Perhaps one of our worst habits as insomniacs is watching the clock. We lie there wide awake, see the time, calculate how many hours are left before the alarm sounds, then panic a little as we think, “But that’s not enough!” The panic makes us feel even more awake, and the cycle continues.
I’m certainly guilty of this behavior. Worrying about time—in particular, not having enough of it—would land somewhere near the top of my Ten Most Ridiculous Worries list.
Recently, the concept of time has become a fascination of mine. It started when my husband and I watched the movie “Interstellar,” where the main character (Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey) travels through a wormhole in outer space, hoping to find a new planet to sustain human life. Upon landing on the first planet, Cooper spends mere hours exploring the terrain, but finds out he has been gone 23 years when he returns to his team.
I knew I was watching a sci-fi film, so I turned to my husband and whispered, “That’s fake, right?” He replied simply: “Time is relative.”
Obviously, I had a million more questions at that point, but I contained myself until we arrived at home. My husband gave me a science-y explanation of time, relativity, theories based on space travel, and the like, while I tried to process a concept of time existing beyond my own perception.
I’ll be the first to admit that I do not think like a scientist. A philosopher, maybe, but definitely not a scientist. I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around what my patient husband attempted to explain. But I began thinking of my life as a timeline—with a beginning, a middle, and an end—and how powerful it could be if I lived my life without this ongoing fear of not having enough time. If time is relative, who’s to say how much is enough, right?
Lessons From Chrono-Displacement Disorder
My newfound curiosity led me to re-read a book I finished in college called “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” Yes, it’s a sappy love story, but the creative plotline makes it worth reading (I would not, however, recommend the movie … snooze-fest).
The book’s main character, Henry, suffers from a genetic disease that causes him to bounce around on his life’s timeline (don’t fret, the disease is fictional). For example, Henry may be 40 years old, but he uncontrollably travels back in time to find himself hanging out with his wife when she’s a child. It’s a trippy book, but I love how it makes the reader think.
How would you live your life if time wasn’t really a thing? What if your timeline didn’t run from start to finish, but instead went all willy-nilly and took you from 1993 to 2007 to 2023, then back to 1998? The clincher in the book is that Henry can’t change the past when he travels backward. Everything has already happened, so none of his actions will alter the future in the slightest.
It really intrigued me when Henry would tell someone about the future, usually to comfort him or her over current anxieties, and suddenly that enlightened character would find renewed strength to keep on living. For example, Henry tells a friend suffering from AIDS that he is still alive and well in the future. He tells his wife to persevere through her traumatic miscarriage experiences because they have a baby in the future. He tells his uber-depressed dad that he will teach violin again when his granddaughter is born, and she will excel because of his teaching.
Knowing the future—namely, that everything will be OK in the end—is powerful. But does this happen beyond fictional stories? Can we know our future and experience the peace that comes with this understanding?
The Happy Ending
I believe we can know the most important part of our timeline: the ending. I don’t believe humans are put on earth to live completely unaware of the future … just time and chance acting on matter, as my atheist/agnostic friends would say. I believe we have a good God, a loving Father in heaven who assures us He is working all things for our good (Romans 8). He knows the future, and He tells us it is good, that He will prosper us and not harm us, and that He will give us hope (Jeremiah 29).
I’m slowly learning how to view time as a blessing, not a curse. I do not need to fear whether or not I’ll have enough time to accomplish my life’s duties. My timeline is already planned out, and the plan is good because it’s created by the Creator Himself.
So, I’m going to take one step at time, putting one foot in front of the other, and trust that He who gives me strength will provide just what I need for this time. I can take my eyes off of the clock, off of my own perception of time, and back to life as I’m supposed to live it—without the fear of time running out.
Peace and blessings,
Kat, (semi-professional) insomniac