07 September 2009

Two Months: This Moment

Two months--already!

That's how long it's been since my surgery. I wonder whether time goes faster for women after they give birth. Well, if it does, it would make sense: after all, time always goes faster, or seems to, as you get older. And one's perception of time very often does change dramatically after a major event in his or her life.

The time I spend on necessary care--dilations and baths--also seems to be going more quickly. In the beginning, each of those thrice-daily fifteen-minute spells on my back with a stent in one hand and mirror in the other seemed interminable because I couldn't read or do anything else. Now they seem no more time-consuming than taking a pill.

My baths also seem to go by more quickly, even though I haven't been reading while in the tub. After dropping a couple of magazines and books--and a poem I was writing--into the water, I've given up on that.

When I focus on the task at hand, I am living in the moment. That makes enough sense for a blonde like me. I have had to learn to live in the moment in order not to live for it. Bruce has said that this is more or less a basic principle of Zen practice. Sounds good up to this point.

Now I'm learning that distracting myself was actually making the time move more slowly when I was doing the things I had to do. Even counting sheep, minutes or seconds--dull as it is--is as much a distraction as watching Saturday Night Fever was for young people of my generation. I guess the reason why such diversions drag time almost to a screeching halt is that we distract ourselves precisely because we are trying to pass time. And how can you try to pass time if you're not thinking about how slowly it's moving toward whatever it is you're waiting for?

Maybe that's, paradoxically enough, the reason why the past week went by so quickly. I had returned to work and, really, I couldn't think about--much less do--much else. There was only going to the college, teaching, taking care of business and reuniting with colleagues and former students and meeting new ones. I didn't have the energy for anything else, so at the end of the day, I was very tired. But because I couldn't watch TV, I read or did something related to my job, or went to bed (after dilating and taking a bath) when I got home.

Now, of course I don't want to do nothing but work and sleep. However, I must say that it was very gratifying to be completely present for myself, not to mention my students and my co-workers, while I was there. There was always just the present moment; it was all I had to attend to, but I could not remain in it.

Nor can I, or must I, remain in this day, as pleasant as it has been. It's Labor Day, which is often seen as the unofficial end of summer. (Someone, I don't remember whom, said that this wasn't the last weekend of summer; it was just the last weekend you had to pay to use the beach.) As the weather was rather cool and clear until just before sunset, a part of me didn't want it to end. And I am happy about having done my longest walk, and therefore my most prolonged exercise, since my surgery: three and a half hours in total, with a half-hour break when I sat on one of the benches that line the promenade along Hell Gate. After all that I ate yesterday at Millie's and John's barbecue, I needed it!

If this is indeed the end of summer, at least I know that it, too, has gone by more quickly than I'd anticipated. I thought that a summer of no cycling or swimming would simply drag on. Instead, because I have had to focus on what I've needed to do--and because the sacrifices I made this summer are helping me to begin to live the life I've always wanted--it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

Tomorrow I will be back at work. Somehow I think it will go quickly, as will the next month.


EdMcGon said...

I know how you feel about time. When you feel good about your life, and that you are living according to the road map you have set for yourself, time seems to pass quickly.

It is when circumstances conspire against your plans that time seems to slow down, as if you are swimming upstream.

Justine Nicholas Valinotti said...

You're so right, Ed. When I thought that I had no hope of living the life I wanted, the days just dragged on. Relationships with beautiful, wonderful people, "dream" jobs and trips to places I had always wanted to see could seem merely like endless variations on the present, which was by the definition of the life I was living, endless.