Letters from the Quarantine, #2
The Flow of Time
Said Melody’s father and WWII vet Bill Santlin,
“The days they drag on, but the years they fly by.”
March 31, 2020
I am struck by the number of days that have gone by since our shelter in place experience began. Damn, it seems like we’ve been doing this forever, but time plays tricks on us. Einstein taught us that time is relative to the context.
The Predictable Patterns of Normal Time
If we are working on a regular schedule, time is linear. It starts at a certain time, Monday through Friday and is divided into meetings, meals, phone calls, and other duties. When the workday is over, we return home for another meal and time with the family, if we have one. Then to bed and, as the clock reminds us in the morning, the routine begins again.
Before we know it, the weekdays have become the weekend. Days become weeks, and weeks become months, and before we are aware another year has disappeared like the pages of our page-a-day Awkward Family Photos calendars. For families with young children, the days and nights are even more vigorously dissected into childcare duties, household chores, transportation, and crisis management. It’s exhausting, but the clock moves very quickly.
The Chaos of Quarantine Time
In the quarantine, time is muddled and circular. Time slows to a crawl and may seem to stop around mid-afternoon. Like Melody’s sainted dad said in his later years, “The days they drag on, but the years they fly by.” We aren’t prompted as we were when our schedule was set.
Essential Jobs Require a Working Presence
There are plenty of people working in essential positions who are still time’s minions. They are the stalwarts of this story. The people who keep the wheels of society turning. The health care professionals who perform the dangerous jobs necessitated by the medical reality of the coronavirus are on tight, demanding schedules. Others perform the essential duties that keep us safe and sane. They are the first responders, police, fire, and emergency personnel. There are others who keep the grocery stores stocked, the water and electricity working, and the trash we generate collected and disposed. If they were not working, we would soon devolve into the early days of The Walking Dead. Remember to thank them when you can.
“Non-Essential Jobs” Does not Mean your Work is Unimportant
For those of us who do not work in essential areas, we are suddenly at loose ends. People like me who have been retired for a time have already had to deal with a variety of time’s undoing. That is why many newly-retired, when asked how’s retirement going, often say, “It’s a work in progress.” Just like for the newly-retired, now for the majority of Americans, the questions become, “Why do I get up in the morning?” and “When I do, what is there to do?”
Managing the Fluidity of Time
I strongly recommend for those who are new at this unusually fluid time situation, that you develop a schedule that works for the entire group that shares the quarantine captivity. Small children will be empowered to have even more control over the household schedule. Parents and children are thrown together like an unexpected summer vacation without any of the outdoor activities that divide the normal vacation day. Devise the timetable that includes getting up, getting dressed, meals, activities, exercise, tech time (iPad, YouTube, TV, computer), homeschooling, and relaxation (movies, games, talent shows).
Adults alone can work on home projects, hobbies, binge television watching (We just binged The Wire – excellent.), books, crossword puzzles, movies (make a list), journaling, gardening, and exercise. Any motion counts as exercise (very important)– getting up out of the chair and letting the dog out is exercise, music, cooking, meals, cleaning, jigsaw puzzles, whatever you like to do. Stay in touch with family and friends, not for too long but with care.
A Cautionary Statement on Time Management
Avoid letting the looseness of time make you loose about what makes you crazy. Keep the house and personal areas clean, or, at least, picked-up. Personal hygiene of a minimal sort, at least, will help maintain a modicum of self-content, avoiding self-contempt.
Be Mindful of Maintaining a Positive Outlook
The completion of each day is a triumph. Tomorrow is another opportunity. Stop and look out the window just to see the greening of the spring.
It’s good to be alive, and our trials can make us stronger.
Be the light.
Fred Zuker, 3/31/20
Fred wanted me to post this for him.
Fred Zuker has written letters telling what it is like to shelter in place as protection from covid-19.
Naturally, I edited it a bit to suit my style of blogging. Headings are mine, as is the repositioning of the inspirational quote. The photo of Fred is also in his book Grace with Meals that tells the story of his experience with cancer.
More Helter Shelter Letters:
Search the blog categories zuker and/or essays>>covid-19 quarantine. (Yeah, I know this is shelter in place, but I chose to leave open the option for an essay on quarantine.~~Valerie)