Monday, April 23, 2007

As time goes by

I have no sense of time. I will think to myself that I need to do something by a certain date, say, pay the insurance, with the idea that it is far off. Then suddenly, without warning, I will be confronted by the date. In most cases, it is not procrastination or even absent-mindedness. It's a dysfunctional, deranged internal clock.

The same thing sometimes happens during the week, where in my mind I will think it's Tuesday, only it's really Thursday. This doesn't mean that I am irresponsible or that I miss deadlines. I just have to be more conscious of reminding myself of the date, and I have to do what I can right away, so that it doesn't become lost in the mists of time or the time warp created by my mind.

I experience the same confusion about life. I can't conceive of how nearly 24 years have passed since college graduation. I have few, if any, personal milestones by which to mark them—no wedding, no births, no first day of school, no first Scout badge, no graduations to the next school level. I have no great vacations to remember, no "year I went to London," "year I went to the Amazon," "year I went to Romania," "year I went to Egypt," and so forth.

My last travel of note was 10 years ago in April, a trip to San Francisco that was half business, half vacation. Since then, I've visited family members or attended the Ann Arbor Art Fair. I no longer have much opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., where one day my aunt and I got lost in Rock Creek Park. On another day, we took a quick trip to Monticello, Michie Tavern, and Ash Lawn, with a stop at Luray Caverns. While we were driving south on Skyline Drive, I saw a bobcat cross the road in front of us, going from one side of a little bridge to the other, and watched its little tail bob as it zigzagged up the hillside. This fleeting sight is one of my fondest memories. And it happened, I think, in 1993 or so. That bobcat has long since passed on, yet it seems it was only a few years ago since it startled me with its unexpectedness.

For awhile, I seemed to be in or attending a wedding every other week, which was stressful. At the time, I thought I wanted them all to be over as soon as possible so my life could return to normalcy. Now, the products of some of those unions are entering college. Didn’t I just go to the one girl’s first birthday party? Or was that really in 1990?

I've stopped watching television and listening to popular music stations, so I can't mark the years by the popular TV shows and stars or by the hit songs and performers. Everything, especially in the last 10 years, post-depression, post-stressful consulting job, has become a blur of days that are very much the same as another.

My emotions have changed, too. When I was younger, under 35, I enjoyed every change in routine, even small ones like a day trip or regular ones like visits to family. Anything that I had never done before, even something simple like a visit to Volo Bog or a Mennonite store, was the height of excitement that made boredom, loneliness, and daily frustrations at work and home tolerable.

Once in a while I think I should do or plan something to break out of this gangrenous stagnation and apathy, but there are obstacles. Sometimes they are purely practical, for example, no money or time. Sometimes they stem from my dislike (not fear) of flying. Sometimes they have other psychological foundations, like an overwhelming sense of anhedonia and that I don't deserve to do positive or enriching things for myself. I don't consciously think that, but I can't attribute my inertia and apathy to anything else, only to vague fears of something in the future.

Still, a large part of the problem is my distorted sense of time—my idea that "someday" I will do the work I want to do, take the type of vacations I think I would enjoy, meet and spend time with people who have come to mean something to me, and treat myself to what I deserve as much as anyone.

What does "someday" mean? My life is half over, my health is starting its middle-aged decline, and at best I may have 20–25 good years left. My aunt, who lived a very full life, died at age 71 after a short bout with pancreatic cancer. I may have 27 years left, or I may have one day—who is to say?

Why do I have such difficulty living for today? Why do I have such difficulty living? Why do I have such difficulty answering those questions? And why must I ask them at all?

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