Hagen Engler. Picture: Supplied
We’ve managed to cut the commute down to 12 paces from 12 kilometres, which does enhance efficiencies significantly.
Then, communication is more likely to be written, which has its advantages. At other times, the inability to wander over to someone’s desk and clarify something can cause real confusion. These days, there are a few more “I Assumed You Knews” in the virtual workplace than there used to be, and it sometimes pays to ask the stupid question.
The boundaries between work and private communication seem to have blurred. Work starts, I do some, then I drift off into a reverie of social media and texts with old lovers, friends and acquaintances. I snap myself out of it, then rekindle some more of that sweet, sweet nostalgia. The cycle continues, sometimes until midnight.
Some old friends reach out. Some I’ve badgered into re-establishing a relationship, perhaps out of a need for warmth and human contact. I am alone here and the reaching out, the connections, are no longer just a nice-to-have. They are fuel, warmth, in this cold, early winter of isolation.
Our new routines provide a flimsy framework for us to cling to, as we clamber through time, suspended between yesterday and tomorrow.
They say depression is an obsession with the past, and anxiety a fear of the future. That we should live in the now, because that is all we have. But do we really have it? When we’re isolated, robbed of so much physical contact, work, business and entertainment, so much fulfilment and joy, do we really have this moment?
We do. We are indeed here. We are now. Just for the moment, the present is faint. Perhaps weaker than it has ever been.
That is assuming we are healthy. Illness has a way of focusing consciousness, of being extremely, viscerally real.
For the healthy among us it is more difficult to claim the present, to anchor ourselves in the now. The news compels us to speculate on what might come to pass in the future, as the pandemic accelerates, along with the responses to it.
To escape, we find ourselves consolidating, reminiscing, going through old photo albums – in the world, and in our minds. We relive the highlights of our past. Those good times, the relationships that have nurtured us until here. We throw some more of that fuel on the fire. Our love for our people, the friends and family, and we warm our hands by that little flame as it flickers on our screens.
Those screens have kept us going. With the knowledge they share, the bits of work we can still do, and the memories, the old bonds we still have.
Those screens are also our link to now. They keep things real, a chance to ground ourselves, to slap ourselves awake every now and then, to say, “Focus! This is happening. We are here now.”
However tempting it is to drift off into the past, or to be consumed with worry over what might be, there are things we must do in the now. We must live wisely, with care. Yes, we must withdraw ourselves from social contact for now, limit our freedoms.
But we must also do it consciously, aware of why we are doing it, and what benefits it may yet yield. We must not just remember and anticipate. We must live.
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