Living On COVID Time
We are three weeks into the new year and, so far at least, it looks a whole lot like the old year. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were only too happy to say goodbye to 2020. With an eye toward the rollout of a vaccine to combat the coronavirus, we entered 2021 with renewed optimism and a sense that better days lie ahead.
Does it seem much different to you?
Despite the naysayers and the varying degrees of rapidity in rolling out vaccinations to the general public, I genuinely do believe that better days are ahead. For now though, as we enter the tenth month of the pandemic, I feel as though time has stood still. Particularly now that we are in the midst of the second wave of infections here in Canada.
In my province of Ontario, we are under the same stay at home order as we were back in March 2020. The conditions are slightly different, as our understanding of the disease has changed; however, it seems very much like we are back where we started almost a year ago.
Other than shopping for essentials and providing care for my parents, I’m primarily living within the four walls of my home, just as I was in March and June and September and December. It’s as if time has been passing and not passing all at once. And, after some reflection, I think that has been the most difficult part of the pandemic for me.
Throughout the past ten months some great memes have been passed around about how we can no longer figure out what month or day of the week it is. Monday feels like Thursday which feels like Sunday which feels like Monday again. Without the regular rhythms that make up the days of our lives, it’s hard to keep track of our place in the calendar. Wearing sweatpants to work, church and to walk the dog hasn’t helped either. It's like one long Januaugtober.
As an introvert, I enjoyed the orders to stay home and avoid unnecessary social visits - in the beginning that is. But without the usual day-to-day interaction with others and the ability to firmly mark yearly milestones - holidays, birthdays, festivals, sports seasons - I’ve begun feeling not only separated from friends and coworkers, but from time itself. It's as though I’ve been set adrift in time.
And in being set adrift, I - and I believe all of us - have also become separated from our common humanity. COVID itself hasn’t impacted me or my family, but without our markers, we are untethered from time and from each other. Our celebrations are more than simply benign observances. They are the signposts that mark our progression through life.
I’ve long been a fan of Doctor Who, an alien with the ability to travel back and forth through time. I’ve always thought of it as one grand adventure, dropping in on the past and visiting the future. But now, I understand why the Doctor so often reflects on how lonely his existence is as he is unable to return to his own time.
During these days of pandemic, I’ve also wondered if I - if we - will ever return to our own time. Eventually it will happen, of course. But for right now, I can only dream about getting together with friends in a busy coffee shop…on a Tuesday…in May…at 7:15.