We have all noticed how time changes depending on the circumstances. It seems to slow down when we’re bored or in trouble and speed up when we want something to last forever. But this past year and a half an even stranger component was added to erode and confuse our sense of time.
Most of us depend on rituals and routines to maintain schedules, pay bills, set up appointments, and remember important events. For me it was often about my daughter. She was always at the center of any action, or memory.
Even today, when recollecting a particular event or moment in the past, it’s related to her.
We moved into the house I now live in when she was 11.
I bought my last car when she graduated from college.
A close friend was diagnosed with cancer when she was 5.
My father passed away when she was 1 and my mother when she was 12.
I remember most birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations by how they temporally related to holidays and other regular life events.
A friend was born 2 days before 9/11.
Another was married a week before Thanksgiving. I quickly learned Thanksgiving is not a set date in stone so I send a card a week before the holiday and I’m usually within the time frame considered appropriate to acknowledge their day!
But that was all shot to heck when COVID hit.
Routines and norms went out the window. And it affected our sense of time.
How many of us are shocked it’s already October and the holidays are almost upon us… again.
Or thought for sure we’d paid that water bill to find it’s been 2 months since the last payment was sent? Can’t believe the project assigned for school or work is already due?
We are all struggling. But those of us who’ve experienced decades of routine have it a little easier than those with little or none. Just like muscle memory after years of practice and performing the same thing over and over it becomes rote. For those without that history it can quickly become a catastrophe.
The twenty something who has minimal experience with paying bills, following through on commitments, and work projects now has to learn a job without the normal guidance and in personal interactions.
The school age children who just spent over a year isolated at home desperately trying to learn on a lifeless machine to then be thrown back into the fray.
Families suddenly in chaos now trying to reestablish a sense of “normalcy”. No longer eating when mom and dad come home from a day at work, going to after school activities, using weekends to catch up, have fun and meet up with friends and loved ones.
They don’t have a history that has formed into a routine that continues even in the absence of structure. We often depend on that very structure to keep us more organized and efficient.
I remember a friend starting a new company she ran entirely on the computer at home decades ago. A year later she went back to working for a large firm explaining she just didn’t have the discipline and personality required to manage her time well when left to her own devices. And honestly, she missed the contact and comradely atmosphere of the workplace.
Even older, retired folks had routines that kept them tethered to each day- running errands, seeing family, volunteer work, and provider visits. When these went by the wayside, many had trouble keeping track of simple needs and requirements. For them it was devastating, for loved ones heartbreaking. Too often I saw older adults who were doing well, living alone or with minimal assistance devolve.
We all benefit from a sense of purpose and contact with others to give us a reason to get up in the morning. When those are significantly diminished we feel lost, disconnected. Creating fear, sadness, loneliness and in some cases, anger at being put in that position.
I get it.
But lashing out isn’t the answer. Joining together is.
We are all experiencing crises after crises after crises, wondering when the next wave will hit. And every time we attempt to return to any sense of normalcy another issue arises, making us feel even more agitated, disrupted and alienated than ever.
Left to our own devices we tend to take the path of least resistance- staying in pajamas throughout the day, sleeping late, eating at all hours and glued to our devices for company.
We must first stop this cycle.
Start by establishing rules and guidelines for how each day will pass. Get up at the same time each morning. Get to bed at the same time each night. Eat at specific hours. Start using a calendar to ensure bills and appointments are scheduled and kept. Make a to-do list and update it weekly.
Talk to each other. Those at home make time in every day to share, have fun, and really be together.
For others, schedule a specific time to catch up, and keep it.
A storm can easily pick off those on the fringes. It has a much harder avenue to those clustered tightly together protecting each other.
Sadly, this time warp isn’t ending soon.
We must help those on the periphery by giving them the resources and connections to survive. Teaching them new ways to establish anchors that will keep them safe. We must help each other to weather this storm by providing the attention and human contact we can’t live without.
Anger and hatred wins when we feel isolated and scared.