Time is a very strange phenomenon. For most of our lives, we don’t have enough. We struggle with children and jobs and housework and think “If only I had more time, I would get on with…” whatever it is we hope to do.
Even in our older years, days seem to disappear. It may be grandchildren instead of children and volunteer work instead of jobs, but there are still things we mean to do – but don’t. Or there are things we do, but feel we could do more of, if only there was more time.
And here we are, presented with vast stretches of time, since the widespread shutdowns mean we are unable to do the things we used to. We cannot visit the grandchildren, never mind friends, and we cannot even get out for long.
Indeed, if we fall in a category labelled “old,” we are not supposed to do much. We are told to stay at home and keep healthy. Suddenly, there is loads of time.
But are we doing all these things we meant to do? For the most part, my guess is no. You meant to clean out the attic or sort out all those books, but those jobs have been forgotten for the moment.
Or perhaps you meant to learn Spanish or flower arranging or some other worthwhile past-time. It could all be done virtually, yet you probably haven’t. Or there were books you wanted to sit down to read.
You thought there would be loads of time. But somehow it doesn’t feel that way.
So, where does our time go? Perhaps you have trouble sleeping and sleep late, as a result. There is the news that we need to keep up with. And your children phone frequently to check how you are, not to mention that long lost friend who rang yesterday morning and spent an hour discussing the virus situation.
Shopping is time consuming and often irritating, because stock isn’t there and people push in. Meals take longer, as you probably prepare it yourself, and then there is the news again.
And, of course, there is trying to keep healthy. In the UK, we are encouraged to have a short period of exercise outdoors, and I do try to get out, walking briskly in my quiet neighbourhood.
I also set myself the goal of running up and down the stairs every day – very good cardio work, but never done before. And I do some yoga on a mat at home. You may do different things.
Not to mention all the activities you undertake to try to lower anxiety and keep yourself calm. Some like jigsaw puzzles. Or adult colouring books. Some do gardening, even puttering about with plants in a flat. Some do actual meditation.
And before you know it, the day is done.
And it is the same the next day, with different permutations. Ground Hog day, as several people have observed. No time for getting on with all those other plans.
But time is not really the issue. The real problem is your state of mind. You are restless, you can’t settle. You are worried about elderly and vulnerable relatives.
You are worried about the impact of the economic changes on your financial situation – not to mention that of your children and their families.
Your emotions are running high, your mind lacks any clarity, and it is no time for getting things done. There is always tomorrow.
How do I know all this? I have talked to loads of friends and it is a common lament.
But I am also a writer. I write books where different kinds of people (including grandmothers) talk about their lives.
Writers need to be self-disciplined in order to produce their books. In normal times, they must be able to negotiate the distractions all around them, including their own family, to get down to work. They tend to put on invisible blinkers to get themselves in the right frame of mind to push out the words.
I recently posted a short note on two Facebook groups for writers (generally used to ask technical questions, as well as for support) saying I found it difficult to write in the last weeks.
I expected five or ten replies in both cases, at most. In fact, I received over 100 replies on each site from writers all over the world, almost all describing their inability to settle. And hating it.
If those of us who are used to coping with distraction can’t settle, what hope is there for everyone else?
Of course, there will always be some who say, “What is all the fuss about?” They are clearing their attics or reading those long books and generally taking advantage of all this available time. Even writers managing to write. More power to them. They are the lucky ones.
But if you are not, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you have ‘lost’ a few weeks, it really doesn’t matter in the long term. Concentrate on what you can do. And most of all, you are not alone.
Yes, it has been a difficult time. Some of us have lost loved ones. Almost everyone will emerge poorer for one reason or another. It will eventually be a greyer world – at least for a while.
But it will end. And then you may feel more at peace with yourself and be able to take advantage of free time. Even before that, some may even begin to see some glimpses of a calmer head. This article is the first I have produced in three to four weeks. But I am pleased to see that it is written.
And I hope it helps.
Have you found it difficult to settle down to tasks in the last weeks? What did you hope to do? Why do you think you feel unsettled? Please share with our community and let’s have a conversation.
Tags Reducing Stress