Have you ever noticed that when you’re looking after another person there are lots of different kinds of time?
There’s “No Time”, when you’re really in a hurry but just have time for a five minute job that then takes much, much longer due to unforeseen crises, accidents or emergency. Or, let's be honest, carelessness.
There’s “Time Was” when some precious thing you were in the middle of doing or were looking forward to doing for yourself, gets nipped in the bud because the person you’re caring for has an unforeseen crisis, accident or emergency.
There’s “Where did the Time go” when the one thing you set out to do gets buried while reacting to a non-urgent but consuming vortex of care needs that you hadn’t anticipated. Even tiny things, like a lost hearing aid needing the room being turned upside down, or discovering carers have left wet washing in the machine to go mouldy, or a full cup with loose lid capsizing all over table, mobile phone, wallet, paperwork, trousers and shoes, requiring major mopping up and a complete change of outfit.
That kind of thing.
And sometimes of course it's more than a small derailment, it's a genuine crisis, accident, illness or emergency. The big stuff. That's "Time Stops". You probably know that one, and luckily it doesn't happen too often.
And then there’s a special kind of time I call Stretchy Time. When you have an intense period of crises involving all of the above but so prolonged that however hard you try, your own needs gradually sideline to the point that they just stop even mattering. You come up for air briefly and stare at your own personal to-do list with a kind of benign curiosity like a monkey looking in a mirror.
At this point, time seems to expand, the way it does when you’ve not slept properly for weeks and everything feels slightly unreal. You carry on dealing with the issues at hand because fire-fighting is what you do. You hit the wall but you keep going and there’s a weird kind of release in this because even though you’re up to your neck in trouble-shooting and firing off ten thousand emails, texts, phone calls and fluorescent post it notes (baby, if I don’t write it down then I’ve forgotten it already) trying to sort the problem and be with your person too, at this point your own responsibilities have fallen so far off the map that you can’t remember what they were anyway.
You are free, floating in a liminal space. At times like that, you’ve given up your personal autonomy so much that it almost starts to feel easy. Nothing really matters. It's quite a cosmic sensation.
Maybe I'll send this link to Professor Brian Cox and he could do a programme about it! What do you reckon?