What Time is it?

By Mary Dombeck

A child wonders why summer vacation goes by so fast, and a few months later why it takes so long for Christmas to come.

Time seems to fly when lovers are together and to crawl when they are apart. A woman living alone, surrounded by precious memorabilia ponders the swift passage of years, and on the same day feels the length of the minutes as she waits for the letter carrier to bring a letter.

These vignettes represent human experiences contextualized by time. When we say "It was a very good year", "It was the worst day of my life",  "tax time", or "time's up", we are describing our life experiences through the passage of time, therefore these statements are often charged with emotions.

In Western societies time is often represented as a straight line upon which we stand with our gaze directed forward. On this point we define the tenses in terms of points. The past is behind us and the future ahead of us. 

As we look back at the past we not only remember, but often re-experience what has gone before with strong emotion. As we look to the future we might anticipate, envision and imagine what might happen with excitement or uncertainty. 

Always, when we think of these two points we are standing in the sometimes clear, sometime nebulous point we call the present. Awareness of the present point usually involves a discomforting experience of the changes brought by time. " What do I do now?" "Will I succeed this time?" "Will I be treated like I was before?"

But, we do not only experience time as a line. The seasons teach us to look at time cyclically. The seasons change. Time turns. Things begin, continue, end, and then begin again. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and memorials.  Cycles can be comforting because they
might evoke familiar memories. 

However, not all things recycle in a comforting way.  We all experience endings that are final. At those times we are hard put to imagine continuity. The only thing we know is that something has ended, or is irrevocably changed.

Sadness and grief are common experiences. It is our way of introducing the memory of a past event into our present life. The event may be painful, but as the person in the present reflects, relives and retells the sad, jarring, bewildering story of a past event  in the presence of a listening witness, healing can occur and a new feeling might emerge.

For some of us life brings experiences which lock us inflexibly into one particular time frame. Persons who experience depression often feel as though they are in a time warp. They feel caught in an unhappy past, a hopeless present, and an anxious future. Their feeling seem frozen in an immovable space. 

Healing can occur through the movement of their body (through exercise or medication), their mind (through learning something new), their emotions (through retelling their story to a
listening witness), and their spirit ( through reaching inward to the
core of their deepest values).

What time is it for you today? Is this a time of grief? Of happiness? Of transition? Of growth? Of reconciliation? The potential for healing is there at all times.