Time has a curious hold on me. I’d be willing to bet it probably has one on you, too.
I’m a very lucky person: I have a partner who is extremely flexible in terms of rolling with my schedule; while he works a 9-5, he understands that my work often flexes and flows around, functioning in bits and starts and seeping into the evenings following long afternoon pauses. He also understands my meal times, and I often joke that he has a degree in hanger management for his ability to forecast my need to eat at regular intervals lest I become a raging beast of a girl on an empty stomach.
This weekend we went to Montreal for a vacation – a work-less vacation, an experiment on my part, undertaken in an effort to lessen the grip that my email has on me. I set an auto reply and resigned myself to unanswered notifications glaring at me from the cracked phone screen. I packed only two books on feminist philosophies of time, and a small notebook. For me, this is progress.
Curiously, I’m seeing time everywhere, right now. In my dissertation, I’m contemplating the ways in which people in recovery tend to question their own narratives and memories; their claims to the discursive “space” of recovery with all of its socially perfectionist trappings. I’m wondering about how treatment systems tend to remove people from time as it marches on in their everyday lives and imposes a new time structure that resembles rigid neoliberal time. Returning to the “real world” can feel like an abrupt departure, in this context – moving from a time-space where choices are made for you to one where everything and nothing has changed; where not everyone pauses at noon on the dot for a lunch break and where you’re suddenly expected to choose your correct choices for health.
In my own life, I’m wondering about this persuasive pull of time. I wondered, this weekend, why I itched to know what time we’d seek sustenance in the morning. I wondered why I felt the need to drink my coffee at 10am, to eat a snack at 4:30pm, to be in bed by midnight. Our vacations are often dictated by “Andrea time” – so I decided to try Alex time for a change.
My experiment ended up yielding an eerily similar schedule, were you to break down the activities and times – we ate meals around their usual times, woke up before 9, and went to bed before midnight. And yet, it felt different to renounce the rules – if only for a weekend.
The truth of the matter, though, is that the flexibility to follow your whims, when it comes to time, is not always there. You can’t always linger over a delicious 4 course dinner of tapas while sharing deep thoughts over a seemingly bottomless glass of wine. The constraints of contemporary working society’s structures don’t really allow for the intuitive.
This is one reason why – despite philosophically agreeing with concepts like intuitive eating and despite my own habitual 2:30pm walks in the woods – I don’t necessarily preach the virtues of mindful living within the current neoliberal capitalist time structures we live in. Ideal as it might be to decide you’d prefer to have cake for lunch and to have it at 3pm, it’s not always possible.
Does that mean I’m resigned to neoliberal time, content to re-impose these structures on those who’ve fallen out of step (or, conversely, overly in step) with these temporal logics? Not at all… it’s just yet another case for the need to consider the momentary, micro-action and the broader chipping away at the system that we must do to actualize a different kind of world that is open to multiple relationships to time and bodies in space.
[Photos: Glorious meal at Restaurant les 400 Coups, Montreal]