I know September is on its way, and with it a sense of time passing. As the sun sinks earlier and the vines mottle around the edges, this slanting, cooling light can easily spark a sense of melancholy. Summer will be over and done. Where did the time go?
And yet this summer I have not really felt this way. I was remembering back to a few things that happened in April, and I realized that was only four months ago. It felt like years. Even early summer events, such as singing in the Mozart Requiem with my old choir in NYC, and running a half-marathon, feel like they happened in the distant past. Time seems to have slowed and stretched.
I wish I could say this is all a good thing. However, when you slow time, you slow the good and bad. Some of this slowing is the tedium of the toddler days, which includes being up before dawn. I am sleeping less than I wish to sleep. The toddler and I start watching taped prime time Olympic coverage around 5:30 a.m. most mornings. As I have written, waking up early is a great way to get a lot done. In my case, what I’m getting done is watching 7.5 hours of TV so far this week, Monday-Friday AM, which is a fair proportion of the 57 hours I watched all last year.
However, some of the slowing has been more stretching. This is the more desirable version. As I have been pondering what of this sense can be replicated, I have come up with a few things.
Plan frequent adventures. Days blend in to each other when they all look the same. Summer is a good time for vacations, of course, but also for day trips and even local excursions. I have been traveling less for work in summer (few people hold conventions in July/August), so I have done 3 “mommy days” with the big kids to Hershey and Washington DC, I went to Sesame Place with them this week, and we took a beach trip on another no-camp day. Then there were the long weekends: to Long Island around July 4, and to Maine with my husband in mid-July. Adventures keep life from looking routine, and when the brain lays down more memory tracks, time expands. I am pondering what of this I can continue into fall. The kids will be in school, but work travel should present some opportunity for personal adventures. After I gave a talk in Alexandria, VA, yesterday, I stopped by the Torpedo Factory to see the workspace of the artist who did the strawberry series I have on my wall. She was in her studio and we chatted for a bit. Very fun!
Embrace the Sunday night principle. If you believe some of the research, anticipation accounts for the lion’s share of human happiness. Many people get the Sunday night blues around Sunday afternoon as they start thinking about Monday, but this mentality steals much potential joy. With summer in particular, we are pushing right up to the end. I’ve planned stuff through to Labor Day, and have events on the calendar for August that include a Phillies game with the big kids, and a beer garden date night. By planning these long in advance, I stretch out the sense that fun is in the future.
Relax. I am trying to remind myself that if I do not get to some things that I might have done, it will be OK. Much time pressure comes from expectations. Earth will not crash into the sun because of anything I do or don’t do.
Be in the moment. I am not a person who is naturally into the whole mindfulness-and-breath thing. I view running as my meditation time. However, I have started stopping myself frequently during times that I might wish to speed up, in order to note that “I am not unhappy now.” I know that sounds like a silly thing to think, but watching a gorgeous sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean is awe-inspiring, even if I wish I had not been up at 4:40 a.m. with the toddler while on vacation. If I am sitting with a beer post-work and the kids are playing peacefully, I can note that all is well, even if I know someone will hit someone else over the head with a Melissa & Doug wooden toy frying pan within the next 5 minutes.
Record it. I have kept tracking my time after my year-long experiment, and I do think the act of recording the hours reminds me of how many there are. When I open a blank spreadsheet on Monday morning, I see just that: that it is blank. Time does pass, but there on my screen it looks open and vast. I have all the time in the world, or at least as much as anyone else.
In other news: I enjoyed this story from Business Insider on top productivity tips from busy entrepreneurs.