Time Flies When You’re (Not) Having Fun

18 States Down

Justin and I were talking today about an interesting phenomenon we experienced over the last year: Time flies when you’re NOT having fun.

In 2010, our family of three spent a total of seven months on the road. We explored 18 states and countless locations, met innumerable and amazing people, discovered new passions and new careers, played endlessly, learned relentlessly and grew constantly.

It was fun and breathless and we were amazed when only a month had gone by!

We just left Las Vegas yesterday after six months of hard work, sorting, unpacking, repacking, selling, buying, more selling, creating and non-stop movement. We were working hard, with our eyes set on the goal and not enjoying anything we had intended to enjoy (like time spent with family or locales).

And it feels as though that time flew right by us.

Nearly the same amount of time. Two totally different experiences.

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun? Um, No.

Our conversation hung over me for awhile as I tried to understand what differed between one moment to the next. Weren’t stressful things suppose to drag on?

I can unequivocally say that we had way more fun on the road than we did off the road. But our experience in relation to the perception of time was so vastly different….fun seeming to last forever, while times of stress rushed past.

But when I compared our emotions and our state of being in both times, the answer became totally clear:

The one thing that affected our sense of time was not the amount of fun we had, but how present in the moment we actually were.

The more we were mindful and aware of where we were, what we were doing and why – the more we were in the moment – the more the clock seemed to slow and we could relish the present moment we were in.

On the other hand, the more we barreled through our tasks, with one eye on the end goal and the other on next week, the more we missed each day.

Time doesn’t fly when you’re having fun. Time flies when you’re flying by it.

And I can think of one other realm were this is commonly felt:

Mainstream Parenting (Lacks Mindfulness)

In mainstream parenting the theme seems to be about “getting through.”

Parents talk about getting through the colicky stage, the sleepless-nights stage, the into-everything-whenever-we-turn-our-heads stage, the self-asserting stage, the beyond-messy-bordering-on-slovenly stage, the rebellious stage.

Our focus is on survival, usually because its the only tool we have.

We’ve lost mindfulness. We’ve lost the ability to get down on the floor and play. We’ve lost the patience to look for monsters under the bed or read a story “one more time”. We’ve lost the wonder that allows us to listen to their wild tales of dinosaurs and princesses and revel in their wide eyes and excited bouncing as they tell it again and again.

We’ve lost our ability to be in the moment, because we think the moments last too long, take too much of our time or energy and quite frankly, don’t matter as much as they do.

But these moments, and our fully being in them – aware, conscious and engaged – is all that will matter in a few years.

The cliche phrase “Enjoy them while you can; they grow up fast” is only cliche because it’s so freaking true and so damn surprising that no one who’s experienced it can stop repeating it.

Nearly every single parent, as their child moves away (or pulls away) laments on how fast the time went, how quickly they grew up, how they miss this age or that, how they wish they had more time.

Because the time really does fly when you’re not having fun as a parent.

I’ve experienced it, and not just in relation to our traveling. I’ve spent many years with Zeb, unconsciously rushing through the moments I ache to experience again.

It wasn’t any fun. And I paid dearly with sacred time and trust lost between us.

But the magical thing about time is that it really doesn’t exist. Human beings create time measurement and perceive the time based on our experiences.

By changing those experiences and our choices, we can also change how we perceive the time we spend.

It all comes down to mindfulness: Being in this moment vs. constantly moving toward the next.

Join the conversation: Leave your thoughts in the comments below.