I took my weekly walk with my friend Nikki today: two women, striding along an expanse of snowy tundra under a clear blue sky, masked, talking a mean streak.
How are you managing? We ask each other. We don’t want the, at-the-end-of-the-day, answer. We don’t want the pre-packaged, wrapped-up-in-a-bow answer.
Each of us wants from the other the answer that will describe the way time passes for us now. What we’re thinking about, worrying about, listening to, watching.
What do you do with time now? Is the unasked question.
How has your perception of time changed in all this?
That’s the implied subtext.
Do you think you’ll ever go back to thinking of time the way you did before this?
This year has changed me. I know this for certain.
Just like the generation that survived the austerities of WW2 still saves the tin foil, finds use for things like old string and ribbons, cuts coupons, shops the sales, doesn’t get new carpets even when the old ones are so threadbare the floor shows through, I know after this I will always stand a little farther away from you.
My mother-in-law, who stood in food lines and knew enough was a gift, would skip getting the apartment painted even though it came free with the lease because what if she’s not going to live long enough to enjoy that fresh coat of pink in the kitchen?
How much time does she have to walk this carpet anyway?
I wonder what the next generation will think of my behavior. Why is she standing apart? Why this distance? Why all the hesitancy about going to a movie, eating in a restaurant? What’s she afraid of?
“She grew up during the pandemic,” will be the answer, just as, “She grew up in the depression” is the explanation for my mother-in-law.
I feel there will always be a certain reservation when it comes to being with other people after this for me. A reluctance that would have been absurd before.
I can’t be sure of this, of course, but I feel these fear-feelings laying down tracks in me, samskaras, the yogis call them..
My time sense is new.
I still like my time alone, but it now feels like more of a requirement than a preference. I bristle at commitments that require I geo-locate. I prefer to geo-locate without moving my body parts through space.
I do miss air travel, a lot, though. One of the things I’m most looking forward to is the freedom to visit high mountains and white beaches and faraway islands again, but mostly to wing it to the other coast to hug the grandkids.
But there is something wonderful about being able to put on a headset and go for a walk with my daughter, she in Oregon, me in Pennsylvania, walking our respective dogs in very different terrain, and have our conversation not suffer at all from the distance.
I know I can’t read her body language but I can read her voice inflections and tones much better now.
We are all trying much harder to be seen in the best ring lighting and have our lav mics always on so as to be heard loud and clear.
I do miss a room full of people practicing yoga under my guidance. I miss giving a back press, commandeering a room, patrolling and talking and watching and listening. It’s fun to do that.
Mostly I miss feeling of use. I want to feel I’m providing something of value.
I watch the people I am able to watch very intently. I try to discern how they’re pulling this whole thing off. Are they meeting the moment? Treading water? Making lemonade? Controlling the controllables?
Every night I write a few things about the day in my little bedside notebook.
How did the day go?
Who did I talk to?
Who did I connect with?
Who did I help?
Who helped me?
Today was a good day. The sun, the blue sky, the endorphin rush of getting to talk to Nikki, to watch how she does this dance so gracefully, so beautifully.
And to be able to perform my dance before her. The whole interaction made me feel more real. More me. More alive.