Mathematics and I have never been the best of friends. The same mental block that causes me to invert the letters in a word or construct a sentence backwards can't make any sense whatsoever out of the way numeric formulae work. While over the years I've gradually been able figure out some basic things like fractions (you just can't do any baking unless you can figure out how many times one eighth goes into six thirty-seconds) and can sort of find my way around the circumference of a circle, anything more advanced than that and I'm lost.
On one hand it's not been any real great loss; I wasn't planning a career as an engineer or computer scientist anyway. But it's also cut me off from understanding things like the physics of light, sound, and time. I've always been fascinated by those three subjects and would have loved to have at least been able to understand what E=MC2 means.
Oh, I know the words are something like energy equals mass times something squared, but that doesn't mean a thing to me. What does relativity mean anyway? What's relative to what? Did Einstein mean that time was relative to something and that something was represented by the famous formula? I've never known and no one has ever been able to explain it to me in terms that I can understand.
I know all sorts of theories about the relative nature of time but I doubt any of them have anything to do with what Albert was talking about. For example there's the time that moves at an ever-decreasing rate of speed relative to the boredom of a high school French class.
A double period that was the last class of the day in the end of May when the sun shone brilliantly bright and the sky was the colour blue you only see from inside a classroom was guaranteed to affect the speed of the clock in relation to the number of times that you looked at it. Then of course there was the amount of time that actually passed relative to the number of hours that it felt like you had been sitting in the aforementioned double period.
Of course all of us were familiar with those expressions of relativity as teenagers, and probably assumed once we had escaped the confines of school time would revert to behaving in its docile pattern of sixty seconds to a minute and sixty minutes to an hour. It just shows how naïve we were about its workings. If anything, time became even more capricious.
There was the pause at the end of the phone after you worked up the courage to ask someone out; the wait for a decision on whether you got the job or not could make one night last an eternity; and finally the way time stretched seconds into forever as your car spun off the road. As an adult you discovered that school was just time's training ground as much as it was your own, time was everywhere now, and not just a clock on the wall to be watched.
Now while most people have experienced those concepts of time in one form or another some of us have had the joy of experiencing the way in which time and memory can intermingle to bring the past to life. People who have suppressed memories of abuse will all of a sudden start vividly reliving an incident from the time of their abuse and swear it's happening in the present, even thought it's a memory. While that's an example of time slipping her moorings it's only a beginning when it comes to the tricks she can get up to especially with memory so ably attending her.
Past and present mean nothing anymore to a survivor with suppressed memories. Everything is in the present and there is nothing she or he can do about it except try to deal with the fact that the memories exist outside the confines of our traditional definition of time. How else would you explain the fact that a person is able to be an adult at the same time as they are living out their experiences as a child?
In order to break the cycle of being stuck in your childhood you have to be willing to walk into the past with your eyes open and rescue yourself. Does all this sound a little New Age for you? Walking into the past sounds a little spacey I guess, but there is really no other way to describe what I'm talking about.
I've been working with a psychologist for the last year and a half in an attempt to clear some flashbacks that seemed to have lingered after more then twelve years. We've been using a technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, better known as E.M.D.R. to help me stop regressing back to childhood every so often.
With E.M.D.R. a client is first asked to bring the memory to mind, then the psychologist will induce a type of hypnotic trance either through rapid eye movement, a steady pulse of sound, or a pulse in the hands. The client then talks through what they are experiencing and responds to questions and suggestions offered by the counselor conducting the session.
The idea is that by bringing the present and the past together in a controlled manner, the client will begin to be able to exert their will over the situation and explain to themselves that the abuse existed only in the past. As silly as it sounds this sometimes involves talking to the child in the memory who is being traumatized to reassure him that his life is not without hope, and it will get better.
Then, dependent on your mood and the circumstances, you can confront your abuser and threaten them for a change if for no other reason than to make you feel good about yourself and to help reassure your memory self that things will get better.
This is an instance of how a person can become stuck in time and be forced to relive a specific moment over and over again. Unlike time in the other instances I've described which actually does move forward without active intervention from the present, time won't flow past this point ever without help.
Time is not always the linear thing that clocks describe as moving in a neat circle with seconds following seconds and minutes following minutes, turning into hours, days, months, and years. Like I said at the beginning I wish I had the knowledge and know-how that would allow me to describe how that works so that I could offer you some scientific proof of what I'm talking about. But I'm afraid you'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that I'm a time traveler. Perhaps not the way H. G. Wells visualised it in his book The Time Machine, but I am one just the same.
Although, I could think of places in time that I'd much rather have visited than where I do have to go sometimes and wish that I had some choice in the matter.