For the last few Decembers, I’ve written about the gifts of this season of giving and light. Music, books, people, fire, joy and silence are the wonderful experiences we associate with this magical time of year. But there is no debate that this year is different and although these gifts are still precious, wonderful and part of my holiday, this year has a different perspective and brings a very different gift. This year has brought the gift of time. The dictionary defines ‘time’ as the “indefinite continued progress of existence” that certainly brings a heaviness to time and our experience. Time is measured in rather abstract ways with calendars and clocks. I’m amazed that I can look at a grid of numbers and orient myself in time and space by those numbers. There may be scientific time that marches on steadily and orders the cosmos but what we really experience is psychological and physiological time which expands and contracts, ebbs and flows.
2020 certainly has been a profound marker in time. It has been time out of time when the world stopped, was reordered and we are waiting for it to start again. This year has been indelibly marked into the psyche of generations of people, each experiencing life as it relates to their time of life.
For my daughter Alexandra it has been a time of displacement as she is still away from her California home. Her job goes on but she is a bit of a refuge, arriving with just a carry-on suitcase in March for a week or so that has become at least a year. For me it has been time out of time as I never expected my empty nest to be full again. I’m savoring every moment having my babies back home to nurture and love but also to grow deep and lasting adult relationships. For Caroline and Hamilton not much has changed. They already worked from home and the rhythm of their lives hasn’t been much different.
Time at home has expanded. Time for long walks, house projects, peacocks, books, etc. I’ve expanded my cooking skills with the daily needs of the family. I’ve done sewing projects (and I hate sewing). I’ve also wasted more time than I care to admit on YouTube and the internet—but we can’t be productive all the time, I justify.
In November, my time shifted once more as my 86-year-old mother came to live with me. She needed more care and a bit of rehabilitation after an ER visit. With Covid, more care at an assisted living facility means that she would be isolated during the holidays. So I brought her home and set up a small bedroom on the main floor of the house and slowed my time to the speed of my elderly mother. I’m giving us both the gift of time; to be together, to heal, to enjoy the holidays. This is not a permanent solution, but we are making it work for now and this is a gift I can give my mother.
Time has been swinging back and forth to the extreme ends of the pendulum. Too little time with loved ones. Too much time on our own. Too much togetherness with our household. Not enough time for essential workers. Too much time for the unemployed. Not enough time with those who passed away. As we think about our life on this earth, we need to give thanks for the time we have and realize that it expands and contracts, moves forward and stands still but it is ever with us, giving us the gift of life and the experience of this world.