Why do we wish time away?


Do we learn to wish time away?  Can I stop now please?

Comorant on groyne

As you get older you get more aware and panicky about time going too quickly –at least I do.  And with the ever diminishing time I begin to regret all the time I wished away, wishing it was 5pm, Friday night, summer, the next holiday…great long swathes of time wished away.

I’m not talking about times in our lives when we need time to pass, in grief or illness or difficult circumstances, but our everyday ordinary lives.

The other day I was mulling over my panic about time and I heard a radio advert that made me think – do we learn to wish our time away? Does our culture teach us to relish some days more than others? Some seasons more than others?  The advert was, I think, for a children’s theme park. At first the announcer says – ‘So it’s back to school’, and you hear all these ‘boos’ in the back ground.  ‘But don’t worry’, he continues, ‘Its half term soon’, followed by lots of cheers in the background.  Do we learn as children to wish away our days?  Do the media play on this in their determination to make us wish in September that it was already Christmas?

I found an intriguing book by Michael Foley ‘Embracing the ordinary: Lessons from the Champions of Everyday Life.’ He thinks historically we have learnt over time to devalue ordinary life, not helped by the Christian religions that devalued the everyday by seeing it as a ‘vale of suffering to be endured in order to earn a more rewarding existence in the afterlife.’  Sunday was defined as the superior day (no wonder so many people hate it).  I love his observation that Tuesday is the forgotten day. We have given significance to every other day.  Monday is defined by the horror of going back to work, Wednesday is midweek, Thursday charged with the excitement of the weekend and Friday the start of the weekend.  Unfortunately, by marking the week as we do just lends itself to wishing away time until at least the mid-week hump of Wednesday.

So how can we stop the culture of wishing time away? Has it gone too far? Can we at least work on our own ways of stopping the wishing? I am already worried about the time I do have, I can’t waste any more by nonchalantly wishing it by.  But it’s so easy to dislike Mondays, look forward to weekends and live blindly through the middle days.  The ‘seize the day’ attitude and ‘live in the moment’ is great, but for me it just doesn’t seem realistic to feel like that all the time. There must be a middle ground of enjoying and engaging with the everyday within the remit of lifes ups and downs.

I don’t have any answers but I’ve been trying very hard to come up with some techniques to help me not wish any more time away than I absolutely have to.

I have come up with 2 things to work on.

  1. Engaging with nature.

I read a lovely book from the School of Life called ‘How to Connect with Nature’ by Tristan Gooley.  Evidence shows that those who engage with nature have a more discerning view of time. He describes being close to nature as ‘A Philosophical Pension.’  I love nature and I tend to think a day spent mostly outside is always a day well spent (hence my love of summer) so engaging more with the seasons and nature throughout the year must help.

 Recognising something good about each day.

Is it possible to pinpoint something every day that we can look forward to or be happy with?  Some people have told me they write gratitude diaries, listing a few things that they are happy for that day.  I did start the year by capturing a photograph every day of something that was beautiful or significant, I even set it up in PowerPoint and called it ‘Things that go to make up a life’ (based on the lyrics from ‘Home by the Sea’ by Genesis).   I kept this up until March and don’t really know why I stopped – perhaps I got fed up of always taking pictures of the dog or getting bogged down with the slog of life at the time – but something to try again I think, as a way of engaging with the good moments of the day.

You know time is precious, but it didn’t really hit me until recently just how precious. There isn’t an endless supply and middle age happens. So I’m going to try and engage with the rest of the journey without wishing too many stops away and hopefully the middle age panic of time might subside…… TBC….