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Stories from the pandemic: time management

Here is the second article by Anne Mayer (86) that looks at the coronavirus pandemic and what she is doing to keep going under lockdown- for an indeterminate timeframe.

We are now entering week six of lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic. In the faraway future time when we can meet and compare notes, experiences will be both similar and different. What we all did to keep going for weeks and weeks, many of us completely alone, will have striking similarities and just as notable differences. I feel confident, though, that we will all share one thing. We will all naively have thought that being locked away with empty diaries, no work, no commuting and no socialising will have given us acres of time.

We thought we would have got round to those nasty cleaning jobs we could never find the time to attend to. We will have read those books, listened to that music, practiced the piano, religiously done our exercises, cleaned the windows, caught up with the garden and contacted all the friends we have neglected due to being so busy. And the great joke will be that when the bolted doors can open at last, we will have done little or none of it. Because in a life without deadlines, an empty diary, no visitors expected and weeks stretching ahead to get round to it, nothing gets done – or very little.

Having spent most of my life multi-tasking, running work alongside marriage, children, housekeeping, entertaining and being entertained, always on the go, I somehow got most of it done pretty efficiently. As with all of us who do without cleaners, there were and still are tasks I shun, no more welcome now that I cannot invent a lunch or important meeting which must take precedence. But in those busy days, I even read books, watched television, went out a lot to theatre and opera and museums and galleries, and yet kept the house tidy, the washing and ironing under control, and the fridge stocked.

Now in these long and empty days, I cannot even seem to find time to familiarise myself with Facebook (a promise to my daughters) or with my not-so-new phone or do even one of those special household tasks I promised myself to accomplish. Far from hanging heavy, time appears to have speeded up. The alarm goes off at 7am, and within seeming minutes it is lunchtime, then teatime, then evening. The one great date of the day is evening TV (house rule not before 8pm) and although there have been some wonderful programmes, I have also watched a lot of rubbish. It took me five weeks to get through one medium length thriller and now that I have started a more serious book on my “must read” list, my eyes close after just a few pages. I still make a “to do” list for every day, but it is painfully short and not boosted by the fact that tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow stretches ahead.

Nor is my current lifestyle helped by the fact that what I really urgently need to do, such as visit the dentist, buy a new filing cabinet, get the gardening service in, and/or sell the car is impossible. Where energy might surge, it is dammed up. And, finally, the weirdest thing is that since real life turned into a nightmare, nights are now punctuated not only by increasingly frequent trips to the loo but by short and rather interesting dreams, often quite a few in one night. In those dreams my husband is still alive, I am young or much younger, and I am enjoying all sorts of group situations such as travel or parties with loads of human beings around me. Then that alarm goes off and the real nightmare begins.

Photo: Carole Railton (copyright). “Nights are now punctuated by short and rather interesting dreams”


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