Letting go of linear time as a strategy for coexisting with anxiety and maybe transforming society

Time is infinite; I move within it.

Time is a major fuel for my crazy—I worry about how much I have left in my life, how much we have left as a society, and how much we have left on this earth. Most often, though, my anxiety around time is centered on how little of it I have in each day that I can truly call my own. Being in school means my time is fragmented; although I only have to commute to campus two days out of the week, the rest of my time is primarily occupied with reading, writing, and adulting*. I have these competing demands for my “free time” at home, and it generates anxiety because I feel like I can’t get everything done, like there’s not enough time.

One day, I was doing dishes late, past my bedtime. I felt that familiar temporal anxiety creeping up my sternum, into my throat. I failed at time management yet again, it was 11:30 pm or whenever and I still hadn’t finished these damn dishes.

I said to myself,

[Why is a robot not doing my dishes yet?]

I know, right? No, actually, I said:

I never have enough time

And I realized two things.

1. Time is not mine to possess; and
2. Time is infinite, I merely move within it.

Since then, I have tried to use “time is infinite; I move within it” as a mantra when I feel the temporal anxiety rising up again. I also connected this concept to my experience of time as nonlinear in some ways, how I often live in past/present/future simultaneously and how that shapes my perception and interaction with the world. Often this manifests via my crazy. When I recall past events, if I remove the protective filter I have learned to construct around my memories, I feel acutely, as if the events were occurring in the present. I feel events I imagine will happen in the future similarly. So I believe time is not actually linear, it is only consciously perceived to be by many people.

I think our society’s ideas about linear time—about what activities are worth our time and what aren’t, about whose time is worth more than others and who is worth our time, about what free time is and who deserves it, and the classist/sexist/racist/colonialist/capitalist/etc. nature of those ideas—are oppressive. I want to reclaim time for all of us, since it ultimately belongs to none of us. Linearity is associated with scarcity, in my mind. Living in nonlinear time is living in abundance.

This is all fine and good, but in the society I’m at, they still use linear time and the 24 hour clock and all that racket.
– Me, 2018

Yeah, I know. I know this is abstract. But it helps me, honestly, to think of myself as moving through time fluidly, choosing what I want to experience and making space for those experiences within time, rather than thinking of myself as a temporal miser, a fourth dimensional Scrooge always worried about how much time she has, greedily trying to grub up enough to watch Deep Space 9. This is part of being kind to myself and others, trying to live in the future now by modeling what I think future social relations could look like. I think a remodeled conception of time might have an impact on our conception of the world. What if time was determined subjectively? What if you went in to your “job” (I put this in quotes because in my ideal world every day you would spend the majority of it doing whatever you felt called to do, so I don’t think it could be considered an actual job) not at the start of business hours, but whenever you felt ready enough in the morning to face the day with a clear head and open heart? What if your ability to be present—or your need to be absent—dictated what time it was?

These are the possibilities I think a world without linearity has to offer, honestly. But, I’m just dreaming and using that dream as a salve for my crazy. I’ve added this tool, this vision of a world without linear time, to my repertoire. I’m on an upswing now, so it’s hard to say how it will work when I’m in the dark. So far, though, I’m finding it soothing. I like the idea of swimming through time, like a temporal mermaid, so I try to envision that along with saying the mantra.

Hopefully, I can learn to permanently drop the scarcity complex when it comes to time, and live in the abundance.


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