I used to worship time...
In 2018, I've Challenged myself to do 52 things that scare me (avg 1/wk). So far, this has taken the shape of me saying "yes" to things that i'd typically find a way out of. This is #10. A story I shared this week at Gilead. Now i'm sharing it with you.
I used to worship time. Like many people, I viewed it as my most valuable, non-renewable resource. Like water, wasting it was basically a crime. I would schedule my days (whatever those are) down to the minute. My punctuality was a source of pride. Being organize was my identity. But it was also a source of strain on both my mental and physical health.
I’m sitting on the edge of a tennis court not too far from home.
It seems like the sun has just gone down.
A car pulls up, the lights are bright, but it looks familiar.
It’s His car.
He is my roommate’s boyfriend.
He’s around a lot.
What is He doing here?
What am I doing here?
We get into the car, and drive home.
Why are we driving? Home’s not far?
Where are my shoes?
When we get home, the living room is full of people. People I know, people who know me.
I feel excited but they look concerned.
I begin to feel embarrassed even though I don’t really know why.
This was the day that I lost time.
I’m going to spoil the end of this story by saying that it turns out that I had experienced a brief dissociative episode as a part of a panic attack. I have no recollection of those moments, but my roommate said she saw me leaving and asked where I was going, and why I wasn’t wearing shoes. I didn’t answer.
Earlier that evening I had been making dinner for friends, and in a matter of minutes they all canceled on me. When my carefully curated plan that I had put so much hope into was ruined, my anxious mind couldn’t take it, and just kind of left my body to do whatever it wanted. Which was apparently to sit alone at the tennis court.
I wish I could say that that evening was enough for me to realize that something needed to change, but it wasn’t. I shook it off, apologized for wasting everyone's time, said i was okay, threw away the ruined barbecue, and returned to my normal.
Now it’s August, I wake up in a panic. My watch says 7:30. Is it dark 7:30 or sunny 7:30? When i realized that it was in fact the dark 7:30 (honestly it’s August in North Carolina, how was I supposed to know) I realize that I’ve slept through an event i’d spent months planning. I'm embarrassed, but if I leave now, I can still help clean up. That's better than nothing right? I go to get up, but my body resists. I need to let someone know why I’m late. She was in charge. I’ll call Her. She’s one of my favorite people in the world. You would love Her. I’ve disappointed Her.
She answers and I begin to explain what happened. But before I can apologize, with grace and love oozing from her voice she simply says to me:
"There's no such thing as over-sleeping.”
“You slept as long as you needed to. We missed you, but I'm glad you got your rest.”
“How are you feeling?"
She wouldn’t have any apology, and wouldn’t talk about the event. She was more concerned about my health, than the unchecked items on our shared todo list.
This moment was a game changer.
This was the day that time lost me.
The days that followed were really hard. My health continued to deteriorate. I’d pushed until I couldn’t any more and this time it was my body that checked-out. I had so little energy that I couldn’t get out of bed. My mind, however. was fully engaged and very aware of how unproductive I was being.
By about September I lost my ability to tell time or know what day it was. Mostly because time didn’t really matter anymore. My schedule, my pride, was basically run through a shredder. It was cross cut, there was no way i could put it back together.
I found a lot of peace in that place. No plans, no schedule, no calendar reminders. In between long naps I re-read my favorite book. It's Middlemarch by George Eliot, I'd recommend it but it's like 8 million pages everyone hates it, it's fine.
By October I was up and going again.
By November I was totally back to normal.
But my normal was different.
Enter 2018 Bri, est. Winter 2012
I'm still an obsessively punctual, Type-A-, Detailed Note-Taker who doesn't go anywhere without my planner, a notebook, and at least 3 different colored pens.
But, I kinda don't believe in time anymore.
Not like in a post-human “time is a man made construct and I refuse to conform” way.
But in a, “we made up these rules and while i’m a rule follower at heart these rules almost killed me” way.
I don't believe that it's possible to waste time.
I just don’t think that time spent in an unexpected way is a bad thing.
The minutes I spend waiting in a coffee shop for a friend who's running behind are sacred. A gift given to me by the day to check in with myself.
I generally don’t use an alarm to wake up in the morning, and magically I rarely "over sleep".
The exception would be getting up at 3am for a 6am flight.
But when that flight lands and everyone else stands up immediately and rushes forward, I stay in my seat and enjoy these last few moments where I have no obligations, before I move on to the next thing.
I don’t love my lists or my planners any less. I still arrive to places obnoxiously early. And I still cringe when i encounter documents that request that I use "black or blue ink only".
But time is nothing more than a measure.
Its a number on the clock.
And it doesn't really matter to me, because in my experience, when you actually allow yourself to take it, time expands.