The Time Pendulum
As young kids in the early ‘50s, we didn’t wear watches. We didn’t have cell phones. Our parents told us it was time to come home when the street lights came on. We walked or rode our bikes to our friends’ homes to see if they could play. Without computers and smartphones, we read, played hopscotch, jumped rope, played sports, and roller skated.
Time wasn’t something we thought much about. We were happy with what we had.
Then came black-and-white television and we knew what time our favorite shows were on and made sure our chores and schoolwork were done in time to see “Howdy Doody” or “The Lone Ranger.” After homework, we had time to spend baking cookies, going to the movies, or playing board and card games.
As we graduated into high school and college, free time became less available. Between schoolwork, extra-curricular activities, and part-time work, less time often meant more stress. Then, we began our careers and our families, resulting in still less free time and even more stress.
If you picture time as a pendulum, it would be swinging slightly back and forth as time sped up or slowed down, providing more or less unstructured time. For me, raising two children as a single parent and working up to 80 hours a week left almost no time for myself. I desperately needed more.
At age 50, I retired to Mexico, where I developed a social life that filled up my empty hours and left me sufficient time for education, travel, volunteer work, physical exercise, cooking, art, and writing. The pendulum had returned once again to the center. I relaxed and wondered how I had ever fit work into my busy schedule.
Today, at age 76, quarantined alone in my home because of COVID-19, I have more time than I could ever have hoped for. More time than I want. The time pendulum has now swung way away from the center. During this time, I’m grateful for computers, smartphones, and eBooks which fill so many empty hours. I also appreciate living in such a beautiful country with an excellent climate and having good friends. I’m thankful my family is safe.
Although many are suffering through the pandemic, for us lucky ones who can stay safely in our homes, there’s enough creativity and technology today to provide us with almost unlimited resources to learn new skills, hobbies, and pastimes. We can catch up with friends and family from the past. I need to add YouTube, Zoom, Ted Talks, Skype, Meet, and social media to the list of things I am especially thankful for during these days of “too much time.”
For most of us, physical distancing and having so many empty hours require that we modify the way we are living our lives. We are offered the opportunity to fill our time with structure, passion, productivity and opportunities to help others.
We’ve all had to deal with change during our lives; some positive, some negative, but deal with it, we did. Many of us have difficulty with fear, loneliness, and depression during this pandemic. We can learn new ways such as meditation to express gratitude and become mindful of the present moment rather than worrying about the future.
One introverted friend said to me, “You know, if it weren’t for the suffering caused to so many people by COVID-19, I could get used to this new way of living.”
With the continued advice to stay home, some researchers are forecasting more divorces and others expect more babies to be born. Many companies are adopting work-at-home models and predicting that these will continue long after the virus is controlled. We can already see changes being made in education, family roles, and working environments.
Eventually, the pendulum will ease back towards the middle, providing us with a new appreciation of time and possibly a new set of values and skills. It’s already become apparent that some things will never go back to the way they were before the pandemic. A myriad of articles, Ted Talks, and podcasts are predicting how life will be modified and calling this as-yet-undefined way of living “the new normal.”
Only time will tell.