Time Tells

This century a blur? Do we see it differently from the 20C? According to Claudia Hammond many people's time lines were thrown by the millennium.

Yes, that resonates. I remember the countdown to zero hour, fireworks at the ready, half expecting civilization to collapse from Y2K, which I suppose was our technical equivalent of the end of the world.

But what I remember most was the feeling of being suspended between epochs, watching the 20C slip away like the tide going out. My parents who had recently died seemed irretrievably gone and their era, a recipe of wartime feistiness blended with “keep calm and carry on” and a dash of earlier glamour: an open Morris roadster, my father dancing The Black Bottom at Madame Tussaud's was receding and I couldn't see what lay ahead.

Most of us see time through the centuries in an approximate line with the past stretching over to the left – unless we are Mandarin or Arabic speakers, who see it reversed. I see the centuries neatly marked out as if on a measuring tape, though the texture varies. Elizabethan times are always brilliantly sunlit while the Victorian era is grimly gray. The C20 is muted until my birth and then marched forward straight in front but climbing and each decade was clearly defined ladder-like. But, now I think of it, my ladder stopped at year 2000.

So it was with a feeling of surprise, I found myself on top of the millennial wall, teetering and looking at a misty fog. Having done NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), I know that how we see time affects how we feel. For years, I was frustrated because whenever we were discussing a future project, my husband worked doggedly through the problems. Unfairly, I saw this as obstructive. Then I found out that I always picture the finished work, mentally vaulting the intermediate stages. He sees every step as a barrier which has to be removed before he can see where he is going.

I also found I feel much more cheerful, or less bogged down, if I mentally place past difficulties behind me in my mind's eye – and preferably make them smaller and dimmer than the future. So what does it mean to have a future as undecided as gauze? Is this just getting older? Is it disempowering? How could I change it and how would that make me feel? Does the murky mist ahead actually stop me planning? Does it leave me stagnant in pain?

Another perception: if you have a meeting arranged for Wednesday and get an email saying it has been brought forward two days, off the top of your head, when is it? I had to think hard as I knew it had to be Monday but every instinct shouted Friday. According to Claudia Hammond, my Friday choice means I see myself moving through time; Monday would mean that time moves past me and I stand still. Does it mean I am proactive? Apparently not, but I'm more likely to be angry and the Monday people are more likely to be mellow.

Friday people are more motivated, assertive and proactive. Yes, that gels. I don't often feel angry, but am strongly proactive and will always try to “do something” when faced with a problem. In fact, if I hadn't taken action, I would still be in a wheelchair today.

What to do? Notice the use of “do.” Make a representation, ladder like of the coming decades, with each rung clearly marked. Wonder: will replacing fog with future make me live longer? And while I am at it, tuck all my unhappy past memories well behind me in the mists of the C20. For fun, I am taking the highlights, the golden moments: our wedding, sunset in Venice, my first acceptance letter from a magazine, cameos of our children, and flying them like flags, triumphantly above the sea of trivia.

More info:

Time Warped: unlocking the mysteries of time perception by Claudia Hammond

Monday – Friday Study link


About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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