As time goes by

As time goes by

Photography: Tim Marshall

Photography: Tim Marshall

The symbolism and reality of time passing has been on my mind lately. 

When I was working full-time at an office, I experienced time as fleeting. It was a shame, I thought, that I wasted so much of it doing things that weren’t satisfying to me. I imagined that if I had more time for myself, for doing things that I loved, I would be more in the moment. Time would slow down and I wouldn’t feel as if I were in such a rush to get to the next thing.

It still feels like time is passing swiftly, now, more than ever, as a self-employed person who isn't working at an office. I feel a hunger to fill up my days with so much, to begin to “get ahead” of time. So I can slow down at some point and enjoy the fruits of my labor, rather than continue to have a “go go go” mentality.

I have often wondered what time is. It’s a concept, an idea that humans have invented. Animals don’t appear to think about time; they live in each moment. So what is it that makes us think: “there is never any time?” Or: “someday I’ll have more time.” Or: “time is passing so quickly.” Who decides that? And why is time such an important element in our lives?

My coach would say that thoughts of scarcity and abundance, even concepts such as time or wealth, are decisions we make. It’s all a matter of how we look at the world. I’m sure he’s right.


A while ago, my husband James and I watched a movie called “A Single Man,” beautifully acted by Colin Firth, who plays George, a gay man who lost his love and 16-year-long partner, Jim, eight months before. His grief is still so deep that the story starts out with him beginning to plan his suicide, deciding he can’t go on all alone.

The way the movie was filmed by Tom Ford is unusual. The story takes place in the early 1960’s, a time before answering machines, cell phones, and the Internet. I think Ford captures very cleverly how different our lives were before these technologies existed, by showing the hands on a clock multiple times throughout the film, and by slowing down the movement of life going on around George, as if he’s moving at a different pace than the rest of the world is. His home is starkly clean and organized, and his life seems to have a slow deliberateness, like the waves of a languid ocean, or the breeze blowing through the trees on an unusually windless day.

The movie opens with George’s naked body floating underwater, just below the waves in an ocean. He appears to be sinking, but also moves as if he’s trying to reach the surface. 

George’s movements as he goes through his days are very deliberate and clean. The camera’s capture of him and life around him is also deliberate, ensuring he misses nothing, and neither do we. We see George from all angles, top and sides, ensuring we miss nothing about him. When George looks at the things he enjoys, the muted colors of the movie become saturated with color, as reds become bright, and blues are almost blinding. It’s as if life itself slows down and is savored with a concentration very unusual to our fast times today.

As the story unfolds, and as we expect George to take his own life, a young man named Kenny comes into it. It's one of his college students, who questions George’s decisions. He seems to want to understand this lonely-looking, solitary man. He invites him for a drink and they fall into an easy conversation about the past, present and future. George tells Kenny:

If one is not enjoying oneʼs present there isnʼt a great deal to suggest that the future should be any better.

This comment makes me think of what a coach or spiritual advisor might say to a suffering client. George speaks of the passing of time in this way:

“… only fools could possibly escape the simple truth that now isnʼt simply now: itʼs a cold reminder. One day later than yesterday, one year later than last year and that sooner or later it will come.”

About himself he says:

“Looking in the mirror staring back at me isnʼt so much a face as the expression of a predicament.” Whispering aloud to himself: “Just get through the goddamn day.”

The use of symbolism in the movie to display time made me think about life and death, about time passing. About the importance of seizing the moment.

George says to the young student, “One must always appreciate lifeʼs little gifts.”

These words can only be spoken by someone who has endured great loss in his life and someone who also takes notice of small things, of the unusual and the gifts we’re offered in life.

George dies at the end of the movie, but not by taking his own life. He has a heart-attack.

I think about my husband James, and the fact that he had three brushes with cancer, and has thankfully survived. I think about our meeting over 18 years ago, losing touch during all that time and then finding each other again, only because James thought to look for me and find out what had happened to me.

Ironically, he found me through the Internet, the tool that very often distracts us from our present moments.

Life has sped up in these new times, with all this technology that puts us in constant connection with information. In spite of being connected via social networking sites and other computerized methods, I feel like I spend much more time separated from my loved ones than ever before.

Now what makes me happy is thinking about just today and what I have right now, by my side. A loving husband, who has been proclaimed healthy and beyond any risk for now. His children, our home, and our time together.

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