In those early days, when I couldn’t see straight from the sleeplessness and had no anchor by which to assess the passing of time other than how long my roots had gotten, time stood still. If you had held up your hands to look like a camera, thumbs and index fingers touching, and “clicked” at any given time, the picture would have looked the same: me, haggard, hunched over an insatiable baby.
Someone said to me, “The days go by slowly, but the years will fly by.” Umm, thanks for reminding me I’ll be doing this for years. This was literally me.
But, now I’m starting to see it. Forrest is almost five months old and he’s sitting up by himself and rolling over and he thinks yawning is as funny as I think this is. How did we get here so quickly? Our days don’t fly by the way they did when I was bouncing from meeting to ineffective meeting, but what happened to January? No really.
What if I don’t want the years to fly by?
What if it’s already zooming by too fast?
What’s the cause of this phenomenon and HOW DO I REVERSE IT!?
It’s raining and gross and we can’t play outside, so I decided to dig. As luck would have it, some very thoughtful thinkers have pondered this for years. More accurately, they’ve questioned why time seems to speed up with age, but I figure we can draw some comparisons.
For the sake of getting dinner on the table, I’ll summarize the most popular theories below*:
- We track time according to memorable events, and there are fewer memorable “firsts” as we age. Think dates, kisses, school milestones, etc.
- When we’re young, we’ve lived a high percentage of our total life, but as we age, that percentage decreases, so relatively speaking, time seems to have sped up.
- There may be some unnamed “internal pacemaker” that slows as we age, so in relation to consistently progressing clocks and calendars, we feel like we’re moving slower, or time is moving faster.
- As we age, we celebrate significant moments less vigorously and with less anticipation, so they can seem to fly by. This one devastates me.
- That dreaded six-letter word: stress. The more stress we feel, the less we live in the moment, so as we age those moments fly by unnoticed and all of a sudden, Holy Summer’s Over Batman! It’s true, but seriously why do we do that??
Okay, so what can we do?
Maybe the only one we can really manage is that last one. If stress has anything to do with how fast the years with my son will pass, I better try, right?
Then, here’s my challenge to myself. For every moment of stress I feel, because I will, I’m going to escape for 60 seconds to the one place I always find serenity – the outdoors. I’ll step outside, open a window and look, watch Forrest weave a leaf between his fingers, squint at the sun.
I’m at my most peaceful out there and so is Forrest. From the time we brought him home, the only sure way to quiet an outburst was to open the door and step out.
And maybe, just maybe, even though I can’t eradicate stress from our life, I can forget about it, even if for a minute. I can create a different moment in a peaceful place and I can pause to be shamelessly distracted.
Then maybe, instead of revving up with anxiety, time will take a breather. It’s worth a try.
What can you do to stress less?
*Friedman, W.J. and S.M.J. Janssen. 2010. Aging and the speed of time. Acta Psychologica 134: 130-141.
Janssen, S.M.J., M. Naka, and W.J. Friedman. 2013. Why does life appear to speed up as people get older? Time & Society 22(2): 274-290.
Wittmann, M. and S. Lehnhoff. 2005. Age effects in perception of time.Psychological Reports 97: 921-935.