Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: Getting all Zen over the present

Is anyone else losing track of time?
I don’t mean hours, although now that I’m working from home, it does seem like mealtime comes around a lot more often. (Sometimes I think I’m hungry because I forgot to eat lunch. Then I remember I’ve just eaten it. I can never tell.)
And, thanks to a regular work schedule, I generally know what day it is. But without the normal social touchpoints of the year — the Memorial Day parade in May, graduation parties in June — I can’t seem to get a handle on what month, or even season, we’re in. 
For instance, apparently it’s July. According to my calendar, which now holds as much meaning for me as a 2013 Sears sales flyer, we’ve already had June and a couple of other months. The last thing I remember was Valentine’s Day. 
Also according to the calendar, the summer solstice happened. I usually celebrate it because it means in the evenings I can start getting into my PJs two minutes earlier with each passing day.
This year, I didn’t even notice.
I don’t mean to suggest that time is flying; I mean time is becoming meaningless. We’re in a pandemic-induced limbo where things don’t change much from day to day, and the convenient seasonal markers, such as the last day of school, slide by so quietly I sometimes can’t remember for a second if they even happened.
When I’m working in the garden, for instance, I’ll read a seed packet that says to plant two weeks after the last frost. And I have to stop and think about that.
For way too long.
I mean, I think we’ve had the last frost. But I still haven’t had my snow tires taken off (another seasonal marker), so who can say whether it’s safe to plant?
Yesterday, I started thinking about what we should do for Mark on Father’s Day. I had to pause and contemplate whether the day had come and gone (it had) and whether we had done anything for it (we had). 
This happens a lot.
However, while I’ve found it disorienting to lose all sense of time, I’ve also found it freeing. Right now, every day is today, and today is all there is. I mean, this is either a profound revelation or a sign that I am losing my grip. Possibly both.
Though COVID-19 has so far largely spared Vermont, the future is unclear. So, without knowing when things will change or what I have to look forward to — or dread, depending on how full or empty my glass is on any given day — all I can do is embrace the present.
And that’s what I’ve been doing.
With social gatherings severely limited, this is the first summer I’ve had the time not only to focus on life at home but also to appreciate it. I’ve learned to recognize the song of the purple finches in the back yard. I’m following the daily life events of a large spider on our porch. Every day I pick flowers to put in a vase in the guest bathroom, even though at the moment “guests,” much like “plans,” are just a construct.
Naturally, I have moments when I’m seized with panic about the future. But anxiety has largely given way to surrender; I’m finding it soothing to stay in the moment. (Was it Stephen Hawking or Kylie Jenner who said, “Today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present”? Either way: brilliant.)
I’m not saying I want this feeling — that of having strayed off the linear path of time — to last forever. As someone who prides herself on never being late, I look forward to once again having things to show up for a few minutes early.
But in the short term, knowing that I have no control over where the coming months will take us, I’m learning not to get all hung up on whether time even exists anymore.
Without Field Days, I don’t know how I’m going to distinguish August from July or September. But, as Stephen Hawking (or Kylie Jenner) so wisely put it, “So?”
I just hope I’m not the only one experiencing this disconnect. If you find yourself sometimes forgetting what month it is or mixing up what has been and what is yet to come this year, please know you are not alone. We share the same confusion.
I say we just enjoy it. Let’s relax, stay safe and have a wonderful Fourth of July.

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