even though I am fast approaching the start of my 4th decade I am more than 10 years younger than all of them. So I always feel like the baby. And even though I have been doing this job for many years I still occasionally feel like the outsider, they youngin’ and there are feelings of ineptitude that go along with that. In addition I feel exactly the way your grandma felt. I do many things, from the books I read to playing videogames to my fall obsessions with baseball and football that my parents didn’t do at my age and don’t do now. Although I have seen myself grow and mature I have steadfastly refused to let go of the things I love. I was just thinking yesterday, as I once again took a ‘on the way home from work’ break to read a bit at the cemetery, that even though I will be 40 in a few weeks that if it is up to me I am not yet half way through my life. I have always wanted to live to be 100 and be in good health, sound mind, and good spirits. I was thinking yesterday that if I do live that long I will no doubt be doing many of the same hobbies/activities/entertainments that I do today. The idea gave me quite a weird sensation.

    I like feeling as young as ever inside but it can sometimes be a hindrance when it comes to confidence.

    I tend to do the same thing you do. If I recognize that I am moving too fast I try to slow down. I have always had a tendency to try to cram too much in to too little time and it doesn’t serve me well as far as time goes. It just makes the time go by even faster.

    I need someone creative and inspiring to gently nudge me every 2 or 3 days to say, ‘hey you, slow down, enjoy today!’. I’ve been trying to be that person to myself and have varying levels of success. Again it is sooo easy to have time pass by too quickly. It is especially important to me this time of year to slow down as it is my favorite time of year. I need to take more walks with the dog and look around. I need to continue to balance my own reading against challenge responsibilities. After all, the reason I started my challenges is because I like reading this kind of stuff so darn much. I need to not let TV become my routine as the longer nights settle in. I need to continue to make time to create.

    What a wonderful post, in many, many ways. I loved looking at your pix by the way and went nearly crazy with joy on seeing the LOTR trilogy in that one shot!!! November is the time of year I most ardently focus on LOTR and over these last few days I have had to control myself, as far as wishing time away, and not get focused on next month. There is still too much I want to revel in for October and certainly do not want to be wishing it away, even for some good thing I have on the horizon.

  14. October 8, 2008 7:52 am

    I wholeheartedly agree, Pete, with your statement, “a deepening of experience and not a narrowing of living” and “allowing the rhythm to emerge from the work.” Lamott talks a lot about that too – letting your sub-conscious/inner voice (or whatever you want to call it)take over by stepping back, relaxing, and let it just speak. As for time ticking away – I wish I didn’t have to sleep! I go to bed as late as I can, and get up early. I do enjoy a nap now and then, but I am usually to busy to get to it.

    Hi Carl – My dad really loved clocks too. There were clocks EVERYWHERE in the house when I was growing up. He really liked getting into the “guts”, taking them apart, repairing them, putting them back together correctly (so they worked again!). For a man with absolutely no patience with some things, he had an incredible amount of patience for the minute detail of his clockwork.

    It is interesting you mentioned about feeling young being a hindrance to confidence. I do think/feel like a kid, so the confidence sometimes flies out the door. I have to be very conscious of my large experience in life at those moments so I don’t blush and stumble. My grandma continued to feel like she was still a seventeen year old until she died at 93. At 90 she had to ask my sister to explain to her what phone sex was, and at 91 my sister had to teach her how to “flip someone off” when another driver was rude. She never quite got which finger to use, however. She was really something. If you want to hit that 100 mark, you better be taking darn good care of yourself now!!

    I like this time of year a lot, too. Tonight is a dark and stormy night! Perfect R.I.P weather. It is raining hard, knocking the leaves off the trees, so they shine like gold on the wet cement. My girls and I went for our first hand gun shooting lesson this evening. We were very proud to bring our targets home. One of the ways I make time slow down is to try new things, to step outside the box, to not limit myself. We had a blast tonight!

    I hope you enjoy your October. November will arrive regardless, so take your time getting there!

  15. October 9, 2008 3:04 am

    I got something special in the mail today…. 🙂 and I suspect it will be winging it way out the door very soon, pardon the pun.

  16. October 9, 2008 3:17 am

    cheep cheep twitter twitter!!

  17. October 11, 2008 5:39 am

    Wow. Just a softly exhaled, wow.
    The clocks are great, the groupings are wonderful. As for the chatelaine, we could use one in this house!

  18. October 11, 2008 9:05 pm

    I could loan her out – she is pretty strict. If only my teenage daughter were intimidated by her!!

  19. October 17, 2008 12:31 pm

    This is a great Halloween post. I haven’t read a vampire book since “Interview With a Vampire” which I loved and I have “The Historian waiting on my book shelf. I scrolled through some of your different posts and see that you have eclectic and varied interests. I like what you are doing here.

  20. October 17, 2008 5:39 pm

    Thanks for visiting, Princess. I have not read either INTERVIEW or THE HISTORIAN. I will put them on the ‘consider’ list. My favorite type of book is a mystery. Since I started reading, mysteries have been number one, but I do enjoy many, many other different genres. I am savoring BIRD BY BIRD right now – don’t want it to be over with! I am also finally reading THE KITE RUNNER, after my cousin insisted it was a must read. Sad, but hard to put down.
    Happy Halloween!

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