Time in the Pandemic
It was a week ago, or maybe three months ago…
Relaying any story seems to start like that…it happened a couple weeks ago, or maybe a few months ago…I am still not sure. Time has lost its meaning. We are almost at a year since the Pandemic started in this part of the world and many of us have been reflecting on this year, what might have been, and how to move forward. In the new year, I came across the article from Austin Kleon, Circular time vs. linear time and it began a journey for me to try to understand how time has changed during the pandemic?
Kleon writes about the innovation of linear time, “when change over time is irreversible, loss and mourning become daily things”. But what if it is circular? What if the loss is something that keeps us wanting, striving, rather than embracing and understanding that we are part of that circle?
We know that there is only present.
We think back — what could have been if this one thing changed?
What if we could reverse time? What would we gain that we believe we had lost?
We know that we can’t do this — move backwards, change the past — we know that living in the past or the future leaves us depressed and anxious.
So what of circular time? Is this a healthier way to think of time?
We have all heard the comparisons to Groundhog Day as one day floats into the next but the point of Groundhog Day is to actually do something different — change the trajectory. Have we done that? Have we been intentional about that?
What I have found during this time is that we can “make time”. We can set boundaries, schedule our day with different tasks we want to accomplish. We have to carve out time for ourselves — for example, instead of getting on another phone call, I put on my headphones, listen to a podcast and do some art.
Kleon also states in his blog about Groundhog Day, “Art, no matter how badly we do it, will always be here for us when we need meaning for our days.” This is true for me.
The day can roll by with nothing but screen time, meetings and standing/sitting in one place and the mind-numbing experience of scrollaxing.
So admittedly, while catching myself scrolling furiously (opposite of scrollaxing) to find some answers, I found myself going back in my social media profiles to see how I responded early on…how things changed…how have I changed? The first few days were overwhelming…the anxiety…the constant psychosomatic belief that I had the virus…and then there were the nightmares…
If you are a Facebook user, you know that Facebook marks time with your reminders each day of what you were doing on this day a year go and beyond…The other day, my daughter, Rachel, said to me, soon Facebook will only remind us of the last year. What will that look like? Walks…screen captures of Zoom calls, window visits with my father. There are no dinners out, no concerts, no get togethers, no travel. It will only be this timeless loop of repetition. We spend the beginning looking back to the before time and now we look to the future but already know the lesson is in the present.
A quick scroll through my tweets revealed a more philosophical approach:
This was one of those posts that circulated early on:
I remember thinking that perhaps Waubgeshig Rice’s book, Moon of the Crusted Snow was likely prophetic fiction rather than a “post-apocalyptic thriller”. I mean, it snowed in May last year. The winter was unrelenting and unending last year but finally it subsided and I let go of that apocalyptic fear knowing that for Indigenous folx, the apocalypse has already happened and they have survived it.
That time when the Original Instructions were given we might call “a long time ago”. For in the popular way of thinking, history draws a time “line,” as if time marched in lockstep in only one direction. Some people say that time is a river into which we can step but once, as it flows in a straight path to the sea. But Nanabozho’s people know time is a circle. Time is not a river running inexorably to the sea, but the sea itself — its tides that appear and disappear, the fog that rises to become rain in a different river. All things that were will come again.
In the way of linear time, you might hear Nanabozho’s stories as mythic lore of history, a recounting of the long-ago past and how things came to be. But in circular time, these stories are both history and prophecy, stories for a time yet to come. If time is a turning circle, there is a place where history and prophecy converge — the footprints of First Man lie on the path behind us and on the path head. (pp 206–207, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer)
So this is what I have learned:
- Time is circular, not linear.
- Making time to create is necessary for my well-being.
- Time is elastic — some moments can feel like an eternity and others are not even noticed. Make the moments matter.
- Listen to the wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. They are generously offering their wisdom to us. Listen and learn. This is the path forward.
For more reading on Time, I suggest these blogs by the brilliant Maria Popova.
When she writes, “Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man”, as she moved through her English garden, she knew intuitively that the plants have gifts to share and teach us if only we can sit and listen and learn that we are not apart but of the same. (See sketchnote above about the conversation between Colinda and Joe Pitawanakwat of Creator’s Garden).
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