Time, time, time
See what's become of me ...
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please. — Paul Simon
As I write this, it's (checks calendar) Tuesday, or as we call it now — day. It's, what, the seventh week of working from home? Seems like we just started yesterday ... and it seems like it's always been like this: the relaxed roll out of bed, tousling doggy noggins as they greet us, heating water, grinding coffee beans, filling the French press, feeding the dogs, getting the paper, sitting down at my kitchen table "office" in my sweats and T-shirt.
I read the CA (15 minutes on a big day), open my laptop, check news sites, Twitter, Facebook, email. Then I open the "flyer-edit" Slack channel and type "Good morning!" to my fellow Flyer homies.
Except for opening the Slack channel, this is my everyday routine. Every. Day. Highlights of the week include walking the dogs at lunchtime, rolling the trash and recycling bins to the curb on Thursday night, and bringing groceries, dog food, and Amazon packages into the house from the front porch. I also treat myself to one glorious early morning Wednesday trip (masked) to the grocery store, followed by a curbside pickup at the liquor store.
Time flows relentlessly and seamlessly. My wife and I are living quiet, mostly solitary lives, though lately, we've allowed ourselves the incredible luxury of a visitor or two. We sit on the deck, well apart, and talk and gossip and catch up. Friends. Family. What a concept. Such a joy. You don't miss your water, etc., etc.
We may moan and bitch a little, but it's done with the awareness that we are incredibly fortunate to just be dealing with boredom or isolation, unlike millions of Americans who are coping with unemployment and sickness and even fighting for their lives — or, in the case of medical staffers and other essential employees, maybe working harder than ever.
But for many of us the COVID weeks seem to be speeding by in a haze of routine. I wheel the recycling down the drive to the street and think, "Didn't I just do this yesterday? Has it really been a week?"
So why does time seem to be moving faster for some of us? Is it the lack of events to look forward to, the inability to make real plans to go anywhere — to visit out-of-state friends or family or go on vacation trips? Is it the absence of signature human rituals, such as funerals, weddings, graduations, birthday celebrations?
According to a recent L.A. Times article, the answer is yes to all the above: "For the most part, we are not taking part in particularly memorable activities, like getting drinks with a friend, going to a sporting event, or traveling," says Marc Wittmann, an author and research fellow at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg, Germany. "Now, there are fewer signals differentiating a Sunday from a Monday."
The Times article also quotes Adrian Bejan, a professor at Duke University: "The brain remembers the unusual. If our new routines are suddenly different, our brains would be bombarded with images worth remembering. This would then result in the perception that time is moving slowly over the quarantine experience, though it's likely time will feel as though it's speeding up again as the quarantine becomes more familiar."
And for those of us who aren't sitting at home — who are working in a hospital or at home balancing a full work schedule while trying to home-school their children — it's possible those folks will look back and feel as though this period of their lives lasted longer than normal. "When they look back, it will be the other way around."
Time is a funny thing. Even if we're experiencing it in different ways — fast or slow — all our clocks and calendars match. All of our days end at midnight. All of our years begin January 1st. Sunrise, sunset. Live until you can't.
Paul Simon wrote the lyrics quoted above — the opening lines to "A Hazy Shade of Winter" — in 1966, when he was 25. Now he's 78.
"Time, time, time ... "