I’ve always been bad about time. Not in an hour-by-hour sort of way; I usually have a moderately good grasp on the actual time of day (although I don’t own a watch). And not in a day-to-day sort of way; I usually know what day of the week it is. I’m sometimes a bit sketchy when it comes to the month, but that’s rarely a problem.
No, what I’m bad about is the passage of time. I have a massively flawed sense of how much time has elapsed between one event and another.
For example, I was recently asked when I moved away from Manhattan. My immediate perception was that it was probably three or four years ago. When I actually thought about it, I realized I moved away in 2001—a short time before the attacks of 9/11. That’s ten years ago. Ten years.
That’s a pretty harmless example. My temporal impairment becomes a problem when I agree to do something with a soft deadline. If, for example, I tell a friend “I’ll call you next week; we’ll have lunch” my sense of ‘next week’ could last a month. That’s a problem. It can make people think I don’t care about them.
I’ve recognized this as a problem for some time (don’t ask me how long, because I don’t really know—temporal impairment, remember?). But until recently, I never gave any thought to the origin of the problem—to why I have this problem. I probably wouldn’t have given the matter any thought at all, except that now the problem affects my daughter. When I tell her I’m going to call her, I damned well better call her. After having a conversation with her, I think I may have figured out why I have this problem.
I don’t get bored.
I think that’s the source of my temporal impairment. I can’t recall the last time I was bored. I must have been a child. I have a hazy recollection of telling my momma I was bored and having her respond something like this: “Then you’re not using your imagination. Go outside and find something interesting to do. No bored children in this house.”
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been…busy isn’t the right word. Engaged is more accurate. I’m actively engaged in something all the time, from the moment I wake up until the moment I fall asleep. It might be reading, it might be thinking, it might observing, it might be chores—but even if it looks like I’m just walking or sitting in a chair, I’m doing something. All the fucking time.
And that makes time pass really quickly. I get caught up in what I’m doing. I forget to eat sometimes. Sometimes I eat and a little later I can’t recall if I’ve eaten or not, so I eat again because I know I sometimes forget to eat. I make a decision to finish what I’m working on at that particular moment and take a walk afterward, then when I’m finished I realize it’s 8:45 at night. I’m aware of time passing, but not of how much time is passing.
The failure to be bored sounds like a good thing. Overall, I think it probably is. But it’s a pretty lousy excuse when you have to apologize for failing to call somebody you promised to call ‘later in the week.’ It’s a pretty lousy excuse when you’ve told somebody you’d get together with them during the summer, then realize Thanksgiving is only a week away.
In a very real sense, the excuse “Sorry, I lost track of time” is just another way of saying “Sorry, I was more interested in what I was doing than in you.” And that’s a pretty shitty thing to say to another person.
Holy crap you’re living in my head. I do this all the freakin’ time. It’s a problem, and it really does lead to people getting pissed off at me or thinking I don’t care about them. But that’s not it, I plaintively respond…
heh. Thanks for articulating this odd time distortion I have lived with all my life.
I am my fathers daughter… LOL! I sometimes forget fo call friends back. Family too… But more often than not I figure I will get to it later; I need to get This done now. And the call is lucky to be made that week! I’ve never been very good at keeping in touch. People are always on my mind and I am constantly thinking to myself that I should call but almost always in a moment or situation that isn’t appropriate to make a call. Go figure… I’ll deal with it later lol…