By Anita Goodman
In my university studies differentiating between quantitative and qualitative data was imperative. If you could measure it then your argument was stronger than if you gathered perceptions or feelings about something. We used to talk about hard facts and soft impressions, the latter being considered generally unreliable. I have always leaned towards empiricism, the better you can measure something, the more accurate or truthful it is.
In retirement having more time on my hands, I have had to reconsider this belief. And ‘having time on my hands’ is exactly what I am talking about. As a school teacher, I was wired to know that the recess bell rang at 10:04 a.m. when I would be on supervision or I had 16 minutes of instruction to complete before I could go to the bathroom. My sense of time was precise, measurable and highly accurate. My bladder was trained to the minute. No question, time was quantitative.
Now, time is measured quite differently. Time is untrustworthy for some time vanishes and other time drags. It depends how I feel about it. For example, enduring two hours of Mahjong on an uncomfortable chair feels like eternity. And, the five minutes it should take to get out the door for errands is never enough. I am late more often now than I have ever been. My tolerance for hard chairs is nil.
No one has ever liked tv commercials and now that we can ‘zip’ through them most people do not watch them. Remember when we knew exactly how long the ads were and could get to the bathroom, the fridge and back before the show resumed. Now, if we don’t fast forward we can always rewind if the snack took too long to prepare. Maybe that’s where my problem with time
started. My brain is no longer trained to think in 3 and 1/2 minute cycles and that loss has transferred to all of my life.
Timing a big dinner? I used to be an orchestral master, everything arriving at the table hot and cooked to perfection. Now, there’s a chance the potatoes might be an appetizer and the roast beef, dessert.
Alas, time management used to mean getting more done with less time. Now I have more time to get less done and I am very good at it. Cleaning a room is inefficient. I get lost in a box of old photos or polishing a mirror to perfection when it really doesn’t matter.
Einstein was fascinated by time stating that his happiest moment was when he realized time was not absolute. Time can be changed by speed and mass. His space/time relativity theory is not easy to grasp but it reassures me that time is not as quantitative as I once thought it was. That leaves me with the satisfying conclusion that time is about quality. While I feel I have more time on my hands, I have more years behind me than ahead. I may not be able to put more quantitative hours in my day nor days in my years but I can put more quality into the time I have. And if I am always a little late or my house is never quite cleaned, that’s ok.