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Swimming with the Time Gremlin

Do you remember how hungry you’d get as a kid after swimming? My brother and I would stand in the shallow end, refusing to leave our grandparents’ pool, as we got served open-faced liverwurst sandwiches.

At the pool, I channelled Esther Williams, America’s Mermaid. I dragged my brother into doing synchro routines. We’d do underwater flips and handstands. Dive and jump off the diving board. “Biggest splash wins.” We swam for hours. I’m not exaggerating.

Time moved slowly as a kid.

Time Change

Eventually, things changed. Time sped up. We didn’t want to spend all day swimming. We’d rather play with friends, read books (me, not my brother), or skateboard (my brother, not me). But what was really happening is that we were growing up.

Why does time speed up as we grow older? I remember those swim days when summer vacation lasted forever. With each passing year, the days seemed shorter, the summer didn’t last as long.

The Time Gremlin

Have you met the saboteur I call the Time Gremlin? He wants to make sure time controls people instead of the other way around. Nitpicking about “wasting” time, he seeks efficiency at all costs. He sits on his throne with satisfaction, grinning as all his minions talk about “time management.” The Time Gremlin hooks you by what you haven’t done (future state) or haven’t done well enough (past state).

Countering the Time Gremlin

The clue to countering the Time Gremlin is in the last sentence. Ground yourself in the present moment. He has no power in the now.

And yet, while we know this is the “right” answer intellectually, we just can’t bring ourselves to be present. “I’ll do it when I have time.” Once again, the Time Gremlin has trapped us. We voluntarily re-enter the power struggle with the Time Gremlin, hoping this time we’ll succeed and quiet it once and for all.

But that’s not how saboteurs work.

You can never beat a saboteur. If you engage with it, it will always find another way to get you. Saboteurs aren’t interested in resolution. They’re only interested in being right.

The Starfish

You need a synchro move between experiencing the Time Gremlin saboteur and getting present. Call it the “starfish.”

Picture yourself floating on your back in a pool with your arms and legs outstretched.  You’re a starfish. It’s a sunny, hot day. In this relaxed but alert state, you ask yourself, “What’s the 10% truth in the Time Gremlin’s position?” Acknowledge what the Time Gremlin wants you to know. We create saboteurs in our childhood to protect us so recognizing they’re doing their job lets them be heard and settle down.

Then, shift to your Leader Within, that is, your voice of inner wisdom. Your inner being can separate the real you from the Time Gremlin. What does your Leader Within know about the Time Gremlin? Listen to that voice. The answer may surprise you. Maybe your Leader Within identifies the motivation behind the Time Gremlin’s behaviour. Or it highlights a better way forward that bypasses the Time Gremlin.

Taking the Plunge

Now you’re ready to try again to be present.

  • Dive into the swimming pool.
  • Read the terrific short story, The Swimmer, by John Cheever.

Header Photo by Raphaël Biscaldi on Unsplash, Photo by Austrian National Library on Unsplash

The only difference in the concept of time as children versus adults lies in our perception. We can change our perception on time simply by grounding ourselves in the present.

Let time be still.

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