by Laura Sillerman

Well, Daylight Saving Time has arrived ahead of time and we seem to have survived (along with our circadian rhythms). Our computers didn’t blow up (though we had a panic-y IT guy here last week to help us avoid disaster). Our house guest didn’t miss her plane. The dogs got walked before any accidents happened on the rug.

Still, there’s a kind of artificiality to cope with that is disquieting. Can we just decide it’s an hour later — three weeks earlier than usual? Can we really legislate time?

This kind of silly human behavior underlines the whimsicality of keeping track. If your birthday is next week, did you lose out on an hour of being the age you are today? Does it matter?

Of course it doesn’t, but what does matter is that it’s all a kind of made-up system that we just have to obey because it’s difficult to get anything done if we don’t. “I’ll come when the sun is high after four moons have gone by,” just doesn’t cut it with my hairdresser. “I’ll pick you up when the wind rises,” would have sent my kindergartener to the nurse’s office with a stomach disorder.

Yet, how old are we really? If we’d kept track of decades rather than years, I’d be six. If each month got a tick on life’s accounting sheet, I’d be 723. We talk a lot about age here at Women’s Voices for Change and we know the secret about it. Yes, it’s just a number, and it’s necessary to remember it’s an arbitrary number — one that cannot and should not govern us. If we eat right and inherited good genes, we can be the equivalent of five to 10 years younger. If we smoke (please say you don’t) and had parents who were unlucky cardiac specimens, we might be closer to 100 than 40.

None of the foregoing is news, but maybe we could come up with a new system. If we choose, we can use life accounting that has real meaning to us: I’m about 19 gardens old or five Mexico trips old — and very definitely three eulogies old. My friend Carol is about to become 13 books old. My daughter is one job old.

How old are you?

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  • Carolyn Hahn March 13, 2007 at 7:54 pm

    Good questions … what if we chose our own time markers. Society does, a little, with religious rituals that recur every year. I didn’t get the Christian ones I was raised with, and not being very religious, I’m mostly an observer at yearly Jewish ones … but I find the fall Jewish Holidays really soulful (like the part of Rosh Hashanah where new fruits of the season are celebrated).
    If all that existed was each year — as must have seemed the case in the thousands of years these religions survived, then I could see a return to just saying “why don’t we just live in appreciation of each season?” That sounds too simplistic, but as we get older, and the years really do speed up (a year is an eternity for a child for whom a year is a big chunk of her life — for us it’s an ever smaller slice) don’t you find things like having a garden (or even forcing bulbs on a windowsill!) little seasonal miracles?
    I am one 9/11 old, and grateful that my life now is not just measured in fear. It might end tomorrow, but in the meantime, I’ll take the circularity of the seasons as my joy.