Now that lockdown rules are being relaxed, I feel nervous as most people do about what we can and cannot do safely, as well as what the future holds and what the new ‘normal’ will look like but most of all I feel a sense of loss that it is over and grateful that it happened. Am I mad?
Here is my number 10 reason for why I have loved lockdown.
Taking my time
In normal circumstances, I realise that I, like many people, am time obsessed, a trait that I have handed down like an heirloom to my eldest son who regularly reports or predicts the exact amount of hours and minutes that something has taken or will take. I endeavour to become more efficient in everything I do, looking for the quickest way to do something in order to save time so much so that inefficiency riles me. But this is a false economy as I end up moving on to the next action that I am trying to get done as quickly and repeat ad infinitum until I crash out exhausted by effort and time.
Since the invention of the clock we have become horological slaves or chronophiles, with every minute being accounted for and driving us on to the next 60 seconds. So much so, that we rarely have time to stop and think; usually this takes place in the few weeks a year that we aren’t working but still, this obsession with time governs our lives at home so we never really escape the evil hands of Chronos. If we think back to the Greek mythology, Cronus the Titan, from where we (mistakenly) derive time and chronology, who cut off his own father’s testicles and threw them into the sea and also ate his own children through fear of being overthrown himself (but we won’t get into that now), was punished by his son Zeus, becoming the God of time when time was considered evil. He is often pictured as carrying a scythe – we seem to have forgotten this!
My mythological ramblings only serve to emphasise the point that we are ruled by time, whether we like it or not. Lockdown, however, has made me take on a more pastoral appreciation of time. There have been days, like a pre-industrialisation farmer, where I have only known that it is late morning, or early evening and I have felt better for it. My mornings are usually planned down to the minute, with a lost minute here and there having a knock on effect which can determine my mood for the rest of the day as I unsuccessfully try to catch up on those precious lost minutes. I notice this more keenly in my role as a teacher. A forgotten lunchbox, usb or PE kit can set me back for the rest of the day. I get to school late so I can’t get my photocopying done, which means that breaktime is shortened as I need to get copying done, and so on, resulting in me getting home, not just tired from the day, but also from scrabbling around, trying to find or replace those lost moments. This, I feel is really unhealthy and prevents me from subsequently enjoying anything about my day due to those lost minutes. It’s ridiculous.
And think about all of the sayings regarding time. We spend so much of our time trying to save time, create time, find time and make time our friend that we have lost the ability to appreciate time and allow ourselves to enjoy anything without time being a major contributing factor on our happiness, our success or our fulfilment.
Lockdown has lifted that burden – that constant pressure to be somewhere, doing something. I’m not saying that lockdown hasn’t been busy. Juggling homeschooling two Primary aged boys and teaching in lockdown has been exhausting, but without the added pressure and drain of time. Things still need to get done and yes, sometimes they are late, but I have only glanced at the clock occasionally to get a general idea of what time it is – old habits, I suppose.
William H Davies had it right in his poem Leisure, which, shockingly was written in 1911 but couldn’t be more relevant today.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Now I am not saying that we need to just stare at the stars, search out squirrels’ secret stashes, stalk unsuspecting cattle or just look up at trees, although I have done a fair amount of that as my trees desperately need cutting back. No, my point is that we need to break free from the slavery of time as much as is possible. We need to learn to let go when we can. If you are able, don’t be precious about what time you get to work. Allow yourself in your free time to just be, in whatever capacity makes you feel happy and relaxed. This could be just sat in the garden, going on a walk of no predetermined length, binge-watching anything and not feeling guilty about how long you have been watching or getting lost in a book, painting, DIY, whatever. Whatever it is that you do to enjoy life, allow yourself the time and freedom to do it, without Father Time sat behind you, arms folded, tapping his watch.
Time waits for no man apparently – it’s time we told him to go on ahead, we’ll catch up…or not!