I decided that I would write about this interesting concept of time, and when it was time to actually sit and write, I realized that it is a much bigger concept than I am capable of expressing, so bear with me as I attempt to share some basic thoughts about something that is not basic at all.
Last week I was 4 minutes late to a zoom workout, so I could not attend. (The instructor can’t be in motion, teaching a class, and checking her laptop to see if anyone else is showing up late. It was my fault, and I take full responsibility.) Yesterday, I watched a documentary about an ultra-runner who was almost 30 minutes late to his race because of traffic. The race was over 200 miles long, and it took him over 3 days. The 30 minutes didn’t affect him one bit. Just think: 4 minutes late, and I miss the whole thing. 30 minutes late, and there is no effect whatsoever.
I like to tell people that time is simply a construct that humans created so that we can show up at the same place at the same “time.” If we focus too closely on time, we often times miss the important aspects of life.
Service members and their families on Okinawa were placed under restrictions again recently. It was initially set for two weeks. Then, it was extended to three weeks. In the grand scheme of things, two weeks is not a long “time.” However, if you ask a kid two weeks before Christmas, how long will it be before he can open presents, he’s not likely to say, “it’s in no time at all.” Instead he will say excitedly and maybe with some frustration, “mom won’t let me open them for two WHOLE weeks!” Two weeks before Christmas feels like an eternity to the kid who is ready to open presents; yet, it feels like it’s right around the corner to the parent who is still preparing for the holiday. When our restrictions were extended from two to three weeks, it felt unbearable. Moving the goal-posts makes you think that it will never end. One begins to feel like the goal posts will continue to move and move, and the end will never come into sight. The rational brain knows that this “time under restrictions” will end, and in the grand scheme of things, two weeks, two months, even two years is not that long. It simply feels long, and if we feel something long enough, it becomes our truth. Our truth becomes our reality.
I began considering the concept that time really isn’t a “thing” as I transitioned from being a marathoner to an ultramarathoner. I haven’t been in this mindset long, so I am still not very good at it. However, when I ran marathons, I would have time goals, and I would push through pain by reminding myself that I would never get this race again, and I would never get to attempt this particular goal again. (No race day experience can ever be duplicated.) It allowed me to push through a little longer, and I met some personal time-based goals by doing using this tactic. As I transitioned to ultrarunning, I had to change my mindset. The goal isn’t time on a clock; instead it is finishing a route. I had to start thinking of “time” in a very different way. “Mona, time is not real. Time is merely a construct that humans created. Don’t focus on the time; focus on putting one foot in front of the other.”
In four weeks, I will attempt again what I was not capable of doing last spring. (Last spring, my brain got too wrapped up in how much longer it would be, and I was not mentally strong enough to push past the 70 mile mark and being awake for over 24 hours. ) In four weeks, I will run from the southern point on Okinawa, to the northern point without stopping. I will have a crew, thanks to my husband and puppy-dog, but I won’t have pacers. (This will free me from having to coordinate and from meeting up on “time” with another runner.) I won’t have a time goal, but I know that it will take me over twenty-four hours. I anticipate that the night will be lonely and cold, and I know that the sun will rise again. I anticipate hours of pain, and I know I won’t die out there. I also know that I will see the beauty of the island in a different way. I am sure that I will have thoughts like, “how much longer?” I will also have to remember that it doesn’t matter. “Time doesn’t matter; it is merely a construct that humans created. Time and space are infinite. Just live in the moment. Just put one foot in front of the other.”
Now, if you are like me, you were trained to meet deadlines. You were trained to multi-task and to be efficient. Do more. Be faster. Accomplish all the things. However, I encourage both of us to slow down; enjoy the meal. Make time and space for the conversation. Watch the sunrise or the sunset. Be still.
Also, create time to sit and read, and if you want to read a fantastic book about time, I encourage you to read The Timekeeper by Mitch Albom. He masterfully tells a story about time and does what I am not capable of doing: he makes you think of “time” in a very different way.