Writer’s Note: I’m finding myself thinking more about time than usual these days — specifically the passage of time. There are probably lots of “triggers” causing this. The obvious reason is the weight of now seven months of “hibernation” as the result of the pandemic. For health reasons, Jim and I are being advised to continue our “hermit” gig, even though as I am writing this, much of Louisiana has moved to Phase 3 or a hybrid of such. There is still much disagreement as to what the correct “next steps” should be. And don’t even get me started on football . . .
Our primary care physician (who also happens to be a former student and dear friend) is insistent that we continue refusing to have any visitors, going out in public only when fully masked, and only leaving home to conduct essential business. Sounds a lot like Phase 1, doesn’t it?
We have done our very best to follow the rules, and thankfully have not become ill. We even had our flu shots earlier than usual. We are obeying orders . . . but more and more with gritted teeth. — GP
Don’t Wish Your Life Away
When I was growing up and was impatiently waiting for something — anything -- to happen (like getting my driver’s license, going on my first date, going to my first high school dance, etc.), I remember my mother admonishing me, quietly, but sternly. “Don’t wish your life away!”
My usual reaction (typical of most teenagers) was to be slightly annoyed. How could she possibly understand how important these upcoming milestones were to me? Although I was always respectful, the things that I thought when hearing her say that were anything but.
When I got curious about the origin of Mother’s saying, I discovered a contemporary reference --- the title song to a new Blumhouse/SONY film “Fantasy Island” is entitled “Don’t Wish Your Life Away . . .” I haven’t seen the movie (going out to movies is not on the rather short list of approved activities for us), but I did look up the song and read the lyrics. Clearly, I’m not alone in thinking about time and how we use it.
Jared Lee (singer, songwriter, and platinum producer) composed the song as an admonishment to all of us not to let time slip by unnoticed and unused. His chorus: “Don’t wish your life away. Don’t live for yesterday. You’re chasing dreams and running blind with fantasies inside your mind, Hoping things are gonna change. Don’t wish your life away.” My mother would have loved it.
Hurry Up, Christmas!
What Mother wouldn’t have loved is the gradual crunching together of the major fall/winter holidays in such a way that it is difficult to see the Halloween merchandise for the Christmas baubles. More and more, there is less “definition” separating Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Next thing you know, Santa will be featured carving a pumpkin . . .
Those of you who are familiar with my writings know that on several occasions I have written in disgust about this “hurrying” of the seasons. However, this year I’m embracing the trend. Make no mistake, 2020 is no exception — earlier and earlier, holiday merchandise is being offered for sale. I was in a local big box store in early August and had to steer my cart carefully around a giant, lighted nutcracker that was nearly twice my height. When I dodged him, I almost ran over a lighted jack o’lantern, just waiting to sit on someone’s front porch.
The merchants may be on to something. Three weeks ago our daughter sent us a picture of an enormous black spider that she had ordered for a Halloween decoration. He sprawls eerily in one of her porch rockers, just waiting to “greet” anyone who passes by. A week later, she placed a “bat tree” as the centerpiece in her dining room. Social media is filled with ads and recommendations for all sorts of holiday things just waiting to be delivered (following all COVID guidelines) to one’s door.
This year, if I am perfectly honest, I am MORE than ready for the holidays to come and go and bring 2021 — and a new start — into being. It pains me to write this, but I’m ready to sing some Christmas carols.
Lincoln Had It Right
Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Well, Abe — sometimes those days drag by too slowly.
Even the least educated among us will recognize that while Lincoln didn’t have to deal with a pandemic, his presidential life wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. One can only imagine how wearing his own “one day at a time” days weighed on him as he struggled to reunite the country (or to bring those Southern taxes back to the treasury, as many thought).
Just a few days ago, a dear friend sent me a letter in which he admitted that the “hermit routine” was beginning to get to him. He wrote that he had believed at the beginning of the shutdown that this experience was going to be “a piece of cake”. Now, he said, that feeling is fading, primarily because there is no definable end in sight. Lincoln must have surely felt the same way.
Spending Time Wisely
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, speaks to the importance of daily engagement with life. “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while,” she writes. She is right, of course. How we spend our time each day directly influences the attitudes that we project to others. It may be one of the keys to sanity during times like these — finding purpose in every single day.
For some of us, this isn’t easy. Like that young, impatient teenager mentioned earlier, it is tempting to wish our life away — or at least this particular part of it. All of us long for a return to something akin to what we knew before this crisis hit. Many social media posts point to an almost universal desire to be rid of 2020. “You’ve been 2020’d” is a new catch phrase when something unexpected (and often unpleasant) happens. There was a calendar posted on FaceBook recently that showed the months that have already passed in 2020. Each calendar had a portrait of Lucille Ball, each displaying one of her characteristic expressions. For the current month — September — Lucy is pictured turning a liquor bottle “bottoms up” and chugging. Clearly, things are getting rougher with each month that passes. One wonders what Lucy pictures will acknowledge the final quarter of this year.
It has become easy to forget what day of the week it is. I spent one Wednesday recently convinced it was Thursday. I’m not alone in this. Many tell me they have experienced the same inability to keep track of time.
It is our nature as humans to enjoy the company of others and to live with some sort of order or routine. The pandemic has shattered both of those, for some more than others. It wasn’t until the initial shutdown began taking hold that we realized just how routine our lives had become. We see now in ways never before that life requires interaction with others and develops its own routine.
Still, there are those times when we emerge from the fog. Something “clicks” and we are nudged back to something familiar and “normal” for just a little while.
Take Sunday mornings, for example. We have not been able to worship in person at our church congregation since early March. To compensate for that, every Sunday morning Jim teaches a Bible Study for the two of us at home, goes over the prayer requests from his temporarily suspended Wednesday evening Bible class, and we take communion each Sunday morning. I have been interested watching him over all these months. He has never failed to dress each Sunday in something more formal than he does on the other six days of our week.
He marks the difference between the other days and “Sunday” in a quiet and respectful way. That renews us both.
Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Khalil Gibran (1883-1931 writer and painter) wrote, “Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.” I’ve been thinking about that. All we really have is “now” — the moment in which we are actually living. Everything else is either remembering what has gone before, or pining for what will come.
If we allow the pandemic to take away our “todays”, we will regret not being able to recover that precious lost time.