What’s the worst part of quarantine? Not the boredom. I’m not bored. I don’t have time to be bored. I’m my usual committed self, swamped with Zoom meetings, writing, Zoom meetings, cooking, Zoom meetings, chores, Zoom meetings, gardening, and Zoom meetings. I could do with some boredom.
Not fear of the virus. I’m past that. Or, rather, like the adaptable, resilient human I am, I have adjusted to it. We humans can adjust to nearly anything.
What I mind is the uncertainty.
I am a planner. I use two different to-do apps and used to keep a bullet journal (now it’s mostly a regular journal). I check my calendar at the start of each week so I can be prepared for what’s coming up. I make project plans. Lists. More lists. I like routine. Predictability. Or at least the sense of safety and security that comes from the illusion of predictability.
Sure, I read books and blog posts about the importance of living in the moment, that all we really have is right this minute now, about being mindful in whatever you’re doing right this minute now.
And then I start planning my next vacation or garden or novel.
But this pandemic has stripped away the future. Hell, it’s stripped away next week. We can’t plan, whether it’s a new job, a vacation, or even a Sunday drive. The only certainties are death and Zoom meetings (taxes have been postponed till July). All else is uncertain, shrouded in virus-laden mist.
Our worlds have shrunk to the size of our houses and backyards and computer screens (seriously – I had 6 hours of Zoom meetings on Thursday). And so all we have are two things:
And really, that’s all we’ve ever had, as the mindfulness gurus tell us, but of course we never believed it. When I have more time… when I get a raise… when we buy a house… when we go to [insert exotic destination here that I will never see except on a co-worker’s Zoom background].
But our plans were always iffy. Man proposes, and God disposes. Man plans, and God laughs. But ya gotta admit, the odds were better. In our safe, modern world, the odds that we’d make it to next year, next month, or next Thursday were pretty good for most of us. And the odds that we could predict next year, next month, or next Thursday were fairly good.
I have no idea what my life will be like in three months. I have a pretty good idea what it’ll be like next Thursday, though–more Zoom meetings.
And so I am unmoored by uncertainty and trying to learn how to live–and treasure–life in the moment. What is there for me in this place, right here, right now? (besides a Zoom meeting). With my choices circumscribed, I focus more deeply on what is in front of me, the way a macro shot shows only its subject, the background blurry and barely distinguishable.
My eyes are the lens, and I can choose where to train them: on the flower or the withered stalk. With fewer choices, I’d better make mine count.
I choose the flower. I choose the beauty. The love. The joy. The peace of this moment, right here, right now.
And I’d better get on with it, because I have to be on a Zoom meeting in ten minutes.