The Circle Game

I’ve been so tired ever since we returned home from our holiday in America. While we were away, anticipation and adrenaline kept my batteries fully charged but once I got home, the wheels simply fell off. It’s the kind of tiredness that makes my joints ache and I feel like I’m wading through mud; even thinking is an effort. I thoroughly enjoyed a visit by my friend Judy last week and a fun day spent with our mutual friend Chris, whom we haven’t seen for many, many years. But other than that, I have pretty much kept to myself since I’ve been back, doing very little other than sleep.

It’s a combination of things. 6 weeks away from home and living out of a suitcase eventually takes its toll. Not that we were uncomfortable, far from it, and our hosts were more than generous but it just wasn’t our home. Long-distance travel is also quite draining; the time differences (jet lag is generally worse when you lose time traveling west to east), interrupted sleep and bad airline food all conspire to de-energise one. Then there’s the anticlimax of returning to the mundane after the excitement of a truly wonderful holiday, which I think is the most debilitating of all.

4½ years ago, which is not a long time in the grand scheme of things, I travelled around China and Thailand with the kids (Kiera, James and Alex, none of whom are kids anymore I know but that’s how I think of them). It was a fast-paced trip and, at times, physically uncomfortable and challenging. I managed, most of the time, to keep up with the kids and I felt adventurous; totally out of my comfort zone and exhilarated by it.

This trip could not have been more different. We stayed in absolute luxury in both DC and Miami and took things at our own pace. We were more active than at home but not really challenged. In fact, we were spoilt rotten by Kiera and James and our entire American family. And yet, I’m exhausted after this trip. It makes me wonder whether I would be capable of repeating the China / Thailand holiday, I’m not sure I would cope. When I look at the pictures taken on that trip I look SO much younger than I do now – how is that possible? And if I’ve aged so much, how did it happen so bloody quickly? It’s as if everything starts to speed up as we age, even time itself.

Don’t you get a sense that time seems to go faster as one gets older? I’ve been wondering about this because I’ve always believed that time flies when you are having fun. But as we age, time seems to fly whether we are having fun or not! I like this explanation:

The amount of time passed relative to one’s age varies. 
For a 5-year-old, one year is 20% of their entire life. For a 50-year-old, however, one year is only 2% of their life. This “ratio theory,” proposed by Janet in 1877, suggests that we are constantly comparing time intervals with the total amount of time we’ve already lived.

scientific american.com

(Click on this this very cool interactive graphic which illustrates this argument.)

I remember the disturbing realisation some time ago that I had already lived for more than half of my life. I sometimes calculate how long I think I’ve got left (not that any of us really know) and, I kid you not, it’s fucking scary! That’s when you know that there really is no going back. Not that we should want to go back but it’s a shock all the same. Then I ask myself what I want to do with the rest of my life and it drives me crazy that I just don’t know.

As time speeds up, perhaps I’ve been asking the wrong question. Instead of trying to fathom out what to do with the time I’ve got left (despite not ever being able to know how much of it I actually have) perhaps I should simply be asking what I want to do today.

The patterns of our lives reveal us. Our habits measure us. Our battles with our habits speak of dreams yet to become real.

Mary Oliver Long Life: Essays and Other Writings

As clichéd as it is, we have to try and live in the moment as much as possible, pay attention and take pleasure in simple things. And keep on pushing ourselves. As my dad always used to say “What’s the worst that can happen?” If we get tired, we can always sleep.

A most enjoyable day spent with old friends, Chris and Judy. Chris is a great storyteller and kept us thoroughly entertained.

A most enjoyable day spent with old friends, Chris and Judy. Chris is a great raconteur and kept us thoroughly entertained with his anecdotes.

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2 Responses to The Circle Game

  1. Chris Ammann says:

    Cathy, I read your post when I was in SA and promised myself I would respond when I got home and had some bandwidth and spare time. The visit to you and Peter (with surprise guest Judy) remains one of the highlights of my visit and though I’ve never considered my self a ‘raconteur’, I’ll take what I can get!

    The time illusion has long fascinated me too. My take on this is that it is to do with the rate of change in one’s life. When you are young, so much changes so fast and as a result time is stretched whereas when you get older, the milestones are set further apart and with fewer changes resulting in an apparent speeding up of time. Pam and I have noticed that if we change things around on the weekend and do things differently, particularly if we do something on Friday night rather than collapse in front of the TV, the weekend seems richer and longer.

    Perhaps the answer is that we should challenge the routines (read ‘ruts’) we fall into and try to shake things up a bit – whenever we can be bothered to of course …

    • Cathy says:

      Chris, we thoroughly enjoyed your visit too. It was such a fun day from beginning to end. I know we don’t need an excuse to drink champagne but being able to start quaffing it at midday in the middle of the week makes it all the more delectable. As far as time goes: I was wondering whether it may also have something to do with the fact that as we get older, we take so much longer to get things done.

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