It’s the fifth of October and the sun is spreading sparkles across the sea and warmth over my naked arms and I am walking along the promenade and heading home, home to design Christmas cards. It’s feels like a summer’s day and I’m drawing snowflakes, I’m drawing snowflakes and feeling rushed because I’m realising I should have done it months back. Then again, when I should have been drawing Christmas cards, I was sorting out my art show and when I should have been doing that I was making art for it and when I should have done that I was in hospital, in recovery and going a bit mad having the ideas that created it. And… Well you get the idea.
Time is a funny thing and we as human beings are more consciously aware of it than anything on this planet, chopping it up into smaller and smaller segments. Like today for example, which is actually the sixth now but writing time is bendier than anything. (Between writing these sentences this morning I have Photoshopped four Christmas card designs, sorted out the wording, finalised formats and fonts and printed out and annotated printers proofs). There is an interesting point to this in relation to time, in that all those little errors, smudges, things that didn’t quite work and at one point coughing up blood on a drawing (don’t ask) can be changed, erased, gone back on, you can’t argue with time.
Time, as humans see and experience it only flows one way, forward, in a never ceasing stream. We can’t undo what we’ve done, unsay what we have said and, past a certain point, things we took for granted just aren’t there anymore. We can try and make amends or fix things, but they we never be the same. That’s not always a bad thing though, sometimes what we see as bad things have to happen to make something better happen down the line. It’s impossible to know at the time which is which though although experience and wisdom can help flag up areas where events repeat or where accurate predictions can be made based on the nature of people and events.
We try and tame time, parcelling it up into days, months, years, minutes, seconds, aeons, pico seconds, and at either edge of that spectrum we find it virtually impossible to wrap our heads around just how big or how small those measurements are. We give everything names, times, days of the week months, so we know to the second when things will be, when to get up, when to go to bed, when to be here, or there and for how long. We look forward to things, we dread others. I know that marked in some future diary is the date that I die, as is everyone I know, everyone I shall ever know, there are other events, wonderful and terrible marked down as well, waiting for me, waiting for all of us.
Some people get such comfort from knowing they have a full diary, knowing that their future is compartmentalised into bite sized chunks, a meeting here, a coffee date there, a visit, a dinner party, a movie night, their moments accounted for so they don’t feel they are wasting any of it and they don’t feel alone. Others dread feeling pinned down for a moment, content to bob along on an endless sea of now, it can be freeing for a while but ultimately causes trouble as very little gets done except by chance. Living in the moment is the credo that is favoured by practitioners of mindfulness, experiencing the now and then letting it go, whilst it works for a while, as do all quick fix therapies, in the long term it can leave you scratching your head wondering where your future went.
When I worked in the fashion industry life became very confusing. You can be working a season in advance, a year in advance and, if you have direct contact with the textiles element, up to two years. You can end up working in three time zones all at once, dealing with stockist, designers, press, whoever, jumping from one time to the next. It’s no wonder so many designers end up wearing nothing but black.
My relationship with time of late has become quite claustrophobic, the workshops I need to plan for, the holidays to gear printables towards, the events, the exhibitions. The real danger lies marrying the notion of something as ponderously slow as making art with something as deadline sensitive running a business. Trying to partition off all those feelings of being rushed so as to enable you to focus on such slow processes as cross hatching and watching paint dry. When you add to this the notion of how some tasks effect my mental health and some my psychical health things start getting really muddled.
The one aspect of time I am deeply wary of getting caught up in is the endless cyclical nature of small town living in a place that feeds off networking and and endlessly repeating loops of meetings, committees, events, parties, socialising and whatever else, week after week, month after months, year after year, add infunitum. It seems neccessary to a point but, apart everything being so poisonous and ghastly, there is a point where you end up doing nothing but hanging about trying to massaging egos and flitting about trying to keep people happy and years of your life have slid by with little to show for it but a full diary, a bunch of aquaintences and a list of things you were supposed to achieve but didn’t.
The cruelest part of time is the ageing process, all my little aches and pains are now manifesting into full blown ailments that are at best inconvenience and at worst life threatening. I seem to be getting off lightly compared to my female friends, all of whom are a ‘ certain age’ and are experiencing hormonal and psychical complaints that hold sway over their lifestyle. Perhaps the most tragic effect of time though is amongst those who are so desperate to deny its exhistance, this seem to come into two main categories, the vain ones who resort to cosmetic surgery and the other sort who try and desperately act like teenagers again, determined to deny the affects of time, including the positive ones like wisdom and experience. I must admit that none of this really bothers me, taking the serenity prayer route of changing what I can and learning to live with what I can’t. And after all, in the grand scheme of things we are here for merely a moment, like a mayfly on a pond.