Friday, March 13, 2009

time and tide

Time goes by fast these days. It'll be Monday and I'll go to work, take care of patients and run around all day; come home and take care of those people who live in my house and run around all evening; go to sleep, wake up and do it all again. And again. And again and again. And then it's Friday. The weekend goes by quickly of course, and then it's back to Monday. The weeks just keep going by like this, like time-lapse photography, or those old black and white movies where the main character is in the clink and they show, superimposed over scenes of working in the prison laundry or shadows of steel bars on the walls, the calendar pages being sequentially whipped off in a flurry of flying paper, indicating the passage of time.

Time goes by fast these days.

When I was in medical school, time passing quickly was a good thing. The faster I finished first year meant the faster I would get to second year, then third year, which meant the faster I would graduate and become (or so I thought at the time) "a real doctor." Ditto the passage of time during residency. While there were periods that dragged (see: my time working in the ER, my ICU rotations), in retrospect the five years I spent as a Peds and later an Anesthesia resident seemed to pass by in the blink of an eye--something that my attendings always told me would happen, but I never ever believed, because in the moment, as you're living it, residency seems to last forever. Back then, the faster time passed, the better.

After I finished my training last summer and we moved here, time still passed quickly, and that was OK because I was pregnant, and everyone knows that the worst torture of pregnancy--far worse than the bloating and pains and frequent trips to the bathroom--is the waiting. While I was pregnant, the faster each week passed, the closer I was to holding that new baby and (possibly equally importantly, not being pregnant anymore) so I welcomed that Friday-Monday-Friday-Monday time-lapse photography feeling. Only twenty more weeks to go! Only eleven more weeks to go! Three more weeks until I'm at term! OH MY GOD, JUST COME OUT ALREADY.

And now, time is still passing quickly, but for the first time since...well, ever...I'm not aiming for some theoretical finish line. Sure, there are little things to look forward to--our Spring Break trip to Disneyland, Christmas, Joe finishing his fellowship and finally becoming A Real Boy--the disconcertingly quick passage of time isn't towards any particular end. It's not getting me closer to anything in specific, it's just happening. I blinked, and all of a sudden, Mack is almost two and a half months old. I blinked, and suddenly, it's Spring. I blinked, and suddenly, we've been living here for eight months now, and while I still miss New York a lot, just about every day, it no longer sounds strange to say that we live in Atlanta.

When I was a kid, grown-ups always used to talk about how the years just seemed to all blend in adulthood, without the discreet milestones and markers of childhood to break things up. I'm starting to see that now. Time is passing quickly, but instead of feeling like I'm racing towards something, or trying to get past something, it just feels like--I don't know. Like I'm standing still. Or, more accurately, like I'm running on a treadmill. That sounds kind of negative I know, in that despondent I'm-not-moving-forward or I'm-a-hamster-in-a-wheel kind of way, but I don't actually feel like it's negative at all. I just feel kind of...comfortable. Like time is passing, and I don't have anywhere particular that I need to be, so I might as well just stay here. The days are going fast, sometimes a little too fast, but they're good days, and I'm trying, despite the hectic pace of it all, to enjoy them.

I'm not in a rush anymore. I don't want to get it over with. But time is racing by, and even though we're not going anywhere in particular, it makes me happy just to catch up, jog alongside, and just enjoy the scenery as it goes by.