Time is a human construct.
Cleverer men and women than I have written at great length on this subject. They have written about how humankind is unique among all life on Earth, in that only we fear time running out. We schedule our lives around numbers based upon the rotation of our planet, agreed-upon terms that the passing world doesn’t even notice.
We have idioms for time. It flies when we have fun, and it slows to a crawl when you’re taking a standardized test.
And sometimes, three days and two nights can seem like an eternity.
Humans develop habits and hobbies to fill our time. We talk to each other, create media for each other, spend hours of our day interacting with other humans. Consciously or not, we fill our space with ideas and items, things for our minds to occupy themselves with.
Our lives are so full of things that we have an entire classification for the strange thoughts we have when we are alone. “Shower Thoughts”. The time when it is most difficult for us to occupy our minds, when they are free to wander and wonder.
So what happens when all the things that make up a life vanish? What happens when a mind, previously suspended in the comfortable white noise of all the ideas and items and interactions of the world, finds itself in a still, quiet space?
The first urge is likely to fill the void. Open your phone, open your computer, open a book, turn on the TV.
But what if it doesn’t work? What if the mind is so rattled by the silence that our attempts to generate new things for it just can’t hold its interest? It has only one thing left to look at.
Introspection has never been my strongest suit. “Tell us about yourself!” was always a statement I dreaded. I used to brush it off.
“There’s nothing much to tell.” “What you see is what you get.”
Sometimes I’d make things up entirely. Anything to deflect the discussion in a direction that was not towards me. A direction other than inwards.
And yet, I’ve spent three nights and two days doing little else.
I didn’t know where to begin. When one is practiced at avoiding an activity, getting started can be difficult, to say the least. So I started with words that others had ascribed to me. Criticisms I had always brushed aside before. What did I care what this person or that thought of me? But now it was different. The words were under my skin, inside my head, and this time, they could not be brushed aside.
Some of them were no surprise. Even with an aversion to introspection, there were character flaws of which I had always been well aware. Some had been dismissed as trivial, others eternally set aside. “I’ll work on changing that… just not yet.”
But some words were new. Accusations that echoed in my mind like the gavel of a judge pronouncing her sentence. Many of them even brought back memories of times when I had denied that those words could ever apply to me.
And yet, they did. And they do. Three nights and two days, and I’ve worn a rut with how many times I’ve walked the same mental pathways, always circling back to the same conclusions. She was right. They were right.
There are many mistakes I made whose repercussions can never be undone. Words and deeds whose wrongs can never be put right. It took a lot to finally make me see. Years of slowly-gathered emotion, clarified and honed into a single, piercing event.
But now I see.