No Time, No Space

Daily Schedule

I am trying to write about stuff, with some help from friends in the onlines. I was just going to keep this private, but then I remembered “Hey, I have a blog!”

No Time

I keep coming back to the Tim Ferris book, the Four Hour Workweek, and the idea that if you didn’t have structural demands on your time, how would you use it. Some of this hits at the end of any semester, but even before the semester was done my days seemed unmoored.

I also think of the ways in which we think about the beginning and the end of time. It’s hard to think of time “starting,” but from my limited understanding of the big bang, that is the claim. Because time is just a measurement of movement or of speed. Stuck here in my chair, occasionally moving to my kitchen or my bed, means that things paradoxically seem to move much more quickly.

Coming to the end of the day with nothing much accomplished isn’t exactly a new thing, of course. I manage, thanks to a preternatural ability to procrastinate, to get little done most days. But now it seems as though it is instantaneous. The days starts, the day ends, where does it go.

That’s not exactly true. There are beats, like a faint and fading heartbeat of a hibernating bear, the steady drum replaced by the 8:30 workout on zoom, by the kids’ morning meeting with their teacher and class, by lunch. Because lunch is now on my calendar. That wasn’t ever the case before.

When we first isolated I thought the best thing for the kids was structure. I know from Instagram and Facebook I wasn’t the only parent with this idea. Lots of colorful calendars were shared. I tried to replicate the kids school calendar somewhat, and since we had yet to set up individual computers for the two of them, we needed to set up a bit of time sharing for the things they needed to do for school. But we quickly moved to task orientation: they needed to finish a few small things each day, after which they could spend time on Minecraft or playing with Lego, or, before it got too hot, outside.

I feel as though I have all the time in the world (I could invent Calculus!) and none at all.

And I feel guilty. I feel guilty for not using this time well. I feel guilty for enjoying much of the time with my family. I feel guilty for being of decent physical health, of having a job, of having a large and comfortable home. I feel guilty because in many ways this is what I always dreamt of–though it is twisted in the ways that dreams always come true in fairy tales. And the final twist seems to be I am doing a shit job living out my dream.

No Place

It’s not entirely true that I’ve got nothing done. Lots of small projects around the house are slowly being accomplished. Disaster areas are being cleaned out. The whole family pitched in to refinish the floors in two rooms early on in this thing. But there is this weird sense of wanting to nest at the same time as wanting to connect. And that connection makes things in some sense spread out and worse.

I mean, it is great that we are doing big family Zooms. It’s only possible because we have so much less scheduled time, so it can happen that my family can meet up across nine time zones. And I’ve talked to my extended family more in the last two months than probably in the previous two years.

And this thing I am doing now is that kind of an outreach, though I’m not yet sure what it looks like or what I am supposed to be doing with it.

Again, it was part of my dream that when in isolation I could roll into some kind of salon. I wanted to do it in my home anyway: a monthly salon where we invited interesting people to have conversations on interesting themes over dinner. But all that interestingness comes at the cost of a lot of logistical leg work. So, early on, I thought: we’ll Zoom.

This was in the time before 8 hour zoom meetings. It was before everything was Zoom. My kids have now taken to opening up a Zoom room so they can chat and see each other while playing Minecraft. Early on I offered a Mumble server or Discord: no, Zoom was the technology everyone was using for school, so it was easy. I am naturally concerned about my children becoming feral. I mean, my wife and I are hardly wolves, but a year of no contact with other kids the same age could turn them into… well, into what many fear most… it could turn them into me.

Instead, they seem to be adapting quite nicely to the idea of calling up their friends on a screen and chatting while they are playing games. It’s a natural extension of their working patterns from school. As a result, although I worry about losing a few more of those rare time beats during the summer, it seems like they have shaped this liquid place out of the kitchen tables and other computers of their friends across the city and beyond.

I, on the other hand, feel like I need to go more extreme. I feel like I should let go of artificial deadlines. I feel like I should cut out social media and online interactions. But that urge is like the urge to jump off a boat into open water. I’m not sure how much I’ll like it when I get there.

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