Addicted to Time

Driving to work, trapped again in rush hour traffic, my mind wanders, “Where is everyone going and why are they in such a hurry?” I watch the woman in the car next to me staring upward into the sun-visor mirror glossing her lips, while the gentleman behind gestures wildly talking into his cell phone. Forget about mindfulness or peaceful contemplation:  from the moment the alarm clock jolts us awake, we are conditioned to keep to a schedule–to fill every moment–down to the millisecond.

As an experiment, on your next drive to the office, try to ignore the clocks around you. Don’t look at your phone. Tape over the clock in the dash-board, and don’t look inside the coffee drive-thru window. Shield your eyes on every corner where there’s a bank. Turn off the radio to avoid the incessant weather or sports updates that make you realize you’re running late. Unfortunately no matter how hard you try to block out the information, like Pavlov’s drooling dog, you’ve been trained to adhere to schedule.

Your children add more constraints upon your time. For many working women, pregnancies are planned. Cesarean sections are scheduled to minimize the interference with their busy lives. Babies get hungry–don’t forget the 2 AM feeding–hungry or not. Nursery school beckons, followed by art and violin lessons. Then there’s 5 AM hockey practices or ballet. Is it any wonder why our children are hyperactive? Children need to play, not have scheduled play-dates. Exercise was meant to keep the body healthy, not something else we push ourselves through. Isn’t a work-out just work outside of work?

There never seems to be enough time. We spin before work, glance down at our phone every few minutes throughout the day to get messages and stay on-time so we can meet that important client for dinner then run to the arena for the basketball game after. Take a breath. No longer do we call our non-working hours, time-off or leisure time. When was the last time you read a book (not listen to one during your commute) or watch a flock of birds? Or just did nothing but enjoyed the day with family and friends or even more rare–by yourself?

Many of today’s illnesses are a direct result of our neurotic need to control time. Type A personalities, those aggressive over-achievers who drop dead of heart attacks at 50 are quintessential time addicts. Stress has been implicated in diseases as diverse as ulcerative colitis, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis and high blood pressure. In reality most diseases have a stress component. Perhaps time itself is the greatest stressor of all.

While time cannot be stopped, our adherence to schedules can be.

Before smart phones and digital clocks when asked the time you would glance at your wrist and say, “almost 10.”

Would time stop if we lost the ability to measure it?

Somehow I think life would go on.