Stranger Days #18: Time Is An Illusion, Lunchtime Doubly So

Estimated Reading Time: 2.5 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

A sculpture of a warped clock with an angel in the background with its head in its hand.
Image Source: Ruth Hartnup
"Time is an illusion; lunchtime, doubly so!"  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It's one of my favorite quotes from the late Adams whose series was one of the central texts that converted me into an audiobook listener for life.  I like to say this to myself often because it reminds me of just how we experience time can be so different; sometimes, it goes by like lightning and sometimes, it feels like forever. And yet, time passing, in many ways is an illusion.  

I've needed to remind myself of that in the past month.  We're into Week 4 of the stay-at-home/work-from-home shift (at least, many of us in Massachusetts are).  Yet, many have amused that it feels like it was ages ago when this all started.  

Time stretches out in odd ways these days with each day proceeding but also feeling a bit like our own personal Groundhogs Day. Maybe more so than when many of us worked in offices because so much of what we do are within the halls of our homes and staring at screens in Zoom rooms and the like.  

The absence of daily and weekly changes to mark the days or form more grounded memories appears to be part of this.  For me, when I have meetings on campus or lunches with friends to the different ways I commute to work, they all create a distinct set of experiences that are largely nonexistent these days.  Even if I have a meal with a friend over zoom, it's my food in my office set up while looking at my monitors; the friend and conversation are distinct but through the screen, less so.  Thus, each day feels like the last and a sense of progress or forward momentum can feel absent. 

I assume I'm not the only one to experience this and I'm guessing there is some research that will confirm this.  But it does make me wonder about how folks will reflect on this period. How will we enshrined these memories or even mark them?  Will we be able to "know the day" when significant events within all of this happened (e.g. when we hit 100,000 deaths or when we passed the apex)?  

In some ways, these times will be captured in innumerable forms from paper-diaries to blogs to Tweets to video content on so many platforms.  But I still wonder if we will be able to understand this sense of timelessness that haunts many of our lives during this pandemic.  

How are you experiencing time differently?  What are you noticing about how you mark and experience time during all this?

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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