I have no concept of time. It’s all happening right now, whatever you mention. Even if you tell me it’s years away. Even if you’re thinking out loud, never intending to follow through, as soon as the idea/plan/date leaves your lips, to me it’s set in stone. I have to mechanically walk myself back from the brink multiple times a day because of things I hear, read, and see. It gets exhausting.
Recently, a friend refused to believe I wasn’t mad at her for often being late. I kept telling her that I’d long since gotten used to it. That it was part of the deal, if we were to remain friends. She kept insisting she was sure I still got angry every time. If I’m put out by any part of it, it’s that I keep expecting her to be on time, knowing full well she won’t be. That’s on me. Also, of course, I’m perpetually early, so I’m always waiting.
I fixate on signposts. Like packages that are delayed, upcoming events, trips, deadlines. They all push against one another to be topmost in my consciousness. Then, halfway through them happening, they are already being erased and forgotten, ceding their place to the next thing in line. Is it all just about the anticipation? The thing is that I’m most at peace when not looking forward at all.
The times I’m least tormented by time is when I’m working. Half hours morph into seconds when it’s going right. If I’m into what I’m doing, what comes next or what came before doesn’t even occur to me. So why can’t the rest of life be a little more like that?
My day can be ruined because a package doesn’t arrive as promised. Never mind that what I’m waiting for isn’t time-sensitive in the least. What possible difference does it make that I listen to that record tomorrow rather than today, that I read this book next month instead of this moment? How do I stop caring about things that don’t matter?
The fucked-up Catch-22 of it is that this fixated urgency makes me good at what I do. If I didn’t feel with every fiber of my being that this brush stroke or that phrase is crucial, the only thing that matters, I wouldn’t know how to do anything.
It’s only the rest of the day and night that this is no way to be. The parts where there are other people, most of all. I sit waiting, turning myself inside out because what I’m waiting for would be done this instant if I was doing it. But I know if I’m allowed to do as I want and think I need, it would mean yet another person cut out of my life. Because the only way to deal with others is to compromise. To not act on certain impulses.
I know too that this instinctive certainty of mine often betrays me. I’m wrong a lot, yet the complete confidence is the thing that lets me continue to put one foot in front of the other. Knowing full well that inertia will slam me into wall after wall.
Is everyone this way? I’ve never been anyone else, so I have no idea.
—Here’s Barry Gifford doing q&a after a screening of Roy’s World at the Music Box.