Where does the time go?
I cannot believe it has now been over a full month of ‘staying at home.’ That’s an example of my strange relationship with time. A repeated theme during my time of quarantine has been a shifting perception of time on both micro and macro levels.
On the macro level, I keep forgetting the date. I can normally remember what day of the week, but I have lost count of how many times I have uttered the phrase, “Alexa, what is the date today?” Luckily, Alexa – the best of all roommates – always answers politely.
On the micro level, my perception of time keeps swinging from one extreme to the other. There are times when I get focused on something and think that only a few minutes have passed, only to find that it has been hours. That is rather rare. The more common experience is that time seems to stand utterly still. I do something, thinking that I have been working at it for a long time, then discover that it has only taken a few minutes.
Today was one of those days that felt somehow endless. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Today, for instance, I slept in late and then spent the bulk of my day in video calls with friends. I had one at 11 a.m., another at 1 p.m. and another at 4 p.m. Each of them was about 90 minutes, so I spent over four hours online with friends today. In the process of that – coupled with cleaning and preparing dinner and cooking and choosing the best wine to pair with my meal – I entirely lost track of time.
This odd fluctuation perception of time started me thinking. Why have I lost a solid understanding of days, dates, hours, etc.? Normally, I am a great judge of exactly what time it is and I certainly don’t usually forget what day of the week or calendar date it is. So what’s causing this now?
It may seem like a “no brainer” question to some people, but I honestly had not truly stopped to think about it until today. The answer, at least for me, is that I have now spent an entire month away from all of my traditional external benchmarks. Before quarantine, I was taking a rock climbing class two days a week at my gym – so I had a consistent frame of reference for Mondays and Wednesdays. Certain organizations to which I belong had consistent meetings on specific days of the month.
At work, there were some regular meetings and certain specific times that things occurred – whether is was the opening of the box office, or the arrival of the morning and afternoon mail, or the testing of the emergency sirens every Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. Working at a college, I got used to a specific flow of students coming in and out of the building at various times, and faculty members keep very specific schedules, so certainly people would almost always stop by at specific times to talk to me.
I had not realized until today just how many things in my life were out there governing both the way I spent my time and my perception of the passage of time. All regular signals have either been silenced or have changed to a more erratic schedule. My sense of time is now almost entirely internal and that internal clock seems to be highly subjective.
I can’t say whether I find this good or bad – or just neutral. I guess it just “is.” Like the world situation right now, there’s nothing I can do to change it so I just have to stay calm and focused and responsive instead of reactive. This weird flow of time doesn’t feel dangerous or wrong to me, just curious. So for now, I will just let it be what it needs to be.
Where does the time go? I have no clue, but I can say that right now – as I finish typing this – the time has come for a glass of wine.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.