Time is a topic that I haven’t spent much time writing about, yet I have a different, I think, way of thinking about it. When I consider where I am in the calendar year I have a visual image that represents physically where I am in the year. The months are laid down in a very clear and concrete design. I go about my days each month in a year as if I am traveling across a contour of months physically located in time and space. I have a mental map of time.
If I were to literally walk through the months (which I do in my mind), I would be walking to the right during January, February and March. Then I would turn to my left then head forward and deep across dimension for April, May and June. Then I take another right and walk forward for July then August and keep going through September, October, November and December which then continues to the right with January again. I don’t circle back. I always walk towards the next month, which continues for perpetuity to the right and into the distance. A picture might help you to understand my way of thinking about time.
This is an ongoing contour of time. Wherever I am in the year is wider and bigger in my focus. Almost like when you flip though pictures or files on a mac in the Cover Flow view where the file in focus is the largest—though I had this way of thinking since I was a little girl and well before macs existed.
I feel a kind of comfort when I locate myself along my physical time continuum. It is October now and I am headed to my right. I always face the direction I am going on this path. It is all relative to me. So although at the moment my right is to the north, if I were to turn to the right I would still see the future as to my right, which would actually be to the east. I am surprised that I don‘t keep this map of time associated with natural directions—I am very fond of directions and seem to be able to locate where I am relative to north, south, east, and west fairly easily and intuitively. Yet when I peer at my mental map of the months, it has clear direction that is not in anyway associated with the cardinal directions.
The layout of each year is the same, however, the past is diagonally behind my left shoulder and the future is diagonally in front of my right shoulder. It is almost, I just realized, like a line graph where the x and y axis meet represents the past and the 45° line that continues into the future is crossing through my body at the present moment. But, and this is very important, it is tilted flat on the ground so that I can traverse it.
As a kid one of my favorite books was Flatland. It is a wonderful book that describes the existence one has living in a world with only two dimensions. Everything is flat. Navigating in that world isn’t easy but it reminds me that I live quite linearly against a flat calendar of time even if in reality I walk across it in 3-D space.
I did my best to draw up a representation of my mental calendar though I haven’t done my vision justice. I have no doubt that years of exposure to calendars has had some influence on my visual representation. For instance, I see months as rectangles as they tend to appear in traditional calendars. It is a flat representation lifted directly from a standard calendar. They just happen to be rotated depending on where they are in the year and I live spatially in that location. I don’t see each day within a month any different I imagine from most people. I get my physical position based on where the day falls in the calendar.
I love calendars. I have my Google calendar laid out by week (starting on Monday, not Sunday). And I always have a small, what Google calls mini, calendar open to my left so I can identify where I am in a month. I don’t have an equivalent physical location in space for the days of the month like I have for the months of the year.
Living my life through the months of the year clearly has some incredibly huge significance to me. It is importance for me to know where I am in the year because—well I am not entirely sure why but I’ll give it a stab. As a huge planner and organizer, I like to have a visual representation of stuff—of all kinds. I love lists of things to do, I love lists of things to take with me on trips, I love lists of places I want to go—basically I love the feeling that chaos is ordered that lists create for me.
And I love schedules; in fact I am staring at a pool schedule for a health club that I am testing out. A schedule is an organized visual calendar of time. I would feel muddled if I didn’t have the organizing principles of my calendars in life. And though I use my Google calendar every day (and I have used physical calendars since schooldays) my mental map calendar of months is so organizing that I think perhaps I could get away without the other physical calendars and not have trouble existing. I might not get as much accomplished because I would have to remember all the things on the calendar, but I wouldn’t feel disconnected to the world.
My mental map of time gives my time in life a contour. I could live in my head just fine. You might say that I do that already all the time. I tend towards going up into the sky to peer back down on my existence (see Cloud Hopping). So perhaps my imaginary year of months calendar—which is very much located on earth—helps to keep me grounded in the here and now so I don’t feel adrift and I don’t float too much. Not that I mind floating. Writing this blog is like floating a bit while at the same time trying to explain how I float. I love to question and always search to understand—even if it is something seemingly insignificant like the calendar in my head. But this is one of the most significant aspects of my life. The contour of time that I mentally traverse is part of every single day of my existence. It is how I navigate my wondrous and magical life.