It’s such a fascinating thing. When I was young, it seemed time stretched forever. I’d hear adults speak of how time passed quickly and wonder what they meant. As I’ve grown older, rather than all passing quickly instead I find a strange elasticity to time. Moments pass in a blink of an eye, and I turn around to realize something that felt merely yesterday, in truth transpired long ago; and then there are those odd periods when that band of passage pulls long and feels forever.
When I first began my path to what I call my new life, which began in earnest in late 2010 and catapulted forward through my trip to Peru (2011 to 2012) and accelerated in the years since, it seemed an interminably long road ahead. Glancing back, those days feel an eternity ago. In moments I scarcely recognize the person who I was at that time. Then there are the flashes today when the emotions and experiences so deeply ingrained from life experience bubble to the surface. Today those feelings and emotions feel foreign, strange and almost immediately give rise to a sense of “What the hell was THAT?!”
Where it sits most awkwardly is that spot where those old behaviors and thoughts ooze across interactions with others. As someone who moved to a new town and began a new life just a tick over two years ago, those who know me now only really know the “new” me, a version of myself more akin to the true self that had been buried under archeological layers of life experience and trauma. So when some of these things arise the incongruity sits in stark relief to what appears.
Personal growth is definitely a journey meritorious of Salvador Dali … Melting, stretching, dripping off edges and yet still within a framework of the reality that exists.
When I first got sober, I remember a dear friend (the person I call my “Guardian Angel” as she was the one who guided me gently towards the edge of my path) suggesting that in order to truly evaluate myself, I should perhaps just try taking a year to see how things went.
“A year?” I snorted. “Easy. A year is no time at all.”
For the record, when embarking on a major archeological dig of personal growth, a year is an eternity. In fact, merely 24 hours takes on exponential life. The end of each moment a taffy pull into the next, elongated, nearly translucent connective tissue attaching experiences as they flow through the days. Suddenly it’s 4.6 years later and the experiences of those early days feel a lifetime ago.
That the experience of sobriety placed a spotlight on the precious and valuable nature of time – the monumental growth and change possible in relatively brief periods of time when focused – has had an interesting effect throughout my life.
I’ve come to realize that it is perhaps because I feel as though my life, at least this new phase of it, began so recently that there is some sort of pressure on time … I don’t want to miss a moment. I want to seize every second, saturate myself in the precious experiences so as not to miss a single thing. It used to be that I lived life with a different kind of pressure, a pressure dating back to childhood when I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to have much time and so there was a rush. In my new life that hurry became more about wanting to insure I make up for lost time.
Over the last several weeks I’ve been spending quite a few brain cycles on this perspective and realized that one should no more hurry to grab life than they should hurry to consume a magnificent meal. In rushing, you miss the glorious balance of flavors and can perhaps consume too much, leaving you feeling uncomfortable and stretched too far. The good news is that if you push back from the table just a bit, and give yourself time to digest, you once again can find the place of comfort. Perhaps you opt to wait to consume more and in moving forward again can do so thoughtfully and allowing yourself (and others) the space to embrace all the flavors. Perhaps you opt to step away from the table and go do other things for a bit, providing time to digest so as to return when you are ready.
The things in life most worth experiencing are worth savoring – like that magnificent meal, taking time, delicately consuming each bite, allowing the full absorption of all senses. Rushing won’t allow you to enjoy something more, and might very well require your pushing back from the table. I used to think that pushing back from the table always meant walking away. It doesn’t. It merely means allowing for space and knowing that appetite does return, and when you move forward again you can do so with thoughtful direction so as to luxuriate in the meal once again.