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Warp Speed : Time Flies Whether We’re Having Fun or Stressing Out Over Every Ticktock

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Donald Stanwood was a kid, he remembers, summer vacations seemed to last indefinitely. “That substantial succession of days seemed like forever,” he says. “Now, as an adult, mid-June through mid-September goes by in the blink of an eye.”

Like many people, Stanwood, 45, an office worker and part-time author who lives and works in Santa Ana, says he feels like time is flying by at warp speed.

“It’s amazing how quickly a decade goes by,” he says. “We’re almost in the middle of the 1990s, and I still haven’t figured out where the 1970s went. Time passing quickly is sobering, because you realize that your stay here is finite. As you get older, you weigh your present against an increasingly large library of the past.”

For Stanwood, life hit warp speed around his mid-30s.

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“There is a psychological divide when it comes to age,” he says. “Until you hit 35, you can fancy yourself in the twilight of your youth, but once you reach 35 or 36, you’re not a kid anymore.”

Many people are bothered by the fact that time seems to be screeching by, says Ruth Luban, a Laguna Beach psychotherapist who is author of the audiotape and book series “Keeping the Fire: From Burnout to Balance.”

Time passing quickly is especially a problem for people in their personal relationships, she says, noting that the average couple each works 50 hours a week and spends just 12 minutes a day communicating with each other. Weeks can go by before they have a satisfying conversation.

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Technological advances are one reason time is speeding by, Luban says. “All the technology is moving toward accelerating time and everything we do,” she says. “This, in turn, speeds up the nervous system and creates anxiety.”

The irony is that we are trying to control time with all this technology, but that isn’t possible, she says.

“In Western cultures, we see time as linear and operating on a moment-by-moment basis. But time also exists in a more fluid, less definable sense, which is a concept embraced in Eastern cultures,” she says.

For Type-A personalities who constantly follow the clock and think of the future, time tends to speed by, Luban says. “It’s the slower and more deliberate, Type-B personality who has a chance to be in the process of life,” she says.

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When we forget about the clock and enjoy ourselves, time becomes timeless, Luban says. “It is during ecstatic moments of enjoying something that time is decelerated,” she says.

Patricia Anastos, 37, treasures those magic moments when time seems to stand still.

The 37-year-old promotion marketer for an advertising agency in Irvine thrives on a linear time track at work but relishes those moments when she isn’t on the clock.

“When I forget about my lists and what I want to accomplish and just live in the moment, time becomes fluid,” she says.

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“Just recently my toddler son and I went into the garage to put away some Christmas decorations. He saw a ladder and decided he wanted to learn how to use it. At first I resisted, because his learning to climb on the ladder wasn’t part of my list, but then I agreed to teach him, and we had a wonderful experience. We were in the garage for about half an hour, but we forgot all about time,” she says.

Though Anastos enjoys such moments, it isn’t always easy for her to switch gears.

“I work in a fast-paced, dead line-driven atmosphere that I love,” she says. “I enjoy the rush of adrenaline that comes from staying on schedule and doing a good job within budget.”

Problems arise for Anastos when she tries to apply work standards to home life, especially with her sons, who are 2 1/2 years old and 3 months old.

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“At work, everything is planned out with Daytimers and charts, but at home, it’s not so simple. When I resist going with the flow and try to have a linear, task-oriented day with my sons, it is impossible and makes the day go very slowly,” she says. “Even though I want to take them to the park at 10, my older son may want to read a book then.

“It’s hard to shake off the feeling of needing to go fast. I’ll be reading a book to my son, and he’ll stop on one page for a long time. All I’ll be able to think is, ‘He’s never going to finish.’ When you think that way, you don’t enjoy the magic moments.”

Anastos makes a conscious effort, however, and is especially relishing her time with her second, and probably last, child.

“Now that I’ve been through it once, I know that this time with my infant son is fleeting,” she says. “Even though I’m getting up to feed him once or twice a night, I don’t mind, because I know these precious moments will go by in a nanosecond.”

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Wende Zomnir says she feels the same way about work and home life. The 27-year-old account supervisor at an advertising agency isn’t bothered that work is whizzing by, but she has reservations about the speed of her personal life.

“The workplace is naturally fast today,” says Zomnir, who lives in Laguna Beach. “When I started working, fax machines were new, and overnight mail was a luxury. Now we use E-mail instead of memos. I think it’s good that things are happening more quickly in the business world. The technological advances make people more responsible for their work. They can’t blame delays on the postal service anymore.”

In her personal life, however, Zomnir isn’t so content with the speed of things.

“Sometimes I think, I should still be 24. When did I turn 27, and when will I be able to accomplish my personal goals? Because of work constraints, my personal life just flies by. I’d rather work four hours a day and spend the rest of my time pursuing personal interests, such as exercising, spending time outside with my dog and volunteering for worthwhile causes,” she says.

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Zomnir has found that her view of time passing quickly has affected her relationship with her boyfriend, who reacts differently to warp speed.

“While I react to the fact that things are going fast by trying to get more done and catch up, my boyfriend will try to slow time down by relaxing, which I’m sure is very healthy,” she says. “I’m very goal-oriented, though, and it’s hard for me to relax. I’ll try to get him to accomplish things with me, but he’ll often resist. Instead of mellowing out, I’ll pace around the house.”

James Barry, 41, an environmental consultant in Orange, also has a hard time sitting still.

“When I see things going by so fast, I feel like I have to fill in what time there is with something productive,” he says. “Because I’m self-employed, I constantly put financial connotations to time, and it’s hard to get out of that.”

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For Barry, life is moving so quickly it’s hard for him to place events in time. “It all kind of runs together,” he says. “Unless something happened near a significant event, I can’t remember when it happened.”

Time is moving especially quickly in Barry’s personal life. “I feel as if I’m accomplishing a lot with my business, but I would like to have more time for personal pursuits. I live with my girlfriend and wish I had more time with her, but work often comes creeping in. I try to take Sundays off, which is a relatively new concept for me, but I still end up doing some work at home.”

Barry does have one hobby that allows him to enter a timeless space. “I read about two books a week,” he says. “Compared to most things in my life, it is very relaxing, and it’s easy to lose track of time. I’ll look up from a book and see that 45 minutes have passed.”


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