First published in The Lupus Magazine
Time is an abstract concept that is filled with so many different visuals for the individual. As children we use it in the form of anticipation of birthdays, holidays and the idea of what it will be like when we grow up. As an adult it is often a lack there of. The beat of a heart is not unlike the tick of a clock or the swing of a pendulum.
Time is a continuum of contrasts. It is a peek at hopefulness and yet can also be a glimpse of foreboding. Despite being a non tangible thing it is often looked at as its own entity. It is as if it is a living breathing thing that somehow has control over our lives. And yet it has always been something that is just beyond our grasp no matter what our age. At times it is as fleeting as a bird in flight. Other times it is as heavy as a damp day in early spring. What we do with our time also is wrapped up in who we are as people. How we are perceived as an individual. Are we lazy or are we productive. Are we organized or are we a free spirit?
Why are we as humans always so wrapped up in the use of our time spent? After all we don’t even understand the concept of time at our birth. Time isn’t acknowledged until we first realize that our mother has left the room when she put us down for a nap. Time is greatly influenced by how comfortable we are in being alone. The active and fidgety child is often the adult who is trying to accomplish so much. That is not a bad thing, just a different thing. Is how we utilize time really that different then?
Time seems to be something there will always be a reserve for until you are imprisoned in the cell of chronic illness. Then time takes on a whole new persona as complicated as human beings themselves. Yet oddly enough it is still holding its original facet of contrasts. Suddenly time is very limited and yet equally in abundance. The first thing that comes to the mind of the chronically ill is the idea of running out of time. With a possible looming death comes a series of questions. “Will I have the time to do all that I want in my life? Am I going to be able to watch my children grow?” Suddenly life seems so very precious.
And then there is the profusion of time. With Lupus the fatigue is such that you are forced to slow down your life. Many hours can be spent just sitting. Is that a waste of time? If you keep yourself busy so as to not think of such things it virtually feels like a candle burning at both ends. Either way the “busyness” of our lives can be a bit overwhelming. It can give us the feeling of wanting to run from it; even if we can’t.
For me, as a person who has always utilized every second of my life, being forced to slow down was a good thing. Although I have always been very visual, I felt like I saw the world for the first time after I became ill. My perspective of time and what is truly important changed drastically. I used to think, “When I get more time I am going to write a book or crochet that afghan.” Little did I know that this awful disease would give me the wonderful gift of “time."
That intangible object that was always in my head and was just out of reach was now very clear to me. When I first became ill I wanted to tell people about this usual aspect of illness. I tried but mostly they wanted to hear about my physical ailments. I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and shout, “Wait! Listen to me I have been let in on a secret and I want to share it with you!” I wanted to tell them it is ok to just sit…and to just be.
In the process of just being I learned so many things about myself I never would have known otherwise. The first and foremost is that I am always there for me. In the long and isolated hours of the night, when the world was unaware of the pain I was in, I found myself holding my own hand. Literally I would take one hand into the other and stroke it softly to comfort myself. I found this to be of great reassurance to me. It got me through many long and dark nights.
Time is no longer my enemy. As the abstract concept that it has been over the years; time has been measured in many different ways. It was calculated through changes of the sun, the burning of a candle and the ringing of a bell just to name a few. For me it is in the beating of my heart in the still of the night to let me know…I am still here.