Some days last an eternity. Seconds pass with the agnozing slowness of sunlight creeping across the floor, a change that only seems to happen when you find a momentary reprieve with some distraction or another. Hours pass with the glacial pace of trees growing once they’re past the point where you can use your own height as a point of reference. No matter what you do with a day like that, it always feels like a waste.
Other days pass in a snap, seconds flying past like raindrops in a thunderstorm and hours tick away with the unnerving speed of the total price of your tank of gas when you’ve just realized gas is way more expensive than you expected it to be at this station right off the highway. No matter what you do on a day like this one, it always seems to have occupied too much of your time, to have kept you so busy that you feel like you had part of your life stolen from you.
Most days are steady, sedate things. Passing with the unerring accuracy of a machine on an assembly line that has a slot the perfect size for the part being produced so anything else is carried past toward the reject pile. These days are the ones that can feel the most productive, if you spend your time wisely.
Genearlly speaking, I feel like I carefully choose how to spend my time. I am incredibly aware that I will never get more time than I have right now, so I try to make sure I’m spending it in a way that advances my goals or provides me with some benefit. Steady, sedate days make that easy, as I carefully tally how much time I’ve allotted to any given task so I can pull away and do something else if I feel like I’ve invested enough. It is a careful balancing act, not unlike balancing a budget, and one I have grown quite skilled at performing. I have always enjoyed having an accurrate innate sense of the passage of time, and it has always made me feel like I could accomplish anything.
Which is why the days that pass with agnozing slowness or unbelieve speed make me uncomfortable. On slow days, I feel robbed of the satisfaction that comes with accomplishing my tasks as I make progress on my goals. On fast days, I feel robbed of the potential the day had at the outset, as if it slipped away from me so quickly I couldn’t use it as well as I wanted to. It is difficult for me to reconcile my usual steady, deliberate mode of consideration and action with days that seem to warp my sense of time so severely. I live by the idea of “everything in its time” and how can I stick to that when time seems to be fighting me every step of the way?
The pandemic has magnified this problem, changing entire weeks and even months into strings of fast or slow days. My steady days turn from my expected norm into oases of calm amidst the storm of loss and frustration that is the constant mixture of slow and fast days that seems to capture me for weeks at a time. Where once I believed that time was on my side, now I feel like time has become an uncaring natural disaster, ready to strike me down as readily as it might help me.
I briefly tried to live outside of time, to embrace the idea that time has no meaning and to simply focus on doing on thing after another. It is impossible to say if that idea would have eventually bourne fruit because it was interrupted by my insomnia last year and now I cleave to my schedule like it is my liferaft in the unending seas of this pandemic, like it alone can protected me from the pain of seeing two, three, and then four am come to pass despite my best efforts to avoid them. Someday, this feeling of danger and insecurity might end, but I cannot be certain of when that will be.
So I appreciate the quiet days, when time moves at the pace I expected, and try to do my best on days like today when it is past the time I should have left the office and I haven’t even written my to-do list. After all, I did everything I could today, regardless of how much time it felt it took, and I will have another chance tomorrow to move through the day with intention and purpose.