I think I can hear milkfloats

How is it that when I have nothing to get up for I am in bed by half eleven, and when I have to be up at the crack of dawn, I seem to think that 3am is a good idea? Or when I have been up chatting with a friend all night and suddenly we are both aware that we can hear the milk floats driving past, without ever being aware of how quickly the time has passed. Relationships with time are peculiar, exciting days go fast, boring days don’t. I have friends who are up at daybreak and others that rise in the afternoon, some of whom survive on four hours sleep a night. I think having this little sleep would hurt. We think of time as steadfast, regular and linear, but in actual terms, it is generally anything but.

Sometimes I seem to work best with a deadline. I love the fact that I write every day, it provides a structure within my day. We all have things that are regularly timed. Times when we eat various meals in a day, times when we do specific things within a week, a month, a year. We all find our own rhythms and most people with instinctively know whether they are a ‘day’ or a ‘night’ person and we fill our schedules accordingly.

The idea of circadian rhythms is one that appeals. Sleeping when it is dark, waking when the sun comes up seems like a much easier way to operate, more in tune with what our bodies need. So often in my life, I can see really simple solutions to challenges that I face, but for some reason, making things more complicated seems to be much easier.

I think having insomnia really challenged my relationship with time. Before insomnia, I think I was fairly fixed on when I thought things should happen. The hours between one and six were definitely those meant for sleeping. But as I couldn’t do what I expected to do at the time I expected to do it, I felt cross, really frustrated with myself. And then I started to change. I accepted that I would quite possibly be awake at some point and started to use the time more productively. Washing up at 3am with a cup of tea and the prospect of an hour or so of inane fb gaming became something to look forward to! And then I stopped viewing insomnia as something bad, and things became easier. My sleep didn’t get any easier through this acceptance, but I stopped letting it control my sense of wellbeing. This felt important. I stopped resenting the time spent awake in the night.

I am still not very good at organising a regular schedule in my life, but I am great at appreciating what I am doing at the time that I have chosen to do it. Perceptions of time continually alter, but if I can let go of my fixed ideas of what it should be, I can maybe enjoy it more.

Map Point. Where in my life are fixed points preventing my happiness?

 

 

Timetables

Time, it trips and slips and moves at variable paces. Some days it moves in aeons and other times in a blink three hours have gone by and suddenly am facing the prospect of three and a half hours sleep before the alarm goes off.

I remember reading about how each village used to have its own time. Midday in each place would arrive just as the sun hit its apex, which essentially meant that every place was a few minutes different. I like this idea, it feels very autonomous. But then, in this glorious age of technology, trains arrived and in order to generate accurate timetables, time had to standardise. Although based on a recent train journey that took an hour and a half longer than expected, maybe this was optimism.

When I go out and park my car somewhere, in the variety of parking that both costs money and also requires me to preplan my existence (and stipulate precisely how long I would like to park for), I have continual clock watching stress. Never am I so aware of precisely how long a minute is. And it is almost always shorter than I have previously imagined.

Other times I have planned evenings out with friends. I have overnight sittage for my daughter arranged, I can stay out as late as I desire, and as often as not, am home tucked up in bed with a mug of tea by eleven thirty. And other times, when I know I have mass activity the following day, I am matching socks at quarter to one in the morning. Maybe in a place of high energy, I simply need less sleep, enabling me to get more done. And maybe when I know I have all the time in the world, I see that time as more precious than usual.

There are friendships that I have that are incredibly dear to me. People I love, yet six months, or even a year can go by, and suddenly it occurs to me that I haven’t seen them. Luckily for me, a lot of my friends work on the same premise, and I am incredibly lucky to have these people in my life!

I think that I use my time well, I get to places when I need to be somewhere, I try and schedule as much as I can. For me, it’s more about remembering that my time is valuable and choosing to spend it doing what I love is my utmost priority.

Map Point. What do I want to achieve tomorrow?

 

 

No more television

Growing up, screen time was important to me. I watched a lot of television; soaps, dramas, cartoons, and it was marvellous. I also had a distinct love of cinema from an early age, keeping all my movie tickets (I still do this now). I loved screen time. Then came the ZX Spectrum and Nintendo consoles, my life as a gamer manifested! This didn’t really change too much through my twenties, and with the arrival of somewhat cheaper (not after 6pm) internet, my screen time then included the internet too.

Then in my early thirties, I lived in a house that did not have good television signal, despite the boosters that were purchased and the aerial wiggling that was carried out. So the decision was made to abscond from the picture box. There was also no internet in this house either, which made screen time incredibly limited to the occasional film, or PC based game. This was a big change, but it felt to be an important one. I read more. I socialised more. I found myself spending more time cooking, playing board games, more time for lots of things that had previously not taken any precedence.

So for the last eight years of my life, I have existed without watching television. I spend a lot of time on the internet now so my guess would be that whatever time you have, you will invariably fill with something. But it’s people’s reactions to me not watching television that surprised me, I am generally asked what I do with all the free time that I must have. And then I started to wonder that if we perceive time as ‘free’ then what are our genuine thoughts on sitting in front of a screen?

When I first stopped watching TV, there was more time for other things, but as with anything, it came with its drawbacks. Gradually my evenings became less about the extra fun stuff and more about finishing domestic tasks. Many of my friends who watch TV seem to have a natural cut off point from being domestic – as soon as their first evening program starts. They sit down, with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and their evening begins. The TV provides the permission to stop.  I can easily still be tending to washing or clearing the kitchen late into the evening; I don’t have that cut-off.

This has been a recent observation and something that I am going to change. I want more of the fun stuff.

Map Point. Where am I losing time?

Right here, right now

This evening it occurred to me that I was enjoying doing the washing up. Not enough enjoyment to warrant me doing everyone else’s washing up, but for my own, there was a contentment. I am quite sure that I have felt this before, but I have never particularly contemplated it.

The washing up was as plentiful and partially grim as it usually is. The evening sunset wasn’t blissfully streaming through my kitchen window. I had just eaten a delightfully ripe avocado bagel, but this is a usual occurrence (all food should be delighting!). Essentially, my environment was exactly the same as it usually was, so this required further ponder. Was this a change in myself, that I am learning to love mundane tasks as much as those I am deeply passionate about? Quite possibly yes, but then I considered another factor. Timing.

When I run furthest and with the most energy, it is first thing in the morning, usually before I eat breakfast. I love starting my day being outside, experiencing whatever the weather throws at me (the wind is pretty much the only weather that renders me indoors, staring forlornly at my running shoes). If I am going to do any serious cooking for the day after lunch is my preferred time, when I am full from lunch and can consider possibility without hunger becoming a motivation. Changing beds happens with speed and simplicity when carried out in the evening, and I find that I have the best focus for meditation at night. It isn’t that I can’t do these things at other times, I just very much prefer not to.

I remember reading about how camping regulated your circadian rhythms, natural light enabling better sleep. And in the mornings, you have lots of high energy tasks to do. In my case, these seem to involve crawling around on the floor looking for pots to eat out of, and then things to put in said pots, and rearranging the outside furniture for the day. Then it is more relaxed until after lunch when preparation for the evening meal begins. Then after tea, it is ablution and bed shaking (grass breeds in sleeping bags. This I know to be a truth), and then contemplation of the fire, obligatory marshmallows and sleep.

So back to the washing up. Maybe for me, evenings are my most natural time of day to clear up, without it feeling like a resentment. I like the idea of encompassing happiness into the ordinary.

Map Point. What time of the day am I most productive?