I don’t know exactly when or how it happened. I can’t look back at a certain day or even remember what year it was. But somewhere, somehow, all the clocks of the world were wound up to run faster than before. The gods nudged the universe a little too hard, spurring the solar systems into overdrive. The sun rises faster and the stars spin into the light quicker, and so, time cartwheels away, always a few steps ahead of us.
I can distinctly remember the years when time would trudge slower than an old lady pushing a walker. The memory that always comes to mind is those months of summer holidays when it would be so hot we’d feel like our body was melting away (in Karachi) and the flowers would wilt and char under the relentless manic sun (in Lahore and Islamabad). I can hear the hum of the air conditioner, and I can remember the arguments over whether the ceiling fan helps in cooling the room faster or hampers the process. I can feel the lethargy that weighs down our bodies and I can see me and my cousins sprawled on the sofa in front of the TV, watching really bad music videos and complaining about the bad videos but still loving them.
I miss that. I miss having days laid out in front of me like a path of dry autumn leaves that I can hop and jump and crunch along, or like a lazy river that I can float along while the sun plays Pictionary on my eyelids. That luxury of time that allowed us deep breathing, star gazing, dreaming and falling in love with the wrong things.
And then some time around college, that thing with the clocks and the universe happened and ever since, I always feel like I am in a rush. Homework, family, friends, health, love – there are too many lists, post-its and planners and I feel like we get so overwhelmed in the business of everyday life we forget the meaning of it all.
There are things we do in life just as a means to something else – for example, laundry. Laundry is rarely an end in itself; we wash our clothes so we can have something nice to wear and possibly go somewhere. Or in the case of jobs, we generally, primarily do them to earn money and take care of our family, clean our homes so we can sit down in a nice-smelling area and hang out with friends or enjoy a cup of tea. What happens too frequently though is that we use up all our time in the means-part of our life and by the time we get done with the laundry or the job or the homework…its past 11:30 pm and we are too tired. And that sucks.
I have been trying to take time and pause, to think about how many hours I spend doing things I genuinely enjoy doing and those that can count as ends in themselves, and how many hours I spend in the mundane busy activities that don’t really mean much in the long run. It helps, I think, align my life and get some perspective.
Every now and then, things fall into place on their own accord, and through no conscious effort, I look up and realize I’m smack in the middle of a perfect moment. A few minutes ago that is exactly how I felt. I looked around myself and felt so grateful for our little home in St Louis, with its rickety chairs and flippant futon, the mismatched blankets we have draped all over the furniture to cover up raggedy spots, the student style decoration consisting of arts and crafts and yard-sale vases and posters, the fairy lights along the doorway, the fake flowers on the table. Everything is calm, and clean, and the citrusy candle burns warmly on the center of our $20 coffee table. And just for that little while, all the post-its fade, the micromanagement pauses. Just for that little while, I feel like the clocks have stopped speeding and I have a few minutes to just be.