Sometimes I go to bed on a Monday night and wake up on Friday morning. Okay, not literally but it often feels that way.
In addition, I am now so terrible at recalling how long ago something happened that I have taken to warning people - “well, when I say a year ago, it is just as likely to have been two or three years ago, or the reverse, six months ago.”
Year-end holidays are often the touchstone for old people with time shift problems. It's common for us to say, in March for example, “Christmas will be here before we know it.” And it usually is.
The increasing speed of time has come up frequently on this blog - how it is that the older we get, the faster time passes. For those posts, I looked into the issue and there are dozens of explanations but all are guesses. Nobody really knows.
Now, I have a new-ish guess.
As the years have passed in my retirement, my energy has waned - physical AND psychic - so I ration my time. One “event” a day is pretty much my limit. I can have a lunch date or a doctor appointment or go to a movie or visit with friends or grocery shop, etc. but rarely two per day and never three.
That's it. I'm done for the day and when I can, I like to take the next day off from public encounters.
Sometimes I am amazed to recall my middle, working years. Drop the laundry off on the way to work, stop at the bank before the office, produce a live TV show at 9AM, prep the next day's show with production meetings, pre-interviews, video editing, script writing while keeping a lunch date on the other side of town, meeting friends for drinks after work and later, a dinner date.
Whew. It exhausts me now to even think that once was a normal day – no big deal.
A couple of weeks ago, I had way overbooked myself for a single day. Doctor, veterinarian, prescription refill, groceries, book shop, lunch, writing the next day's blog post. Way too much activity for me these days.
But then a funny thing happened. As I noted above, my days generally run into one another so that I can barely recall them. In the case of my overbooked day, however, in retrospect it felt like it lasted a long time, much longer than what my old-age “normal” day generally feels like.
It felt like it lasted as long as eight or 10 hours should last if they hadn't been speeding up so much. And I think I know why.
I had many more encounters that busy day with more people in more places than I usually allow in a week. I did so many different kinds of things that when I recalled them, I had so sense of time disappearing quickly, as I usually do.
So maybe that is the trick to keep time from slipping away: not necessarily to be busy, busy, busy, but to make sure we participate in several varied and/or different activities during each day. It would probably help for at least a couple of them to be out of the house.
That's just a guess but I did a quick search around the web and of course, I'm not the first person to have thought of this. Scientific American tells us:
”Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.
“In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.”
Further, explains Scientific American, the phenomenon has been dubbed the “holiday paradox” and is a good clue to why time seems to pass more quickly as we age:
”From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments.
“As a result, our early years tend to be relatively over-represented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.”
I like this explanation a whole lot better than any I recall from previous research and there is even a remedy. How cool is that.