time

The Art of TIME in a Coronavirus Quarantine

black and yellow analog clock

Photo by Stas Knop on Pexels.com

TIME. When we look back at this radical week in human history, one vantage point we might observe it from is how we handled time. Many people on Earth are simultaneously experiencing a cataclysmic shift in reality, as our familiar lives have come to a screeching halt. Several of my therapy sessions with clients over the past few weeks included conversations on the possibility of a quarantine, and how that might provide some respite from our crazy, busy lives. Now that we are really experiencing that reality,  what to DO WITH ALL OF THIS TIME is proving to be a bit overwhelming. Navigating through news that is changing fast, finding provisions, worrying about our livelihoods, and just making it through each day this week is simply overwhelming.

The real question we might want to ask ourselves in this stage of this thing, is how do we  master time? All of us secretly wanted extra time and now that we have it, what should we do with it?  How do we navigate through the very confusing, very scary, and very real, new world we have entered? I would like to propose two very simple tasks to try today:

Quarantine Wish List

Please make a list of things you might accomplish for your quarantined time. Please add some practical things (my first task is doing my taxes for the US deadline of April 15). Please also add some pleasurable things that you never have time to do, and some projects you might have started awhile ago, but never had time to finish. Next, hang your list in a prominent place.  Then, and this is most important part, do not pressure yourself to jump into any of these projects too quickly. I have spoken to several people this week who are feeling guilty they have not been productive this week. Please do not pressure yourself to be productive or creative.

We are all in a state of shock, and when we are in that place, it is very hard to do anything beyond  just being in survival mode. This might looks a bit different to each of us, and might include binging on Netflix, binging on news, buying toilet paper, etc. Having your wish list handy, but not feeling pressured by it can serve as a buffer to make the time you are spending now feel more temporary, knowing that when you settle into your new reality, you will have a lot to keep yourself busy.

Make a Daily Schedule

Last night, I forced my kids to go to bed on time as if it were a regular school night. They protested, and I held my ground, explaining that as soon as our schedule goes haywire (or we stay in pajamas all day), we will have succumbed to time in a really negative way. We actually didn’t create any schedule during the first few days of our new “at home all the time” lives. I did this as a social experiment to see what would happen. As suspected, everyone kept drifting to their screens, and the days marched along in a loopy, slow, negative way.

We have since created daily schedules for each person in our home as the days drift along. These have included meal times, hang out times, solo time, together time, etc. Although we are not being super strict at following them, the lists are still serving as boundary makers to make our boundary-less new world feel more manageable. What would your daily schedule include?

In my therapy sessions last week, my clients all fantasized how great a quarantine might be, because they would suddenly have the glorious TIME we never had enough of in the lives we were living just last week. When this is all over (yes, it will end), we will walk out of our homes with new attitudes, new perspectives on humanity, and perhaps will have regrouped enough to envision a different and more beautiful life for ourselves and our loved ones. Step one of this transformation is learning to reclaim time.  

Having an accountability partner in this process can also be important. Feel free to post your lists here. Hang in there!

Honoring a Leap Year

February 29th occurs only once every four years, 2012 being one of these years. To honor this anomaly in our Gregorian calendar, we will create an art project today pertaining to this day and our connection to time. Please find some paper and a pen. Imagine if you were given a bonus extra day in which you were not obligated to anything, what you would do with it? Please draw or write or even schedule how this day would be spent. Now circle the most appealing thing or things on your paper. Can you find an hour today..this extra day on the calendar to do it? What is your connection to time? Do you feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff you have to complete in the course of the day. Are you looking for things to do to fill up your time?

Yesterday’s Project: The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”  Sound familiar? Is there anything you can do to change your situation if this quote is a parallel to your situation? Can you do anything with the above project to honor yourself by doing something indulgent with some time?