“Time”

Years ago I decided that I wanted to do a radio programme about ubiquitous four letter words, often of much greater impact and meaning than their size suggests, and no, it wasn’t about swearing.  I made lists of them and invited the radio audience to play the game with me, which they did with enthusiasm, insight and humour.  Love, hate, just, very, look and the wonderful Rumanian who said her favourite English word was “road” because, she explained, “it can take you towards something as well as away from it, it permits movement …”
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Time is a four letter word and my father said time was the curtain.  If we could draw it aside, everything we wanted to see would be there, waiting for us, forward or back.  How much of this was his idea and how much derived from the theosophical concepts popular when he was a young man, I don’t know.
But he used to madden me by talking about the lapse of time, how you must go earlier if you want to be there on time because it takes time to get there.  In live radio this is a valuable lesson because people who rock up five minutes before transmission with no idea of getting into the studio, settling, or sound checks are not popular.
His idea was to sneak up on whatever his time commitment was, while my mother belonged the ten minutes and rush school.
Holidays were hysterical while he tried to get us to the station for 5.30 for the seven o’clock train (in case there was an accident or a change in the timetable) and we had luggage, which would slow us down – while my mother snorted derision and planned to leave at 6.45.
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I am left with a very strong sense of time.  I’d rather be early than late and no I don’t want an entirely unnecessary cup of ersatz coffee but I will take a book.   An early therapist told me that being late is very revealing, about whether you really want to keep the appointment, being afraid of what it might reveal, dependence, hostility and so on.

And I expect time keeping in other people, unlike a great friend of my son’s who once arrived four hours late.   The mobile told us he was fine, he was just late.  I don’t know what upset me more, the food I had to try and keep waiting or what that delay meant to me.

Time of course passes.  One of the best sayings I was ever taught (surprisingly late in life) was “This too shall pass.”   I like to think of it as the other end of the literary bookend from “They shall not pass” perhaps?

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It is widely said that “time heals all wounds.  I have never agreed with that.  I have known people – and sadly, I am one – who have held on to the emotional impact of something important and while time has passed, the sense of what that meant to me then has not.

It is widely said that “time heals all wounds.  I have never agreed with that.  I have known people – and sadly, I am one – who have held on to the emotional impact of something important and while time has passed, the sense of what that meant to me then has not.

But in my defence I was recently speaking to a young pregnant woman about the joy of the night my son (now over 30) was born and she said “This is so lovely – it’s like yesterday for you!” and it is.

The proportions and perspectives of life’s challenges change over time but not always dramatically.   Again, I remember that, in spite of a full quota of shortcomings, I was much happier as a later parent than I would have been as a younger one when my neurotic insecurity would have hampered me at every turn.

Times change, we say, and the social pendulum swings from one fashion to another but there is much that stays constant – a sense of humour, being loyal or generous,
reliability, kindness  …

For time is a paradox: we can measure it but we cannot stop it.  And if all our efforts go towards trying to control it, we miss the peace and enjoyment and timelessness of the best moments of our lives – how we forgot to go home and got a cold but the sunset was so beautiful or we sat up till dawn with a dead beloved, unafraid, just not wanting him or her to be alone.
No point in being afraid of time.
It will still be here when we are gone.

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