Wanderings V: Time (via Wanderlust)

I turn 40 (the new 30) tomorrow. And time is on my mind. 

I was in the Delray Beach Tennis Center waiting for my partner and on the coffee table lay a magazine called “Fabulous 40ties.” Never mind the questionable spelling, the cover was an assortment of vibrant pinks and oranges and a “mature” model – most likely actually in her 30’s – smiling at me as if to say, “it’s really not so bad, it’s just different.” Or “you’ve got such a good personality.” So, I picked it up and discovered that I’m not old, I am actually distinguished (and there are a plethora of spa vacation packages available to me). 

I’ve got nothing on my grandmother though. She turned 100 last month and I gave her a call.

“Happy birthday, Gramma, how do you feel?”

“I’m so relieved,” she said.

“What do you mean?”

“Can you imagine what a loser people would think I am if I made it all the way to 99 and didn’t get to 100. Now, the pressure is completely off.”

People are obsessed with time and examine it endlessly. “There is never enough time” and “there’s always time for that” co-exist uneasily. There are countless aphorisms about time.

“If the young knew and the old could.” That’s one I always remember. One of life’s great balancing acts --- the process of accumulating knowledge while still being able to do something with it. And it now makes me wonder where the meeting point is between experience and ability. 

Michael Jordan said that the perfect age is 27 because it is when your mind meets your body. I am hoping he was just referring to basketball because my days of grabbing (ok … touching) the rim are past.

Here’s another: “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.”

This makes 40 feel pretty good because I’ve certainly made enough bad decisions to be experienced. And I can still lumber my old bones around adequately. Maybe 40 is the sweet spot – where the diverging graphs of wisdom and capability meet.

Another timeless question: Do we all perceive time (and the passing of it) differently relative to our age?

Does my 10 month-old daughter feel like an hour is an eternity because she’s only experienced relatively few? Do the hours zip by for my grandmother because proportionally each hour is so miniscule with relation to the span of her life? Or maybe neither. Perhaps time passes most quickly for us caught up deeply in the flow of life. Almost every day at Wanderlust HQ, someone says I cannot believe it’s six o’clock already. How quickly can time really pass watching “Days of Our Lives” in the old folks home? I think of the deep voice, “like the sands through an hourglass…”

In the quest to slow time down, I’ve recently tried living through the eyes of my daughters; embarking on quests with no particular purpose, building Lego castles only to tear them down, sandcastles that will inevitably wash into the sea. And it seems to work. When time is slow, it is easier to savor – like sipping a Chateau Margaux.

But the regular pace of life is more like guzzling PBR. We crave purpose and when are deeply engaged towards an end, time evaporates quickly. The flow is where we often are the most “happy,” when, ironically, we are not thinking about the causality of what will make us happy. We lose obsession with self in the flow and, with that, our sense of time.

So it’s a puzzle. We don’t want to lose time yet when we are thriving it disappears most quickly. Perhaps the greatest goal is simply not to waste it.

“Time makes friendship stronger, but love weaker.” Hmmm … true I suppose. I remember twenty-three years ago seeing my wife, Schuyler, at a poetry reading at Columbia. We were in the big living room of ADP and she was leaning over the back of a chair wearing an over-sized white cable knit sweater. She listened and I watched her – intently – from across the room. In the stillness, I could examine her subtlest movements – tucking her hair behind her ear, stretching her neck to one-side, the small expressions of emotion on her face. Every bit of her was full of grace. I did not know her well then but I was deeply in love with her. 

Twenty-three years, three children, numerous apartments, houses, and a hundred dents and bruises later, we are more friends than lovers. If time is knowledge then there is nothing we don’t know about each other. I wonder then if love is just for the new, the unknown. 

Last week, we started shooting Schuyler’s DVD at Kula. The crew bustled around and shut the big barn door on the front studio. I had to leave so I went around back to say a quick good-bye. I cracked the door. They were already shooting. The music played sparsely. The sun shone thick through the front window casting long shadows into the space and over her body. And there she was, in the middle, doing what she does better than anyone in the world. In the stillness, she moved with strength and ease – up on to her hands, her legs quietly in the air. For five minutes, I watched her, a stranger, and time unwound.

Time is an endless subject; time travel, the theory of special relativity, space time, wormholes. But I don’t have time to go into it today. It is the last day I have in my 30’s and I am going to make the most of it. For today, time is on my side.