Tag Archives: brain

The Changing Perception of Time

When I turned 55 last fall, I admit that I had a bit of a “life flashing before my eyes” experience. It wasn’t because I was having a near-death experience or anything like that, it was just the inevitable reminiscing that takes place around a major milestone, much like we do at New Year.

In that same train of thought, last month, I chose the date I will be retiring (in late spring), another pretty big life event. Since then, the subconscious walks down memory lane are hitting me faster than I can keep up with them which in turn, had me contemplating how we perceive time.

In chatting with family and friends (remotely, of course) over the holidays, I was reassured to hear that I am not alone in how my perception of time sometimes seems a little out of step with the clock and the calendar.

There is no doubt in my mind that I am indeed 55 years old and that I have offered up 33 years of my life to the public service, but in some ways it just doesn’t feel that way.

Deep down, I still feel like the same guy that I always was. But before I can allow myself to get too cocky about it, arthritis pops up to remind me that I am not as young as I think I am… that, and the fact that it takes an afternoon nap and copious amounts of caffeine to be able to watch Saturday Night Live (live) these days.

While my childhood seems like a distant place in time, sometimes feeling like it was hundreds of years ago, other life events seem significantly closer.

It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I was nearing the end of my university years, completely sick of studying, exams and homework, and itching to get on with my life. I vividly remember the hope for that “big break” into the working world. These are the scenes that seem to be replaying a lot in my head at the moment.

Along those same lines, I remember my 21st birthday party like it was just not that long ago.

I also remember that period as being a very social time, hanging out with different groups of friends, one from my part-time job, one from school, and one that was a fascinating group of friends and friends of friends that ended up expanding and hanging out together for many years.

And yet, even though I remember that period so vividly, it still seems like a fleeting moment that didn’t seem so long ago.

Similarly, in day-to-day life, really enjoyable events like an exceptional meal, a page-turner book or a movie that transports you completely, all seem to be over in a blink of an eye.
But why is it that certain life events or situations seem to drag at a snail’s pace?

Something as simple as bumper-to-bumper traffic, or a meeting with someone who sucks the oxygen out of the room can feel like it takes forever. Or waiting in queue for something when one is tired, hungry, feeling too hot or too cold, can feel like an eternity.

At my last house, a few years back, I had neighbours that, to put it nicely, tested the extent of my patience to the point of raising my anxiety level. If I recall correctly, they only lived there for a year and a half, but as when my stress levels were going through the roof, it felt like a lifetime.

But as time passes, that period seems to hold less prominence in my memory. I guess what they say is true that time does indeed heal wounds like that.

What I find amusing is that when I think back to my teens, to me, the high school years went by too fast while the university years dragged on. Why is that?

It’s not like we have different measurements of time for enjoyable events and the less enjoyable ones, but it is interesting how the mind records them and how memory stores and recalls them.

It’s like time is a bit of an elastic band… an enjoyable hour-long event seems short, while an arduous hour-long event can feel outrageously long. It’s bizarre.

The reality is that life is a combination of good times, challenging times, and everything in between. How our memory chooses to organize them is a mystery in itself.

Either way, I think the underlying message is that time is precious and we need to remind ourselves to be fully present.

In the face of adversity, we need to remain mindful that we aren’t alone, this too shall pass, and to bravely get through it. In the really good times, we need to appreciate them for all they are worth and to savour every moment.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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Anxiety: When it was Time to Seek Help

As I get older, I like to think that I have things pretty well figured out and that it takes a lot to surprise me. I have become more accepting of my quirks and foibles and my reactions to situations are generally consistent, coming from a place of authenticity and self-awareness.

Through the years, I have also conquered some minor fears and sources of internal struggle that definitely kept me on my toes.

For me, the trick to remaining calm, cool and collected through life has been to gradually widen my comfort zone. It took guts, perseverance and hard work, but when taken in baby steps, it served me well. With a wider comfort zone, I could trust in my own skills, knowledge and resourcefulness in the face of adversity and stress.

And to cope with stress, I had in my back pocket a huge tool kit of stress management techniques, breathing exercises, mellow music, meditation techniques, grounding techniques and relaxing hobbies, not to mention lavender bath salts, scented candles and massage therapists on speed dial.

With things seemingly so neat and tidy, why is it that at the same time I felt I was becoming older and wiser, anxiety was suddenly creeping up on me as well?

“I say the universe speaks to us, always, first in whispers. And a whisper in your life usually feels like ‘hmm, that’s odd.’ Or, ‘hmm, that doesn’t make any sense.’ Or, ‘hmm, is that right?’ It’s that subtle. And if you don’t pay attention to the whisper, it gets louder and louder and louder. I say it’s like getting thumped upside the head. If you don’t pay attention to that, it’s like getting a brick upside your head. You don’t pay attention to that—the brick wall falls down. That is the pattern that I see in my life and so many other people’s lives. And so, I ask people, ‘What are the whispers? What’s whispering to you now?'” – Oprah Winfrey

To read more: http://www.oprah.com/own-master-class/oprah-winfreys-master-class-quotes/all

To me, those whispers were showing up in the form of reactions to situations that seemed out of character. Beneath my usual calm and cool exterior, I was starting to experience more moments of nervousness, an increasing intensity of nervousness, longer spans of ruminating over issues and needing more time to bounce back from dealing with life’s issues. I was also having a much harder time letting go, no matter how many times I heard that Idina Menzel song. Continue reading

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The Writer All-nighter

Typewriter Back in my university years, between classes, working, socializing, sleeping, watching music videos on Muchmusic and trying to get all my assignments done, there were times that there simply didn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. To try to make ends meet time-wise, I would occasionally revert to the old stand-by: the all-nighter.

I did not do it often, but I do recall the ceremony behind it, ensuring I had all the supplies I needed to make it through the night: coffee, cigarettes, snacks, plenty of good music, typewriter ribbon cartridges and typing paper (because of course, typewriter supplies never ran out during store hours). I did not usually go to caffeine tablets on top of that because they just made me so jittery I couldn’t read my own writing. Red Bull had not been invented yet so we made do with the above even though it was not the healthiest of combinations by any stretch of the imagination. And for the record, I quit smoking around 1990-91.

I do not want to over-romanticize the all-nighters of 1986, but there was something magical about the peace and solitude of the middle of the night, clickity-clacking on my Mom’s typewriter in my man cave, and producing some quality essays that earned me some decent marks.

I recall those smoke-filled nights, with a gentle breeze wafting through the window, expanding my musical horizons listening to all kinds of classical, jazz, rock, pop and instrumental artists like Kitaro and Tangerine Dream.

I even remember a couple of quick runs to the 24 hour grocery store around the corner to pick up more snacks, only to find that I could sing “All By Myself” at the top of my lungs in aisle 7 and really mean it. (I tried it once, it was most liberating.)

It did not matter whether Continue reading

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Digital Amnesia

It was perhaps just one month ago that I heard the expression “digital amnesia” for the first time. Well, there is a chance I may have read about it or heard about it before, but I probably forgot.

After a bit of digital research, it would seem that digital amnesia can be interpreted four ways:
– Forgetting things that used to get committed to memory, such as telephone numbers, when technology removes the need for us to remember and use them on a regular basis;
– An increasing challenge in performing functions that technology can do for us more efficiently but that were previously done manually, such as math;
– Not relying or trusting our memory and reaching for the phone to remember or prove something; or
– Forgetfulness when it comes to details, due to the constant influx of information from so many sources that our brains do not have enough time to process, digest and retain.

While I quite appreciate the idea of the unlimited potential of the brain and the theory that we are only harnessing a fraction of what it is capable of doing, it does seem like a bit of a departure from conventional thinking to consider that the brain does have its limits and that we are there when it comes to information overload.

For example, when it comes to details, I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in a conversation and stumbling to try to accurately quote something I heard on TV, on the radio, or through one of the social media platforms I read regularly. When combined with the flood of emails I receive daily at work and in my personal accounts, as well as my friends’ Facebook posts and tweets from my fellow writers and runners, it’s a wonder that with that quantity of factoids in my head I am able to recall anything.

Or worse yet, God forbid I should start mixing up stories such as things I read about products to keep the cat off my kitchen counter with solutions to help deal with unwanted body hair. That could be disastrous on many levels.

At first, I just thought that Continue reading

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