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I heard on a podcast called “On Being” this morning, while I was getting dressed, a poet talk about how stress is a product of a bad relationship with time.
That when we feel like we don’t have enough of it, or we are angry with it, or just not at peace with the passage of time, that we feel immense stress.
I thought about it for a while, and felt like there’s a truth to this. Lately, I’ve been giving myself time to be idle and I’ve noticed how my sleep has improved, and my general pace is slower and more present. Even though there are moments where I fidget and feel like I miss the excitement of going out and being a little wild, I can still see how I remind myself that this is good for me. I need to slow down and reset.
I kept listening to that podcast, and the more I let my mind sit on that thought—that I have a relationship with time that could potentially not be serving my best interests—the more I wanted to sit down and journal about it. I wanted to see if anything would come up for me that could alter my perspective.
So, I came up with these prompts:
How do I define time?
Am I present in the now, or living in the past, or future?
Do I have a good relationship with the past, present, and future?
What do I hate most about time?
What do I love most about time?
Can I redefine my relationship with time or is it healthy as it is?
What can I do better that can bring me into daily harmony with time?
The answers were overwhelming—and healing. I didn’t realise how much I have a fear of getting older and of time passing by, till I reflected on this. I didn’t accept the passage of time with my heart, only with my mind.
When I found myself trying to define time (something inherently hard to capture because the very moment we experience now leaves us as it arrives), I leaned on poetic explanations:
Time is a tunnel—and we are passing through. Intertwined with other tunnels and other people passing through. Time is also a desert, we wander with the open skies above us and shifting sands beneath us experiencing all the infinite possibilities of life.
Time is experienced now, reflected on in retrospect, and hopeful for in futurespect. And I’m always here, now.
As I continued to write and respond to the prompts, I started to see how my wound is mostly in my present, rather than my past or future. And I could see that future anxiety stemmed from present stress.
I realised I hate how time is compounding. I hate that it’s slipping by and there’s no way to physically hold it and twist it’s arm and just tell it to stop. I hate the stress it puts on me and my body, telling me I need to have kids soon and be with a partner soon before it’s too late. I hate the way Sunday is short and Monday is long.
But in the same breath, I love how illusive and mysterious time is. I love how it likes to surprise me, and how time has a way of healing wounds that our rational minds might find difficult to do on their own. I love how even when time is a ticking clock, it often propels me into action and makes me see my own strength. And if I feel unable to take action, it teaches me to surrender to divine will.
I love how time is a constant reminder than motion is everywhere; time doesn’t stop for anyone. It’s fiercely loyal to its own trajectory. I love how time is a personal experience, and a collective experience that we all share no matter our opinions or beliefs in life. I love that time holds so much grace for us. I love how time is forgiving.
And I wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
I think it’s interesting to ponder on a concept that is somewhat existential but is also part of the fabric we live in. Time is our reality—and a poorly constructed notion of time, or an unhealthy relationship with it, can lead to more resistance in our day-to-day. This exercise can help us come to terms with time.