Yesterday, I went for an 8km run to start picking up my distance again, which I need to start doing fairly promptly as the clock is ticking for the Amsterdam Marathon in October. I just took it really easy, felt good – much better than I expected, in fact – and now feel that I should be ready to start reorganising my training plan to account for the two months of training I’ve missed. I should be ready, but every time I’ve opened my calendar I have merely looked at it blankly for a while before closing it again. I’ve been struggling to look forward since my mother’s death – time seemed to freeze, and it didn’t feel like it mattered too much that I had lost track of days, weeks, and eventually months. At first I kept track of the days purely by saying to myself, “The accident was on a Tuesday, which was four days ago, so it must be Sunday.” It soon became cumbersome to count days, and they only mattered if we had to remember to fetch someone from the airport. I am by nature a planner, and I keep a strict reign on my calendar and clear sense of time in my head, so for me it feels very unsettling to have withdrawn completely into timeless space. I have been making small forays back into organised, tick-tocking order – for planning meetings at work, or trying tentatively to make arrangements to meet up with friends. But for once it is not coming easily and naturally, and I do have to force myself to it.
After writing the above, I just remember that my best friend, Cate, wrote to me a few weeks ago, and ended her email with the following words:
“what i’ve noticed in both you and tess is that you know exactly what you can do with time. from where i stand, it seems that you both dance with it, in perfect synchronicity. you have both been extremely important role models to me in that regard. i feel an enormous loss and fear of the world knowing that one of the time-handlers has suddenly become timeless. but god almighty, i am very glad that i still have you, la!”
In part of my reply I said:
“I have indeed never felt out of sync with time. I remember some moments, when younger, of trying to completely understand how long a minute felt, or three minutes; but it has always been an ally. It was rather like trying to understand how long a kilometre was by remembering the 1000m sprint course at Camp’s Drift – a measure. The only time I became really interested in alternative concepts of time was reading Peter Høeg’s ‘Borderliners’:
“When you let your mind go blank,’ he said, ‘or when you stop talking for a long time, something happens. Time becomes different. It goes away. It doesn’t come back until you start to say something.””
So, there I was, only a few weeks ago, saying that I had never felt out of sync with time, while now I write that I have lost my sense of time since Tessa’s death. How do I account for this apparent contradiction? I realise that of course that I am talking about two very different concepts of time. The first, which I have temporarily misplaced, is in bigger units – it is about days, months, and years. It is about the long-term future and the turning of the planets. The time I refer to in my email to Cate is immediate time, up to the approximate unit of 48 hours. I have not at any point lost my ability to plan out my day with, in general, my usual efficiency, even to the point of having a loaf of bread just out the oven in time for us to eat it in the car on the way to Tessa’s cremation. While we were, admittedly, later than we had planned on our arrival at the Crematorium, this was not due to waiting on my loaf of bread! Thus tonight I feel able to plan my run for tomorrow morning (a short 6km from London Bridge to work, but I will try pick up the speed a bit), but not for the rest of the week.
Then there is my hesitation in even admitting that my skill as a time-handler has been (temporarily, I am confident) damaged. Luckily, I know that Cate is aware of my struggle against the pressure of other people’s expectations, and will, I am sure, forgive me for being a little bit less than an ideal role model in this regard. On the other hand, perhaps I will come to a more rounded understanding of time now that I have stepped outside of it for a while. My mother did always say that we can draw on and grow from all of our experiences, be they joyful, difficult or mundane, if we choose to; so I shall choose thus.