'Last time I blinked, it was August and I had a sun tan' - where does our time go?
PUBLISHED: 20:08 21 November 2018
At this stage of the year, I spend an awful lot of my time thinking about time.
It occupies my thoughts on a regular basis.
Maybe it’s the effects of the clocks turning back and the nights drawing in, or the rapid approach of Christmas (although judging by the speed with which the decorations appeared in shop windows, that’s been rapidly approaching since July).
But it feels as if we’re not just losing daylight from the days. We’re losing hours too and I just can’t seem to claw them back.
Every month, time seems to move faster. Last time I blinked, it was August and I had a suntan. Now it’s November and there’s a constant puddle of rainwater outside my front door.
I don’t know how this happened (November, that is – the puddle is due to leaky guttering). But I wish it would stop. It’s struggle enough to fit everything in as it is without some malignant time-elf stealing my minutes away.
Time is precious but pressured and these pressures are both internal and external.
I have the best of intentions to do so much but somehow, half of it doesn’t seem to happen, no matter how hard I try, and with this knowledge comes guilt and a sense of obligation.
The internal niggle digs into the conscience as soon as the prospect of relaxation rears its head.
The washing-up stares meaningfully from beside the sink, the unpainted wall bristles with bare-plastered indignation, begging for attention and the tickle of a paintbrush.
A message arrives from a neglected friend, demanding coffee. It’s hard to ignore the nagging feeling that you should be doing something productive, whatever that something may be.
The external pressures on our time are even harder to push to one side. Our lives are dictated by deadlines that are not of our choosing. It can feel as if we’re on a constant countdown to everything and it makes it impossible to enjoy the moment.
Christmas is the ultimate culprit. It gets earlier every year, ramping up expectations before we’ve even reached the first window on the advent calendar.
Headlines scream at us from every angle: Six weeks to go! Five weeks and counting! Have you bought your turkey yet? Last posting day for the Outer Hebrides! Perish the thought that poor Aunt Doris in Dominica might not receive her Christmas card.
What would she think if she knew that her folded piece of cardboard was languishing in a handbag, buried beneath a pile of crumpled to-do lists, receipts for decorations, a turkey-basting timetable (in at 9am, potatoes to follow, don’t overcook the sprouts) and good intentions?
Yet although the pressures on our time may peak at Christmas, they’re always, inescapably, everywhere. Devices that are meant to allow us more time end up consuming us.
Notifications pop up on screens, demanding our instant attention. Work emails are delivered to our fingertips in the evenings and at weekends, provoking immediate feelings of guilt if we ignore the gentle ‘ping!’ that heralds their arrival.
Yet we revel in it. There’s a type of terrible snobbery that comes with explaining how we were up until midnight working or how utterly exhausted we are because our lives are just so hectic.
It becomes a point of pride to demonstrate that we’re busier than others and have less time to relax. Comments from those around us pass unintentional judgement: ‘You went for coffee? It must be so lovely to have the time to do that.’
But surely this should be the expectation and not the exception?
So as we move into the festive season, I’m determined to cherish my time, and I’m going to make the time to cherish. I’m going to spend more time with the people that I care about and less time on the frills and fripperies that are pretty but meaningless.
I’m not going to spend an afternoon hunting down a single present or an hour deliberating between fifty shades of blue bauble.
I won’t enact my usual panicked sweep around the shops on Christmas Eve, sweating slightly from mulled wine and desperation, but I’ll buy my gifts when I can - and if they arrive in January, the people who matter won’t mind.
I’m not going to write Christmas cards (sorry, Doris) and I won’t give a figgy pudding if I don’t get any in return.
I’m going to make a conscious effort to claim back the hours in my day and keep my fingers crossed that the time-elf has gift-wrapped those missing minutes of mine and hidden them under the tree.
They’d be really useful at the moment. I mean, after all, it’s nearly Christmas. No pressure, but there’s only four weeks to go.