Time’s Illusion

Time is supposed to be an illusion created by our brains to organize events into past, present, and future. (I’m sure there are other, more scientific reasons for the illusion, but as a practical application, in day-to-day living, that’s what it seems like.)

Everything that exists or has ever existed is supposed to exist in the eternal right now. We project onto that reality our own perspective. Time does not flow, nor do we flow through time, but whatever the truth, time’s illusion seems to be getting stronger. I can’t tell if I am standing still and time is slipping away beneath my feet or if I am floating on the river, but either way, whatever this thing we call “time” really is, it seems to be slipping away from me.

I just started a new job, and already, I am into my third week, (I’ve already had my first paycheck, and boy, did that feel good!) All that time . . . gone. And so fast! When I got the woman’s house yesterday, she asked what I’d done on my weekend, and for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anything specific. She thought I didn’t want to tell her, but to be honest, I couldn’t remember doing enough things to have filled in all those hours. I watered my plants, took a walk (three miles!), read copiously, probably ate too much, probably didn’t drink enough, and the time slipped by.

Even today, though I had plenty of time to do whatever I wanted, here it is, almost time to go to work, and I’m scrambling to finish this blog. Where did the time go? I took a walk — only two miles, today. Then I relaxed with a cup of tea. Afterward, I fixed salads for the next few days, cleaned the kitchen, talked to my sister for a few minutes on the phone, ate lunch (one of those salads) and then, here I am — sitting at the computer wondering where all the morning hours had gone.

Part of the feeling of time slipping away (or me slipping past time) comes from the practicing the art of living in the moment — trying not remember too much of the past, trying not to project myself into the future (the job helps with that — with enough money to live on for now, I don’t have to worry as much about the future). It’s a great way to live, most of the time, anyway. (See? Can’t get away from time, even in such a careless usage!) The exception comes when I try to figure out what I did while time slipped through my fingers.

A lot of things have become habit — my one-card tarot study each morning, blogging, reading whenever I have a free moment, doing household chores — so none of those things stand out when someone asks what I did.

I suppose I could have told the woman I sailed away on a sea of time, or that I succumbed to time’s illusion, but my sense of philosophical whimsy doesn’t always translate to casual conversations, especially with those who are hard of hearing.

In a novel I read the other day, one of the characters expounded on the importance of war and trauma and atrocities because those are the things that make us feel alive, that create instances of courage and sacrifice, greatness and nobility. According to that character, there’s no purpose to a life of peace and calm because we never learn what we are made of.

I don’t know — a peaceful life cocooned in time’s illusion seems plenty acceptable to me. Do I need to be great or noble or self-sacrificing? Admittedly, dealing with such an adrenaline-laden life would slow down the flow of time, but I’m old enough now that a gentle sail on the sea of time is eventful enough. So what if I can’t immediately recall one specific day out of several similar days? It all comes down to the same thing anyway — if there is no past, did those things even exist? (Now I’m being silly. Of course they did, but I still wonder what happens to those things we did that we forgot.)

I’ve floated into a side stream here and gotten way off the track, which is about how time is slipping away from me. Time might be an artificial construct, but that illusion of the flow of time is getting stronger all the time.

And yep, just sitting, time managed to slip away from me again.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Every Moment is a Once in a Lifetime Event

When I was at the library a little while ago, stocking up on my reading for the next couple of days, the librarian asked me how I was doing. I told her I was doing great, and it was the truth.

At that moment, I did feel great. And why not? I was at a library, warm and comfortable, rosy from my walk, talking to a very nice woman, filling my carryall with books I want to read. Nothing else existed. Not any pain bleeding over from the past, no thinking or worrying about the future (except for thoughts of cozying up to read later in the day).

I had that same feeling last evening. I was reading a book about a sixty-something cop who was in his final year of work, and no matter what happened, he felt that each moment was golden knowing that the work he loved was coming to an end. I stopped to think about the golden moment I was living through and realized again, as I have done so many times before, that no matter what, each moment of our lives are golden.

Some of those moments are breathtaking, such as watching the setting sun paint the skies gold with a never-again to be seen piece of art.

Some of those moments seem dimmed by the pain of loss or the ache of age, but still, they are special in their own way — once in a lifetime events that will never be repeated in exactly the same way.

Admittedly, when things are difficult or we are in the middle of the seemingly unending angst of grief, it’s almost impossible to see the gold in the moment, but those traumas teach us to live in the moment and not look too far ahead. No matter how agonizing, you can live through the moment.

So later, much later, when joy or peace or wonder unexpected steals over you, you can take the discipline you learned from grief and live in the moment. Experience it as if it were a once in a lifetime event.

Because it is.

Wishing you the joy of your moments.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

The Moment the Future Begins

In a little over two months, it will be eight years since Jeff died. It seems unfathomable to me that he’s gone. Seems unfathomable that it’s been so long. Seems unfathomable that it’s been such a short time.

Sometimes my shared life feels like it happened to someone else, and in many respects, it did happen to someone else. I’m not that same person. I don’t know what happened to her, don’t know exactly what (or who) has replaced her.

At other times, although I am no longer caught up in the breath-stealing agony of new loss, I feel as if my life stopped when grief began, and in a way, that is also true. I cannot live in the past. Although I am way too introspective for my own good, I never, ever, think about what my life would be like if he hadn’t gotten sick. If he hadn’t died. There is too much pain in that thought, too much negation of the reality of our lives.

At the same time, I cannot live in the future. We can never know what the future holds, can’t guess the traumas, such as my horrendous fall, can’t even guess what good might happen.

So, like this heron sculpture I photographed in the botanical gardens in Wichita, Kansas, I am forever poised in the moment with the past gone and the future not begun.

It seems odd to feel in any way that my life stopped when Jeff died since I truly have had an incredible number of experiences and adventures in the past years, experiences I would not have had if Jeff were still alive. I sometimes wonder what he would think of what I have done, what I have yet to become.

But that thought brings pain, too.

I used to think living in the moment was living on a knife’s edge, but now I prefer to think of it as living in the very instant before I take flight. It seems a bit more hopeful, as if I will eventually soar, but for now, all I have is that frozen flight.

I was going to add that I wish I knew that my life would work out (rather than the dread I have of being lonely and broke and old) but I really don’t want to know. If wonders are in store, then they will be a joyful surprise. And if not? Well, I’ll deal with that dreaded future when it happens.

So here I am — as we all are — poised forever at the very moment the future begins.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels UnfinishedMadame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light BringerMore Deaths Than OneA Spark of Heavenly Fireand Daughter Am IBertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

My Writer’s Retreat

I’ve been wondering if I should do some sort of writer’s retreat to get me back into writing fiction, and as it turns out, all unknowingly, I created my own retreat. Last weekend, beginning Thursday afternoon when my last dance class was over until Monday when the first class of the week began, I did nothing but indulge myself. I started the days with my old workout, the stretching routine and weight training that fell by the wayside when I started taking dance classes. And I worked on my book. Not the whole weekend, of course, because I am not one of those who can sit down and write for the entire day — I need to do a lot of thinking about where to go next — but I did a couple of sessions each day. Even better, I ate only the food I had in the house — good food, no junk. — so I never had to leave my retreat. Best of all, my next room housemate was gone, so I had nothing but quiet (and a bathroom to myself) the entire time. Ah, joy!

A couple of weeks ago, I had experienced a day where I felt blessed, and that feeling has been with me all this time. I have been magnifying the mood by paying attention to the moment because the power of our lives is in the moment. And I’ve been cultivating gratitude, though that particular discipline is not hard to do — tballoon2here is so much in my life to be grateful for in any given moment.

During these blessed weeks, my internal conflict about where to go and what to do has faded because I have made commitments to continue with dance classes at least until the end of the year, to build up my strength, to refrain from worrying. (I worry more than I should about what is to become of me and how I will support myself in my soon-to-be old age.) And so I let the air out of all my conflicts (which is why I haven’t had much to blog about).

I joined an online writing group where the only requirement is to write 250 words a day. It’s a month-long commitment, but every month, I can recommit, which is what I plan to do at least until the end of the year. Even a writer who plods as slowly as I do can manage 250 words in a couple of hours. I usually spend the first hour reading the previous chapter to get in the spirit, to take into consideration past story actions, and to plan the next move. And I still have time to grab 250 words from the vortex of my mind, and sometimes a lot more!

I’ve never been one to write by word counts, so the count in itself is unimportant, but the commitment is. (Oh, who am I kidding. Having written 5,000 words in a week feels great!)

This weekend’s writing retreat will be different than last week’s because I will be performing with my class at a luau on Saturday, but that is still in the realm of creativity.

Dancing, writing, living. Ah, life is good in the moment.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)