Time is something we feel we have so little of, and we frantically rush around trying to get things done in the time that we have. But of course, time is an artificial construct – a man-made construct which is supposed to be there to be a framework. Yet, as with so many man-made things, time has now seemed to take over and rule us, to push us in ever-decreasing circles.
Time has different lengths depending on where you are in your life. Remember those incredibly long days that went on forever when you were a child? Especially when it was Christmas Eve and you were desperate for it to be Christmas Day? Now, the days seem to whizz by. That, of course, is because comparatively speaking a day is a long time in the history of a child, but as that history grows – as we become older and have lived more days, the days seem to get shorter as each one is a smaller fraction of the total time that we have lived. OK, so that makes sense.
But what about this feeling of panic that so many people feel about time? “I’m running out of time”, “I don’t have enough time”. I used to be a school teacher in a past life (there are many people who say that – it’s amazing that there are any school teachers left!). My life was ruled by bells, keeping an eye on the time to ensure you kept within your teaching slot and try to get everything done within that time span. Watches, clocks, bells. They were almost as important as actually teaching! Woe betide the teacher who didn’t get their lesson delivered, and wrapped up in proper order before the bell went!!
When I left teaching, I got rid of my wrist watch. I’m not the only one to do this by any means, and to me it meant freedom from the tyranny of time. But did it really? No, of course not. I started checking my computer clock, my mobile clock, my alarm clock, the clock in the kitchen. I refused to put a clock in my weaving workshop on principle, but that didn’t stop me from being anxious as to what time it was, how long had it taken to weave this, and so on.
But then, I went to visit a weaver named Francis Moore in Yorkshire. I forgot my alarm clock and there was no other clock in my bedroom. I awoke and it was full daylight. I hadn’t got anything by which to tell the time, and I was in someone else’s house so didn’t feel I could go round trying to find a clock. I had a hugely urgent feeling that I was late, so I got up, washed and dressed hurriedly and went downstairs. In the kitchen, the kitchen clock told me that it was something after 5 am! Now I felt cross with myself. What could I do in someone else’s house for 3 hours? So I went back up to bed again, and waited, straining myself to listen out for any sounds of movement before coming out to join the day again. Relaxing time to myself? Far from it!!
My thought is this – one day, when I have no plans made, and nowhere to be, I will take all the clocks down the night before, or switch them off. I won’t use my computer, or switch on my mobile phone. I won’t watch TV or listen to the radio. I will just try to live in my day as richly as possible without the guidelines or strictures of the clock to tell me what I should be doing. I shall eat when I feel hungry, and not because it’s 1pm. I shall allow myself to feel that anxiety that comes from removing our usual framework and ‘winging’ it. And maybe, I will just be able to be fully ‘in the moment’.
Very good thoughts and reminders! I know that I am terribly anxious when I forget my watch at home…but am also irritated with myself that this is true. The Tyranny of Time. I’ve thought about trying your experiment myself, but haven’t let go enough to do so. At one point, though, I knew someone (a school teacher even) who restructured her weekends to sleep less and do more by going to bed when she got off school on Friday and then sleeping/waking as needed. I don’t know how that could work — 5 days off, 2 days on — but it did for her.