(for the proper effect, please imagine the title of this said in a really intense excited voice.)
so like, time agnosia. that. that’s a thing. it’s a thing where you don’t have any sense of how much time is passing, or just any sense of time in general. this is a hard thing for a lot of people to imagine. especially when i try to explain it, because i have really absurdly intense time agnosia. for everything.
to give you an example: there is a bus stop a few blocks away from my house, where i go to catch the bus that takes me downtown. i took that same bus to and from high school all four years, as well as for multiple summers of jobs downtown during college, and i still take it on the way to doctor’s appointments and to get prescriptions filled and to do like 50% of all things that require leaving the house. so i’ve walked this walk from my house to this bus stop like thousands upon thousands of times.
i don’t know how long it takes.
i have a rough estimation system that goes like this: it must be between five and fifteen minutes total, because if it was less than five minutes, i’d always have caught my bus, and if it was more than fifteen minutes i’d have like never caught my bus, and therefore since i catch my bus sometimes but not others, it must take in between those two amounts of time to walk to the bus stop.
this is basically the only estimation tool i possess. it only works for short trips from one location to another, with a deadline.
other than that, i’m at sea.
when someone asks me how much time i need to do something, i cannot honestly answer them, because i don’t know. you might say “well, emma, how long did it take you last time?” to which i’d answer, “i don’t know, and it takes a different amount of time every time…” when someone tells me that they’re going on a trip for X amount of time, i don’t know what that means in terms of how long it will be until i see them again. i have a very, very bad case of the “now or not now” syndrome. i truly can only think in those terms. you might say “emma, if you can’t think of anything other than now or not now, how can you ever wait for things?” and my answer would be “the only way that i can actually ‘wait’ for anything is if i can somehow forget that i’m waiting at all.” you might say “emma, how can you actually do basic daily tasks or plan your life if all you think about is now or not now?” to which i’d reply “when you figure that out, please tell me, because i’d love to know.”
i have no metric, no ruler, no timer, no clock inside of my head. i do, however, have one BADASS metronome in there. my sense of what time means has two metrics: one is kinesthetic, and the other is spatial. rhythms and maps.
my brain records intervals between beats as movements, gestures. repeat the gesture, repeat the movement, and you make the beat. i don’t have to tap my foot to keep tempo, because i can feel my body moving even when it’s not, and my brain is often just feet tapping.
and when it comes to larger intervals of time, like days, weeks, months, years, centuries, so on…things get verrrryyyy spatial. there’s a type of synaesthesia (i’ve read everything reputable that you can get your hands on about synaesthesia, i just don’t feel like talking about it right now, so if you want to have “synaesthesia versus ideasthesia” debates go away i’m tired.) referred to as “time-space synaesthesia” which i imagine a great number of people have to some degree. it’s where you imagine calendar time (months, years, etc) as either two- or three-dimensional spatial maps. for most people, this means like, you know, a year is a circle, the months are bits on the circle, so on, whatever. i have time-space synaesthesia on steroids. i’ve actually never encountered an equally detailed/spatial time-space synaesthete in all my perusing of the scientific literature. the closest parallel is with daniel tammet and numbers. i have no memory of ever understanding time without this exact map. it has been the same since i can remember. it is my only way of understanding where i or anything else is in time. if you want me to think of what day of the week it is, i instantly try to picture where i am on my map. it is time, as far as i’m concerned.
here are some pictures i drew for my psychologist of different scales/perspectives on my time-space map (i’m sorry, i will caption these descriptively later for visually-impaired readers, but they’re complicated and i just don’t have the energy to words that much tonight):
Above: This is why I referred to the “fronts” of days when describing the first picture. That whole week-map thing? It’s actually a three-dimensional spiral, like a ribbon curl that goes around and around. This is a drawing of that ribbon-curl thing. The lower of the two sketches is of how the curliness of the ribbon-curl shape plays into the way time is displayed on each day. The nighttime is the backside of the ribbon, literally the part in the shade that from the front you can’t see.
Above: This is a picture of what the year looks like to me (on the left) and then how centuries line up (on the right). And yes, the year-map is carefully to scale. That is how long those months look in my head, and exactly where they show up on the oval. And yes, the months do go in counter-clockwise order. No, I don’t know why.
Above: So this is what the centuries look like all lined up (from the front). But remember, they’re in three dimensions, right? So this isn’t just a flat, level image. You have to think about the centuries as if they make up a long, narrow sheet of paper that hangs in space. Some sections of this paper are lower than others, and it can curve over. This is an image of the centuries from above (looking down on the wide flat surface of that sheet of paper, with shading to show how at certain points in time, the paper curves down.
Above: Now, if you were to look at that sheet of paper made of centuries from the side, this is the change in height/curvature/direction that you would see. I’ve marked the important dates that involve curve or direction changes on there as well.