Musings on Time Passing
My Mom is 92 years old and in darn good physical shape for a woman of that age. No complaints about aches and pains. But she's lost much of her memory. She didn't know who I was when I visited a few months ago. That's not unexpected since she hasn't seen me a lot over the many years that I've lived overseas. But what is really telling is that she often didn't recognize my brothers who see her just about every day
Of course, this got me thinking about the passing of time. A lot of friends my age say that time is going so much faster now than when they were younger. I often feel that way as well. Of course, time moves on at the same pace it did a few days ago and a few years ago. It's our perception of time that changes.
One article I read said that our perception of how time passes is colored by how much time we have left. No one has a definitive answer, but I've been think a lot about it as the time seems to be whizzing past me faster and faster. And in that process, I came up with some observations.
When I’m not doing anything interesting, the time seems to drag on and on forever. I remember when I worked in an office and how the clock seemed to move slower and slower as the end of the workday approached. I was always looking at the clock to see how much closer 5 pm was and wondering how time could possibly have slowed down so much.
When I’m in the process of doing something interesting, the time seems to fly by. I often spent the weekend on my favorite hobby - oil painting. And it seemed that those weekends passed by in the blink of an eye.
These two observations aren't ground-breaking. I think everyone agrees that time seems to drag when we’re bored. We’ve all sat in school classrooms listening to a professor droning on in a lecture that we thought would never end.
And the fact that time seems to fly when we’re involved in something we love seems to be universally acknowledged. Just think about something you love doing. Doesn’t the time seem to fly by when you’re doing it? Don’t you always wish that you could go on longer - that the end didn't come so quickly?
Of course, the actual amount of time doesn’t change. It’s the perception of that amount of time that changes. And I guess the moral of the story is that we should always do activities that we love.
But then I asked myself whether I really wanted time to pass by quickly. I already feel like time is passing too quickly as I get older. And I remember feeling that those weekends of oil painting had cheated me because I didn't feel as if I'd had a full two days.
As I pondered this dilemma, I came to two more realizations.
Remember Observation 1 - that time seems to drag when I'm doing something I dislike. But when I reflect back on the times when I wasn’t doing anything interesting, the amount of time seemed to have been very short. So even though the time seemed to drag at the moment, in hindsight, it seemed very short.
Don't forget Observation 2 - that time flies by when I'm doing something I love. But when I reflect back on the time when I was involved in interesting activities, my hindsight version of the amount of time is that it seemed to have been long. For example, when I went on a short weekend vacation and had a great time, in hindsight, it seemed that the time was longer than a weekend.
Again, these ideas are not ground-breaking. I’m sure that we’ve all experienced the feeling that a previous day when we did nothing seemed to have been very short. And a previous day when we did lots of interesting things seemed to have been longer than a day.
Once again, it’s only the perception of the amount of time that has changed.
Well, I prefer the perception of feeling like time is stretched out. As I get older, I want to feel like the time of any particular day or week or month is longer than it actually is.
I don’t want the days to go by and feel like the amount of time was short, but that seems to be what’s happening these days. How can I change that?
What To Do
I spend a lot of time each day on the computer. That might seem boring to some people, but I enjoy it, and I learn a lot. I take lots of online courses as I explore the various opportunities to learn something that I didn't learn when I was younger, such as, how to draw, how to play piano. You get the idea, right? And of course, I'm an easy target for making money online courses. After all, who can live on social security payments?
So, I enjoy what I do each day. But when I look back on my days at the computer, the days seem to have flown by. I don't like that. I want to sense the passing of time. I don't want days, weeks, months, years to go by in what seems like the blink of an eye, like it does when I'm doing something I enjoy.
So how can I make my days seem longer in the way that those weekends seemed longer than just a couple of days? What was it about those weekends that made them seem long in hindsight? Perhaps it was the variety of activities involved in those short trips.
So maybe the answer to my situation is to vary my activities each day. Add activities that take me away from my computer and perhaps the time will seem longer to me when I look back on it.
That’s the goal – to make my perception of time seem long.
So now, I've modified Observation 4.
Observation 4 Modified
It’s not just doing something interesting that makes the time seem long. I have to do more than being involved in interesting activities to make the time seem long enough to satisfy me. Variety is the key.
So if I add oil painting into my daily schedule and limit myself to only an hour or two each day so there's time to mix it with other activities that I enjoy, then I should feel like I’m getting more out of life. Doesn't that sound right?
Maybe I could add learning piano into the daily schedule as well. I pass my piano several times each day and feel guilty that it’s sitting there so lonely!
And maybe I could finally learn how my very complicated digital camera works.
Ask me next year at this time if I followed through on slowing time down!