Time is a funny thing. You cannot see it or touch it, but our lives revolve around it. I’ve spent much of my life trying to manage it. Prioritizing, making lists, and building schedules to accomplish as much as possible. Racing from appointment to appointment. Struggling to cram everything into a finite number of hours in a day like clowns into a Volkswagen. Increasingly aware of the decreasing number of years left in my life. So much to accomplish in so little time.
Then a pandemic hit the world. Time changed. It became suspended, elastic, and warped. The time before is just a few months in the past, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Or yesterday. The days in between meld into one. It is hard to distinguish one week from the next. The future is unfathomable.
Cocooned at home, time became abundant. I read online articles about making the most of this time. About finishing that novel, learning a new skill through online education, tackling a house project, producing art. I balked at these supposedly inspirational posts. They seemed disconnected from my reality. I no longer had to balance the seesaw between time for travel writing and time for fiction writing. I was not travelling and travel stories seemed insensitive. But the motivation to work on my fiction wasn’t there. I had no desire to clean closets, wash walls, declutter, or spring clean. I didn’t try to refresh the little Spanish I’d learned in continuing education classes. I sat down at the piano a few times, but didn’t make it a regular habit. I was sporadic in my exercise routine.
I surfed the internet for news articles and personal stories. For connection and for distraction. It didn’t matter if I got sidetracked into something that took a few minutes or an hour. I read more. I binge watched television. I did crossword puzzles. I did jigsaw puzzles. I did nothing. I am not a do-nothing kind of person, but sometimes it just felt right. It no longer mattered if nothing got ticked off a to-do list
What did matter was connecting with family and friends. The best use of time was a half-hour on the phone, minutes spent creating and responding to emails, or an hour on Zoom.
I stopped trying to control time. I just existed within it. I accepted that idleness and pleasant distractions were what I needed to soothe the soul and survive the worry and isolation. I was gentler with myself.
Months later, time changes again. I’ve written a bit here and there–travel and fiction. Lists are making a comeback. I waver between longing to return a full schedule of deadlines, long to-do lists, appointments, and adventures outside the home, and wanting to linger in this relaxed version of time where there is room for idleness, daydreams, reflection, and noticing the little things. I ponder priorities. I consider changing my focus in the time ahead.
Two years down the road, how will I look back at this time? Will I view it as an aberration, as the implausible hallucination it has so often felt like. Will I see it as a turning point? Will I be too busy cramming all I feel I must do into finite hours to even think about it?
Time is a funny thing.