My favorite spot in Bellingham is Taylor Dock. Ever since it was completed in 2006, it has been my go-to place for strolling and, especially, bench sitting. I outlined this piece in my head yesterday while sitting on “my” bench, the sound of waves and the feel of breezes from Bellingham Bay soothing me. In that sun-drenched spot, my mind pondered the concept of time.
As a child, I was raised to be mindful of time—being on time, coming home on time. Honoring time commitments was a way of showing respect for others. When my uncle retired, he said “I’m never going to be on a schedule again.” He and my aunt would arrive hours late for a meal which drove my mother crazy. I was taught to be mindful of my minutes and hours.
I intuitively recognized the difference between clock-time and mind-time. I understood the regularity, the constancy of the hours of the day. I also knew that when school dismissed for the summer, the weeks ahead were wonderfully endless, while the few hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning were excruciatingly long.’
I grew into adulthood with a strong sense of responsibility towards clock-time. Soon after my wife-to-be and I met, Linda nicknamed me “Tic Toc.” I also embraced the mystery of time that seems to expand and contract.
Linda and I have differing approaches towards time and timeliness. On September 27, 1998—15 years before we would be legally able to marry—we had a Holy Union ceremony. We both created a statement to deliver to the other. In naming the “endearing jumble of reasons” I loved Linda, I wrote that she had “a belief that time is elastic, schedules mere guidelines.” She wrote “Everyone know that one of us is always on time, and that the other sets her watch ahead to make sure she’s on time and then is late.”
One thing we agree upon, time keeps moving along more and more quickly. We aren’t surprised by that. Every one of our elders had told us that would be so. What does surprise us is that time seems to be moving with such speed during this pandemic-.
I know that’s not so for everyone. The lonely, cut off from the rest of the world, must see solitary time as endless. Those staying in place with their abusers surely see this as a time of endless horror. While the days of those tending children at home, those balancing childcare with continuing the work on-line, are busy, the months stretching ahead must seem long.
For me, the weeks since mid-March have collapsed in on themselves. Perhaps it is because of the sameness of the days. Even in retirement, my calendar is usually full. The past three calendar months are filled with crossed out events—the pages for the weeks and months ahead are blank.
Part of the message about time that formed me was, as you can imagine, that time should be well spent, not squandered. What an opportunity—as well as a challenge—this set apart time is providing. Heaven knows, I’ve certainly found silly, eat-up-your-time ways of filling my days. I’ve always enjoyed the entertainment of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and PBS Passport. I do feel a bit of guilt, though, on the number of hours I’ve spent on such as “Schitt’s Creek,” and “Parks and Recreation.” I do up the quality with series like “Poldark,” “Beechman House,” and “Doyle’s War,” but they, as well, consume a mighty amount of time. I have also, to my surprise, become a jig saw puzzler. Not the 1,000-piece ones so many people tackle, but puzzles with only 300, large sized pieces. On the days when I’ve spent too much time on such stuff, my evening diary entry is self-judgmental.
I do believe in caring for myself, and sometimes mindless fun is what I need. More often though, selfcare means thoughtful reading, lots of thinking, and some writing. I always feel more pleased with myself if I get out for a walk. These fine days draw me to Taylor Dock, my happy place.
I try to stay connected with others. I communicate regularly via Facebook. I write, both snail mail and email messages. Zoom connects me with friends and family several times a week. Most important, I have the joy of being at home my wife, Linda. We talk throughout the day, and eat dinner together each evening (with Rachel Maddow, our favorite dinner companion).
This set-aside time suits me. I have slipped into the rhythm and pace easily, and find joy in the simplicity of the days. But, oh my goodness, the time is slipping by so quickly.
My guess is that the eventless nature of the days is the culprit. With no markers, no events concretely filling blocks of time, the days slip by unnoticed. I did a small bit of reading on the subject of aging and the passage of time and found out that my theory was pretty much on the mark. The activities of the days, plus the mental images the brain needs to interpret and store our tasks, anchor and accentuate the scope of time. With less activity, thus less input, time does collapse in on itself. Swiftly flow the days.
How do you feel about the time COVID-19 has given you?