Time and All Her Deceptions

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Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’
Into the future

Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle

Was it just a year ago that our bulldog died? Has the pandemic really only been going for 18 months? Am I really 52 years old?

What is it about time that is so incredibly deceptive? The joys fly by so quickly and the struggles seem to last forever. We watch the clock inching along through the day until suddenly, the day is over. We wait and wait and wait for that moment and, in a flash, it’s gone. With time, our sense of proportion is warped, twisted, and cast aside as it marches past us unforgiving and unstoppable.

COVID-19, an acronym that was meaningless to us 24 months ago feels like it has been with us forever. Was there a time when we didn’t keep masks in our car door or purse, just in case? Driving past a sign for a community event, the billboard begins with, “Get Your Vaccination!”, and follows with the details of the concert, carnival, or farmer’s market. Not so many months ago, we would have been confused by that sign. The ravages of this brief time seem simultaneously interminable and painfully new. Such is our sense of time.

Time messes with us on so many fronts. Consider the frustration as you come upon a line of cars stopped on the interstate. You go from 80 to 0 in seconds, gritting your teeth as you realize how this delay is going to slow you down. Barely stopped, you shake your head, frustrated by this disruption. Grabbing your phone, you look at the map (presented to you instantly) to gauge how serious the traffic jam really is, only to discover that the red line of cars slowing your progression amounts to a 5 minute delay in your arrival. Yeah, it’s still maddening.

But time keeps flowing
Like a river to the sea

Alan Parsons Project, Time

The days move on and our sense of time gets lost among them. Over the long haul, it can feel like it just slipped away, lost to the endless sea. Retrospectively, a lifetime flies by in an instant. The early battles of youth and growth and progression, melding into the struggle for legitimacy, professional pursuits, and a hard-won maturity (hopefully). Some day I’ll get married. Some day, I’ll have children. Some day, I’ll buy a house. Some day. Then, suddenly, all of those some days have passed, replaced with new ones, along with new questions. Where did they go? Why didn’t I _______?

Time muddles our sense of death and loss. My father-in-law would have turned 83 this past Friday. Now gone 12 years, it seems like such a long time, fuzzy in my memory, as I consider all of the things that have passed since his passing. In many ways, 12 years is a lifetime of momentous events: graduations, weddings, births, deaths. And yet, 12 years doesn’t sound that long ago. It was only 12 years ago. We feel that with all passings, so many of which feel fresh no matter the distance.

As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan, The TImes They are a Changin’

What about our sense of progress in the world? The broad movements that influence our society, our culture, and history seem to move at a glacial pace even as they are shifting the tectonic plates below us. Looking back over the changes, they seem radical, rapid, and massively disruptive. Such is the way of massive change, rarely does it happen all at once or fast enough for those seeking to bring it. The movements that mark progress, or regress, dance upon time’s flow imperceptibly, until they don’t, leaving us to struggle to remember what it was like before or why it could have possibly taken so long.

We see this in our personal efforts as well. Quests for dreams that had such seemingly long horizons only to be over too soon when we finally arrive. Our plans feel feeble in the long-term, brittle and unlikely. Moving along, they are foiled, proven-out, or revised toward their ultimate conclusion. All twisted and turned inside and out as we walk along the winding path, foggy one day and clear the next. The duration and distance appear insurmountable until we’re looking back over them, feeling surprised that they ever came to pass or that we ever doubted. Oddly, we feel little difference over 1, 2, 5, or 10 years. All passed quickly in the rearview mirror.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save everyday ’til eternity passes away
Just to spend it with you

Jim Croce, Time in a Bottle

What about our relationships? In the early days, we count days, weeks, and months. A year is a long time in the course of love. Until it isn’t. Those first faltering steps give way to new challenges and new opportunities, shifting before us and sometimes under our feet, with time playing ring leader to the show…a show that sometimes goes on and sometimes fades. Should we pass through its ups and downs, we are rewarded with the joys it promised even as they are marked by the struggles necessary along the way, eventually finding ourselves wondering how it all happened and where all of the moments went. Would we save it in a bottle? Or might we realize that we’d never go back as we recognize our arrival somewhere we never expected?

Friends, family, and myriad other human connections also get lost in time’s broad sweep. I mark memories of my early life by friends and houses, people and places representing spans of moments in my youth. All of it feels so very far away, dreamlike in memory and seeming less real with more and more time between. Did I have an existence before I married Sally? Was there really life before my grandchildren arrived? What about all of those people with whom we’ve worked? A year into your career and the world centers on a few key people. Thirty years later, there are still key people but you’ve collected a career of associations; connections that feel quite substantive if still active while most feel far more ephemeral in their passing.

Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)
Does anybody really care (care about time)
If so I can’t imagine why (no, no)
We’ve all got time enough to cry

Chicago, Does Anybody Know What Time it Is?

My point in this fleeting post? It is still the present moment that matters. Time will muddy all of those waters behind you and your real influence over your future will likely be less than you’d like. Celebrate the memories, the relationships, the loves, the losses, and the victories. They all matter. Aim for great things in that open, empty space before you. Make your plans, dream your dreams, and hope for all of the brightness that might be. But hold on to both loosely, for right now is where we must focus.

Remembering the joy, the sorrow, the challenge, and the glorious all happen in the present. And looking forward, the choices you make today will determine much of what the future will yield. However, one thing for certain is that the gift of this moment is all that is guaranteed. The love you give, the forgiveness you offer, the hand you hold, the smile you smile, the book you read, and the time you share are all opportunities, right now. Yes, time is deceptive, marches on, and waits for no one. And still, you have this moment.

And still…you have this moment.

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Pink Floyd, Time
Showing 3 comments
  • Trish+Berry

    These Musicians had something to say years ago! I don’t think I paid much attention to what they were saying then. You have very eloquently brought their meaning to light which has made these words so relevant and insightful from an era long ago.

  • Jennifer+Gleckman

    One of your very very best Phil Berry! Wow. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your heart with the world. I shall ponder on this and activate on this more than you know. Thank you.

  • John

    Yes, there was life before grandchildren but it got a lot better after they arrived. We now measure time based on their growth and accomplishments. Just takes on a whole new timeline.
    Great job, thought provoking.

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