Saturday, January 28, 2012


Time is too weird. It contracts, then it shoots forward (or back), it dawdles, stops still, and then suddenly we’re twenty years down the road. Whole decades evaporate.

How to Stop Time

Time, no matter what clocks and calendars may tell us, is not a constant. It contracts and expands, ebbs and flows, plays tricks with memory so that two years in your childhood seem much longer than the past ten years of your life. But there are some ways to “stop” time. In fact, there are situations in which it stops itself. The first one I wouldn’t recommend to anyone. The second everyone should try at some time in their lives.

Dementia has its own sense of time, and when you’re a caregiver you have no choice but to follow along with it. Being “in the moment”is a necessity. I learned, when getting my mother out the door,  not to reach back behind her and try to close the door but to keep my attention fully on her as she got down the steps and balanced herself on her walker.

Getting her dressed, getting her shoes on, were major tasks that took as long as they took; she couldn’t be rushed. I learned to start getting her ready for appointments at least two hours ahead of time. I would finally get her up from her chair and into the bedroom to get dressed. Fifteen minutes later I’d go in and she’d be on the bed sleeping. Then it was the shoes--find them, find her shoehorn, help her get them on. Then she needed to use the bathroom, which I knew could be another fifteen minutes. I learned to suppress my impatience. So we’d be late to the doctor’s office; they would understand. It brought forth reserves of patience I didn’t know I had. Now at her assisted living she is always they last person to finish eating, and I bless the staff there for letting her take the time it takes and not trying to rush her out of the dining room.

A dog also demands its own time. They know when it’s time to eat, to go out, to get treats; but time as we mark it means nothing to them. Walking a dog lets you lose your own sense of time for a little while. When we’re out my dog doesn’t care if I have to get back to work. She’ll spend half a minute sniffing at a bit of brush by the sidewalk. She moseys back and forth from left to right, examining whatever her nose leads her to. When she needs to relieve herself, she stops and does so, then goes back to whatever she was doing. And everything holds her complete interest while she’s doing it. Her attention focuses completely on that squirrel in the tree, that dog across the street, the clump of ivy that she’s going to leave her mark on. Nothing is too trivial for her curiosity. While we walk I accustom myself to her rhythm, seldom looking at my watch, and when we return home I’m sometimes surprised to see how long we’ve been out. I’m also more relaxed and better able to concentrate on my work again.

One positive situation, one negative, yet both have their lessons to teach about time and how we use it. There’s also the concept of “flow,” getting so involved in what you’re doing that you’re not aware of time passing. My favorite flow activities are crocheting, reading, writing--and of course blogging. Who else has favorite “flow” activities?


  1. One of my favorite quotes on time is from "The Bucket List":
    Carter Chambers: Forty-five years goes by pretty fast.
    Edward Cole: Like smoke through a keyhole.
    What an awesome comparison of time Elaine. Both certainly have a measure of "letting go" and of course, the freedom to enjoy the moment more when we do that. My "flow" activities run the gambit from writing and reading to ironing and funnily enough (and probably not a good thing to admit to doing "mindlessly"...driving.
    Thanks for the post and the thoughts and perspectives on time.

  2. Flow activities? hmmm...don't happen here. We have a miniature donkey, you see, and no matter WHAT we do, she ignores the time changes designated by our government. It doesn't matter that we feed at 7:30 and 4:30b year round. SHE goes by her own clock...and sure lets us know it--she winds up and brays, quietly at first and then loud enough to wake the dead (at the local cemetery 12 miles away!!!

  3. Seeing as my blog is called "Writing in Flow" you know my main one. :-)

    Time is a twisty, tricky thing. Some moments - waiting for news on the health of a loved one, waiting for a pain med to kick in, waiting for payday... stretch into eternity. Others zip by so fast it isn't funny.

    I applaud you for caring for your mother, and learning to take your cues from her, as well as learning from your furry friends.