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  • Writer's pictureSyreeta Brown

Be Still: Closing the door to Time

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” - J. R. R Tolkien, The Fellowship of The Ring

Time is such an elusive concept; just when we think we have dimensioned it and put it into a neat box of calendars, of appointments of schedules, it turns around and knocks us out with something we did not count on or plan for. Then our perception shifts, depending on what has happened: time may slow right down and force us to be completely still, in other cases it completely speeds up and we are left in a tailspin trying to understand what is happening and how to get back to neutral again, to a normal pace of time – whatever that looks like.

A recent conversation with Chloe’s piano tutor is the reason I find myself pondering on time. We are talking about Octaves and going through scale practice with Chloe. The Suzuki method of teaching piano is heavily concentrated on being able to listen and hear the notes, rhythms and pulses. Chloe is intuitively able to understand music concepts and theory and it is clearly one of her strengths. She talks to Chloe about what an Octave is and what kind of shape an Octagon is – how many sides does it have and so on until she gets to the figure 8. 8 notes in an Octave. We then get into a history of the number 8 and talk about what the month October means then if it is the 10th month in the year - as often happens between her tutor and I with our naturally inquisitive thirst for all interesting facts!

She tells me that at one point there were only 10 months in the calendar year and we discuss the changes and shifts in how history and the people in it have measured time and how manufactured a concept it is depending on what has happened and when in the world order.

October was originally the eighth month of the Roman calendar. It comes from the Latin word "octo" meaning eight. Then it became the 10th month when January and February were added to the Calendar. Julius Caesar made this change for detailed reasons I will not go into for this blog but safe to say time has not always been the way it is today.

So you may ask why am I writing about this? As I reflect on my experience with Autism I realise how much it has altered my perception of time. In the early days pre-diagnosis it sped time up. I am finding it hard to recall all the moments of those early years and write them down for the book – of how hard it was, and how sleep-deprived I became and having to go to work every day like the world was normal. Showing up for meetings and presentations having had very little sleep the night before, of picking my daughter up at her nursery and seeing her distressed as she struggled to manage her meltdowns and became the target of a lot of parents’ ignorance of the fact that some children are just not made the same. Of the days going to appointments and seeing Doctors all the while trying to hold myself together and just to have the goal to be able to get up in the morning. Of not having much time to be with friends and socialise because my energy was so spent. Time went by so quickly and maybe my mind just moved on in order to forget.

Then came the magic of time slowing down. The moment when reality hits you; when you know what you are dealing with and you decide to face it, head on. Those years I can recall with such clarity. It is so clear: the wonderful holidays with my best friend and her son, sitting with Chloe and just watching her be in the world and seeing how great her brother was with her. Being still in the melt-downs and having strategies to manage it which mainly focused on blocking the man-made world out and letting the natural one in. Being where time stood still. All the great meditations and Yogic practices target that place of stillness. It is where you find a peace; a place where time does not really exist. You just are.

In the moments I have not been still – it’s where I have sometimes lamented the journey I have been on – and asked why this had to happen to me? What can I do to fix it? But the better moments have been where I have been still and decided what to do with the things that life has presented to me. Like finding Chloe’s piano tutor and sending her a random email to see if she would be remotely interested in teaching a child on the spectrum and getting her response that she would love to talk to me about it. Meeting her and finding a person with such openness and warmth who took Chloe in and helped bring out her gift and who provides me with many beautiful moments on a Saturday morning listening to them both play and sing.

I have learnt to try not to watch Time or question what has happened but just be where I am and as Gandalf says, “decide what to do with the time that is given us.”

I decided to accept and find out what was possible for Chloe and also for me in this journey and so far we have learnt and done some amazing things.

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