Lost time in a digital world.

Time. Once again, it’s on my mind. Because now, all of a sudden, it seems that many of us have extra time on our hands – or at least that’s what we’ve been told.

We’re days into our mandated self isolation period, and I’m just now sitting down to write… Usually I’m squeezing in a few sentences and paragraphs every chance I get, or setting aside whole days just to write. But now, when I should have all the time I need, I’m finding it difficult to find the time to write. I should have chapters written, blogs scheduled for weeks to come, and short stories in need of editing. But I don’t.

There are things around the house that I’ve had on my to-do list for months too, things I could be doing while I’m stuck at home – painting the bathroom ceiling, building “dog proof” shelves, finishing some knitting pattern designs, spring cleaning, cleaning out the attic, sorting photos, planning my garden. Yet none of these things are getting done either.

Instead, I’m spending my time trying to adapt a brick and mortar business to function via digital and computer driven communications. Ironic isn’t it. The very businesses that foster and enhance our local communities by being physically present are now the ones mandated to temporarily close their physical spaces and to figure out how to survive in a digital world.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand and support the mandated closures. But that doesn’t mean it was an easy thing for me to do. Honestly, the temporary closure of so many businesses terrifies me.

The forced temporary closures could be the nail in the coffin of many small businesses as many of them operate “paycheck to paycheck”, so to speak. They still have bills to pay when they’re not open for business – rent and utilities (it’s still cold enough to require heat); inventory payments to companies who have extended terms; online subscriptions for websites, shopping carts, and office related programs; payroll, insurance, and taxes; credit card processing fees. You get the picture.

The loss of wages to so many temporarily unemployed hourly workers could cripple our unemployment system, foodbanks, and related social services.

Rationing and hoarding caused by fear of scarcity brings out the worst in some of us – remember that old saying, “It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bushel”?

And none of these concerns even touch on what could happen when and if people we know actually contract the virus. Some/most will recover, others won’t. How will that affect our communities locally?

Every one of us is waking up each day, wondering what the new normal will bring. Yet we all still have the same 24 hours in a day. Those hours are still filled with the same things they were filled with prior to the mandated self-isolation – work, cooking and chores, exercise, ect. Except now it’s somehow all different too. Work is now in the office/dining room/on the kitchen table, or worse, non-existent. Other residents of your home are there all the time. Pets are confused. School is temporarily suspended. All this newly assigned free time, isn’t really free.

And that’s the bit that I find most exhausting, this unplanned, unscheduled, non-holiday, non vacation disruption to my schedule. Shouldn’t I have a tad bit of extra free time now? Shouldn’t I be getting something done? Shouldn’t my to-do list be getting shorter, instead of longer? I’m not commuting, where does that hour go? Why is it so hard to maintain a normal schedule? Why can’t I focus? Shouldn’t I be sleeping better, or at least more?

Maybe that’s the problem. This reluctance of ours to slow down and take a break, even when we’re forced to by circumstances we can’t control.

I’ve accepted that the bathroom ceiling won’t get painted during this outbreak, I need a ventilator mask for that task… but what about everything else?

The attic is looking better and better every time I chip away at some of it. I hung a curtain between the two rooms, that should help with heating, and my general anxiety. The front room is the room I use, while the back one, the one behind the curtain, is storage; and it is a mess. It’s that concept tackling a little at a time. Now I can work on it one room at a time, making the larger task feel like smaller more manageable tasks.

Spring cleaning? I’ll tackle that day by day, just like I would any other year.

Gardening? Just like Spring cleaning, I’ll tackle that day by day. When the weather is nice, I’ll see what I can do.

✅I’m going to set today aside for (mostly) writing. It’s something I enjoy doing, so I need to prioritize it, especially now.

✅I did get one knitting pattern online for public use. It’s a basic baby blanket, you can find it here if you’re interested.

I’m done scrambling and trying to fix something that isn’t broken. One of the purposes of many small businesses is to be a community focused business, and mine is no different. Online resources help, but they aren’t the heart and soul of my business’s community. I’m going to try and change my perspective by simply managing the online presence I already have rather than forcing it to grow without proper planning. The digital age has given us quite a few tools, but tools are only useful if used properly. You can use a knife blade as a screwdriver, but that doesn’t mean you should.

I’m going to be more deliberate about how I spend the second week of this social isolation, hopefully I’ll get to work on a few of those items on my personal to-do list. However you’re using your time these days, stay well.

If you work in medicine, utility and public works, trucking and distribution, or food service, thank you for keeping the rest of us safe and functioning during this weird and unprecedented time. May you get some much needed rest when this is over.