by Wilma Jozwiak
Jim Croce wrote "If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I'd like to do is to save every day 'til eternity passes away ..." And if you liked your soaps, you will remember "Like sand through an hourglass, so are the days of our lives"
Time is a human construct - the way we try to make sense of the big spaces in which events occur. Sociologist Karen Sternheimer explains that "Time is one of the most basic examples of something that is socially constructed. We collectively create the meaning of time—it has no predetermined meaning until we give it meaning. To say that something, like time, is a social construction is not to say that it doesn’t exist or it is merely an illusion, but instead that humans have created systems of meaning that creates the concept of time."
Whew! Thinking about that too long makes my head hurt.
When I think about time now, I remember how elastic it used to be when I was a kid. A day at school could fly by if we were doing something fun and interesting, but it crawled when we were reviewing stuff I already knew. The school year was forever long (silly fact: I used to think of the year as a box, with fall, winter, and spring making up three sides and summer as the handle that it all got carried by). And summer - the first few weeks of summer sped by in a flash, until we got to August, when we had done all the stuff we wanted to do and were tired of trying to think of something new, and then the days crawled again until school started.
And there is the "looking back" phenomenon - when I was a young adult, going to school, working, making a family, the days proceeded in an orderly, if hectic, fashion - and now, it seems fantastical that all that happened 40 or 50 years ago. I look back on those years, and it is like peering in through a window - I see some things quite clearly, but others are lost to me now, part of other rooms in the house I cannot see.
So, why am I thinking so much about time now? It isn't just the "last quarter look back" that we tend to do as we realize that we have way more sand in the bottom of the glass than in the top. Rather, it is Pandemic Time that has set me thinking.
Almost everyone I talk to finds that Pandemic Time is just different. On the one hand, days seem to be made of molasses, slowly pouring out and all of a similar texture. On the other hand, it seems like the Sunday paper comes every day. Time matters terribly now - how long will we continue to be at risk from COVID-19? How soon will vaccines be widely available? When will we once again be able to safely visit with people we love? But time also seems like an enemy, as we see people and institutions we care about crushed by the virus and its collateral damage. So, we may end up sort of floating, with time and anxiety working together (or not working!). We start the day with a list, and may end the day with the same list, not sure where the time went.
So, what to do? Here are some thoughts - some are mine, and some come from people or organizations that actually know what they're talking about!
1. Keep in touch. This one is a no-brainer in a way. We don't have access to those casual encounters that were part of most of our lives a year ago, because we value our health and the health of our friends and family. But we can still have contact.
In person contact becomes more difficult as the temperature drops. Some of us spent the warmer months taking socially distanced walks and either-end-of-the-picnic-table lunches with friends, or even "car parties", where we pulled up a spot across from one another and had a gabfest through our open windows, Cold weather changes that for all of us, and of course some of us were not physically able to do them even in good weather.
Here is where simple technologies (phone calls) and more sophisticated ones (FaceTime, Zoom, or other online meeting applications) can come to the rescue.
2, Read. Read a lot. Re-read books you loved in the past, and find new books that you can fall in love with. If you are just a little bit of a "techie", consider borrowing ebooks from your library. Most libraries have increased the availability of ebooks, and many are also offering remote tech support to get up and running (that is, their resident tech gurus will talk you through it).
While you're at it, think about bibliotherapy - that is, reading books that can help you process what's going on. These are not just self-help books, but rather also books about people and times and the way humans make lemonade when handed lemons, Here is an excellent article on that kind of bibliotherapy.
3, Write. Just start by writing down what's in your head at the moment. Don't worry about penmanship (I use my computer - you might want to also), or correct spelling or grammar. If nothing comes to mind, just start describing things you see around you until the Muse comes to you.
It's amazing what can happen when you write. You will unlock memories that you haven't disturbed for years. You may solve a problem that's been bugging you. You may find that you'd like to share what you've written with someone, perhaps in a letter, or as a way of preserving family history. With the support of Poets & Writers Foundation, Care Links and CAPTAIN CHS have been able to offer facilitated writing workshops which participants found to be a wonderful way to begin or encourage a habit of writing - we hope to be able to offer more in the new year.
Whatever you do with time, though, and regardless of its being just a construct, we know that it is a limited commodity. We hope you will find something that allows you to take best advantage of the slowdown the pandemic has forced upon us. What have you found that works for you? Please tell us in the comments section below. And if you would like to "share something with the group", please let us know - you can contact us by email here.