I have severe time anxiety. Every day I am hyper aware of time passing by. It is already the end of March, and soon it would be mid year, and before we would know it we’re celebrating the beginning of 2023. Another year going by: I get older which I don’t really mind, but everyone else around me is getting older, and the old people I love are also ageing another year. When you’re 40 like me maybe it is no big deal to turn 41, but when someone is in their 70s every additional year feels precarious. These days, I hate it every time the phone rings.
Even prior to covid I’ve been living as though the world was going to end. I travelled a lot whenever I could, not knowing when I would be unable to. I thought it was going to be a sickness or an unforeseen commitment that would stop me – turns out it is a virus. I used to tell my partner we had to do all everything we wanted to do while we can, and nowadays she takes me seriously whenever I want to go on an unplanned mini-adventure, because she knows I turned out to be right. That opportunities to do things can run out in ways we cannot see coming. (My life has been full of such turning points, that is why I know the other shoe will drop.)
So I live with this chronic persistent feeling that I don’t have much time left. It doesn’t have to be a nuclear war or a virus to stop life in my tracks. It could be one of us falling sick or one of us having to take on caregiver duties one day. I am not sure if anyone else thinks about these things as much as I do. I think it takes a bit of denialism to be happy, and my psyche doesn’t allow me this luxury.
In parallel these days I am spending a lot of energy on learning how to nourish myself and optimise my health. I intermittently fast, eat a semi-strict diet, cook, exercise, read, meditate. Many of those things are newish in my routine, so I need extra mental energy to maintain my discipline. My partner has multiple art projects, and we joke that my project is my self. I think expending all of this energy on trying to be well is leaving me very little creative energy left.
Yet the pressure of time is haunting, what if I regret not having done more creative projects? I have contradictory energies driving me. A part of me wants me to focus on being well, the other wants me to live up to my identity as a creative person.
Maybe I am in the chrysalis stage: I just need more time to iron myself out. Maybe there are just too many changes taking place and I can’t expect more. Maybe there’s a lot of background processing even though nothing seems to be happening on the surface. Or maybe I am not that interested in creating things anymore. I don’t really know. I look at my partner and she’s generating ideas non-stop, she’s enthused about working on her art in her spare time everyday, and I have to drag myself to sit in front of my creative tools. Is it because I have a depressed and/or mildly adhd brain? Is all that anxiety about time and mortality overwhelming me so much that I am in chronic paralysis? I would like time, lots of time to meditate on these questions, to know myself further and deeper. But do I have the time?
I would like to find an equilibrium. To learn how to exist knowing that everything is impermanent and time is precious, and yet have the capacity and patience to give myself time to heal, to be still, to become.
I tend to swing between extremes. It is only now that I know how much practicing moderation is a skill, especially for someone like me who is unable to venture out of boundaries without swinging all the way to the other extreme. At confusing times there should be an inner wisdom to guide us, but I don’t feel wise at all – only chaos, turbulence and deep imprints of pain.
Many a time during these recent years I feel like a baby learning how to crawl. There was so much effort and time just to unwind all the unhealthy behaviours and responses. In this society we’re taught to be economically savvy in order to survive, but there is very little on how to live, how to exist, how to be a human being – how to cope with inevitable disappointments, failures, loss, sickness, changes?
I guess maybe I am greedy. I would like to try to do it all. To find time in a day to be still, to ponder, and yet have some time to create and fulfil. I feel like I am still trying to figure out what are the right settings for my body to work, for my mind to thrive. How to not let the grief of time paralyse me into overwhelming sadness, such that I forget that there can be joy, love and richness too in the very present and in the moments yet to come.
It is difficult: to live in the awareness of time, reality and what is truly present. But I think it is a good aspiration to have.