From a psychological perspective one of the most important
things that changes when living at stage 4 is the concept of time. To put this
in perspective it is useful to think about the different concepts of time people
in the world I live in have. These are:
- Time in the universe: something we do not really
understand apart from the belief the universe we live in had a start and will
probably have an end.
- Time as a physical entity: the passage of time
as perceived by people and, usually, divided into agreed increments such as
years, days, hours minutes, seconds, micro-seconds etc. Physical time is
important in the way we organise our world and how we synchronise our
activities with others in that world.
- Time as a biological entity: that is biological
rhythms and cycles.
- Psychological time: our own perception of the
passing of time, which is intertwined with the other forms of time we
conceptualise. For example, many people would know that when they have a
“deadline”, in the world of physical time, psychological time seems to move
“quickly”, but when they are waiting for a bus it never seems to arrive!
These types of time interact and for the most part people
understand how they fit together. Sometimes there is a disruption the way time
is perceived and some readjustment is needed. Living with stage 4 is one of
those times. These adjustments will be different for each person – the
important thing is to realise the need for such an adjustment and to work out
ways to manage the changes that may be necessary to accommodate these changes.
Some examples of changes in my perception of time include:
- At stage 4 time becomes important. When I
mention this to people they usually interpret it as meaning I think one has to
appreciate every moment and/or only engage in activities that one wants to
engage in. But for me time is important because I want to fit a lot of things
into what appears to be a more limited, physical, time frame. Many of these
things are not particularly profound or stimulating in themselves, they are
things I would have done over the next 20 -30 years, but now I have to do them
within 20 – 30 months (or maybe even less). These are things like organising a
family history, completing some work tasks that I think will be helpful for the
future – and so on. It’s not about having more experiences; it’s about
recording the experiences I have already had.
- Biological cycles seem to change, sometimes this
may be due to treatment, sometimes due to the stage 4 condition and sometimes
due to the my bodies reaction to my perception of how time is moving.
- The world does not change its pace. In the
contemporary world, for many people, the psychological awareness of the passage
of time is one of “speeding up”. Things happen more quickly, the expectation
for speed of service increases, the time to information across the world
increases and so on. I enjoy this increase in how things happen, but sometimes
I would like to do things at a slower pace – and end up like the tortoise moving
alongside the hare. Only, in this case the hare will keep going – and he
tortoise is not trying to win a race, just move at its own pace.
- Sometimes the reverse happens. I want to be the
hare and some other aspect of my life is a tortoise. One example of this would
be the pace the health system works at, or at least appears to work at.
How have I managed these changes in my perception of time?
- My first step has been to try and become aware
of these changes to my concept of time. Rather than getting concerned about why
time appears to be different, I try think about the difference and the impact
it is having on my day to day life. I then work out strategies to manage the
differences. For example, instead of getting gloomy by the endless waiting time
in hospital wait rooms –I make sure I always have something to do that I feel I
do not usually have enough time to do; eg., read that special book, listen to a
podcast. It is amazing how much downtime there is to squeeze “would I really
like to do right now” activities into.
- I have set up activities that I do regardless of
what the world around me is doing. For example, my work colleagues race around
keeping appointments – I go to the Gym for an hour. My work still gets done!
- Because I am often a little more tired in the
morning than when I was pre stage 4, I have changed my morning routine so that
I do some of my early morning activities (that I would have done out of bed) in
bed. For example, check the world news on my laptop rather than desktop. I
still get to work on time!
- I say no to activities that I really do not want
to do. Often these are the “time filler” activities that friends are engaged in
and I know if I was participating I would feel I would rather be doing
something else. On the other hand,
spending time with friends and family is really important to me – so I work at
trying to match time spent with important people in my life with activities
that I like to do.
As I complete more blogs on living at stage 4 I will often
note that there is no right or wrong way to live at this stage. Everyone will
have different ways of how they manage their life in this situation. To me, the
important thing is that you feel in control of as much of your life as
possible, and managing time is a crucial part of this.