One of the unifying aspects of this pandemic is that we are all experiencing time differently. It has become elastic, slow and drawn out, long days bending into late evenings. It can also snap off and leave us devastated, mired in loss and grief we never saw coming. People have taken loved ones to hospitals, stayed in touch by phone because they weren’t allowed in, and then were told that their husband, or wife, or family member was dead. They had no time to say goodbye, and now they have nothing but time to mourn, but at a distance from those who would embrace them and comfort them, dry their tears and hold their hands.

For those who haven’t suffered loss, days stretch out in slow motion and nights seem endless. It’s sort of like when we were kids and time seemed to move at a punishingly slow pace when there was something we were looking forward to – summer, or a birthday. We swore there was some diabolical plot that made the clocks move slower. This is the adult version. Our stretched-out time is filled with reflections of the past, worries and dreams and fears about the future. It can also be filled with a more reverential way of looking at the world and at each other. We have time now to walk along neighborhood streets that we are usually driving down, rushing to work or appointments, taking kids to school and checking off our lists of errands. We’re looking at the sky more, we’re looking at each other more; we don’t hurry past because there isn’t anywhere we need to be.

It’s a gentler way of going through life, and I wonder, when this crisis lumbers to an end and we re-emerge into whatever normal life will look like then, if we will hold onto this. Will we remember to look up at clouds scudding across the sky? Will we meet the eyes of neighbors and strangers and take a moment to ask how they’re doing? Will we remember that we never know when time will snap off and leave us stranded, so we need to make the most of our days and hours? It’s human nature to forget the lessons we learn in critical times, but I hope we don’t.

Living at a pace where we have time for appreciation, for gratitude, for joy and for tears, is some of the best work we can do. Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke about how he has had time to get to know his kids on a deeper, more substantive level, whereas before everyone was so busy. There is a humility and a vulnerability to realizing that time will move past us, through us, and we have to make the most of it because it won’t wait for us to catch up.

But not everyone wants us to be our best. Donald Trump doesn’t. He is doing his best to divide us and stir up dissension, even violence. His tweets to Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia urged them to “LIBERATE.”  He then added that the Second Amendment was “under siege,” which, as far as I’m concerned, sounds like a call for armed insurrection. Governor Jay Inslee accused the president of “fomenting domestic rebellion.” Trump doesn’t want a nation of people who take time to reflect, who understand the value of slowing down. He depends on anger, he craves chaos, and violent demonstrations are his idea of “winning.”

So, who are we going to be? Are we going to be a people who come through the crisis of this cruel pandemic with a deeper appreciation of life, with a humility we were too busy for before, with a newfound tenderness toward each other and maybe even toward this earth? We have a president in office right now who will see that as a betrayal of everything he believes in. In this context, betrayal is how we will save ourselves.


2 Responses to ABOUT TIME

  1. David Deutsch says:

    Hi, Patti. I hope you are well. This is such a shining piece on so many levels. I especially love your comparison of this time to our childhood days, something I hadn’t considered and something which feels so perfect an analogy. If that’s the case (and I hope it is) maybe we will revive our sense of creativity and capacity for wonder, long dormant in many of us. A period of reflection and shift of perspective should be good for the country, and for our souls. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and giving us all something new to contemplate. Stay well.

  2. BG Rhule says:

    Perfectly articulated,Patti. The other reason Trump wants this to end is that the only thing the Republicans had to run on, the economy, is no longer a viable issue. It’s in shambles, and it was his failure to act over three months time and to continue to fail the prople of the United States with a lack of testing data that is going to be his total undoing.

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