Time (the lack of it, my desire to increase my agency over how is spend it) is one of my primary obsessions.
January 2022, and we are once more in a liminal state - a beautiful phrase for the prosaic, depressing reality wrought by the confluence of omicron and insufficient infrastructure from federal to state to neighbourhood to community to household. Folks once again confronting difficult choices and dwindling options. We are too burned out to talk about burnout anymore.
Doing chores today and thinking about unstructured time, but mostly about unclaimed time. Moments, hours, days when there are no meetings in the diary, no expectations of a response, no "friendly reminders" hanging about. No obligations to anyone but yourself and those to whom you actively extend the privilege.
The thing about a commute - not so much the happiness-destroying, life-shortening extremes, because all things in moderation - the thing about a commute was that for many people it acted as a stand-in for unclaimed time. A built-in window before "the work day" began and a transition between office and home. A time to think or not think, to read, to listen to music or podcasts or audiobooks, to mindlessly scroll the internet or mindfully take-in the walk, the run, the ride, the drive, the trip.
On this I am a broken record: just as there is a universe of difference between "working from home" and "surviving a pandemic", there ought to be daylight left between "the day" and "the work day".
We have been moving inexorably towards an always-on world for years and years. Etsy stores flogging coffee mugs emblazoned with "hustle" and "grind" in flowing scripts sold by girlbosses and mompreneurs.
Always-on and endlessly surveilled, whether at work or at school.
No time to pause, and especially no time to grieve.
I am watching people bend and I am seeing people break and I wonder how we will all be, when or if we get through this. What is through, and what, anymore, is this. Is there a when, or are we once again at an if?
No sourdough this time; Wordle instead. What ever happened to the sea shanties?
As a manager, I think about how to do the right thing for the people on my team. As an employee, I think about how to fulfill my professional obligations in a way that allows me space and time and energy to still be a whole person. As a person, I think about how to show up for the people in my life and the communities around me.
And sometimes because of all this is so hard and so exhausting and there are so many people hurting so much, sometimes I do nothing.
And sometimes, because all of this is so hard and so exhausting and so many people are hurting so much, I show up. Because those of us who can, must.
And for that, we need time and each other, and time for and with each other. And above all, time for ourselves.
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.
—from Burning the Old Year by Naomi Shihab Nye