My sense of time has a life of its own

musings from a therapist's journal-Patty Bechtold writes about how our sense of time has changed during the pandemic at

(Lately I’m sometimes called to write more personal blog posts that originate in my journal. This is one of them.)

It’s remarkable to me how we’re all having this shared experience of the shifting sense of time.

I like that we’re in it together, that we’re noticing the vagaries of time right now. I’m glad it comes up often in conversations with friends and sessions with clients, because I have a feeling it’s comforting for us to talk about it.

And while our sense of time may have changed, we can still anchor ourselves by giving voice to it in the here and now.

  • days that feel like weeks
  • weeks that feel like days
  • forgetting what day of the week it is
  • forgetting what month it is
  • losing the moment we’re in
  • feeling distracted and discombobulated

And then there are the questions that keep bringing us back to the shifting sense of time…

  • Did that go by fast/slow for you too?
  • What happened to July? 
  • Did July go on forever?
  • Are we there yet?

In one conversation I had, someone (I can’t remember who) framed the shifting sense of time as an ebb and flow. I like that a lot, because it’s tied to ocean tides. And it’s kind of like our inner ocean is a bit out of whack.

But then I wonder if that’s all that’s going on.

Or is there something here about our deeper rhythms?

Now, I know there are a lot of smart people who are experts on time perception and can tell us exactly why our sense of time has shifted: ongoing worry and stress, messed up internal clocks, not enough for our brains to do and disrupted schedules.

I accept all that, but I also notice something feels familiar about this. It reminds me a little of what happens when I go on vacation. Usually, my time perception shifts when I’m on vacation and I actually like it.

I lose track of days and it doesn’t feel bad, it feels like the beginning of a return to normalcy

It’s like my natural internal rhythm is trying to reassert itself.

Of course, I’m really lucky, because I’m in control of my own schedule. And I have a lot of freedom to work where I please. In fact, for the past month I’ve been spending as much time as possible outside. 

Right now I’m sitting on the deck writing this. Listening to the birds. Watching a bunny hop by, headed for some sweet grass to nibble.

Looking up at the sky. Smiling. I realize I’m smiling as I write. My breath comes easily and naturally.

I give into it. I feel relaxed.

I suppose, in a way, this is what it was like for our ancestors, to spend much of their time outdoors hunting and gathering, to live with the rhythms of the sun and moon and stars.

But then there were predators and hunger and all the rest of it, so it wasn’t some idyllic paradise even then.

And who knows if these pandemic times will somehow change our internal rhythms and sense of time in a good way?

Still, I’ll hold the hope and take the good right now. 

And I’ll share a poem with you, one I wrote eight years ago after I returned from an especially good vacation…

This Day Only

She loved to lose track of days

dropping them like rose petals

or sending them off into the sea.

Bottles with messages bound

to be retrieved by someone else:

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

(nowhere in sight for her).

*     *     *

Her days folded into one another

without headings or proclamations.


No: the weekend’s finally here.

Each day, instead, a perfect gift

unwrapped each morning

like a child at Christmas.

*     *     *

At sunrise her fingers itched

to unloose the bow;

to tear away the paper;

to pop the lid;

to discover the secret

of this particular day.

One of a kind.

*     *     *

Sometimes, she’d forget to remember

to forget what day it was.

Trying to fit herself into a

box on the calendar,

an architecturally perfect square

surrounded by twins, triplets,

quadruplets multiplying into eternity.

*     *     *

But she could (eventually)

shrug them away

letting them roll down her arms.

Returning to her watery essence.

Flowing with the current of this day.

This day.

This day only.

*     *     *









Patty Bechtold

Patty Bechtold

Welcome. I'm a Santa Rosa therapist and life coach, and I help women who feel like something’s missing in their lives or themselves. I specialize in self-esteem, anxiety, depression, grief, life transition, and women's groups. On this blog I write about different approaches to help you find your way back to your deepest wisdom. Thank you for being here.