First there was the peach pie crumb that disappeared under the hinge into my laptop. Then there was the chunk of Ivory soap that slid (halfway) down the shower drain. And then there was my husband’s iPad, which skittered into the gap between the subway train and the platform. Here and then gone. It doesn’t pay to blink.
And what’s worse? Time itself also seems to be slipping between the cracks. The days themselves don’t go by faster—even when I wish they would—but when I stop to look back on, say, a week, it seems to have vanished as I was brushing my teeth. I lost a whole year recently when once again I packed up books to contribute to an annual bazaar. Didn’t I just do this? Has a whole year passed since the last time I got (only) boxes from the liquor store?
Deep sighs from my friends tell me they share my puzzlement and dismay. Some people contend that time is actually speeding up, but for the non-PhDed, it’s the perception of time that matters. There are lots of theories as to why that perception changes as we get older. One is that the longer we live the less important is one day relative to our entire experience. Another is that we are chronically stressed: we can’t escape the feeling that there is simply not enough time to do all that we must and want to do.
I am most convinced by the explanation my husband brought to my attention—the phenomenon called bracketing. When, for instance, we repeat an annual event such as celebrating a birthday, paying taxes, or cleaning out the fridge, we remember the last time we did it (the opening bracket) and compare it with what we are now doing (the closing bracket), and the time between vanishes like that hunk of Ivory soap. A year ago might as well have been yesterday.
I like this theory. Conscious of it, I can challenge my perceptions, remind myself that each and every day is twenty-four hours long—and even longer if lawn mowing is involved. And if my perceptions sometimes mock common sense, I guess that’s just the way the peach pie crumbles.