People are joking that they don’t know what day it is anymore. For many of us, the name for the day of the week no longer carries meaning anyway. With having to clear our calendars, one day became the same as the next. This may have been refreshing at first, but no longer. For many essential workers, it is the same, but for different reasons. They don’t know when their next day off will be. There is no hump day for them. Every day is like Tuesday. You worked yesterday and a free day feels a long way off.
For some of people, undefined time is emotionally distressing, even the breeding ground for depression. With little or no definition in time, they just feel lost.
Suppose you were out at sea, not knowing where you were, but you had a machine that gave your location. It gave you numbers for your longitude and latitude. Now you would know where you are, right? Not really. Not if you didn’t know where your destination is relative to those numbers. Without a reference point, all you have are meaningless numbers. This is how some people are feeling about days of the week and calendar dates.
Some people who are used to being busy actually feel ill when they are idle, dubbed Leisure Sickness and Sunday Neurosis. Pastor Rob Bell has written that when he started taking a meaningful Sabbath day free from work and responsibilities, he felt depressed in the early afternoon of what was supposed to be a gift day.
While some people get through this distress to become comfortable, others do not. They are better advised to create structure in time, even if they only have little things to work with. While many people are doing this, others need a nudge. The first thing has been creating online ways of doing what you did before, like Zoom support groups, book clubs, breakfast clubs, music lessons, tutoring sessions, worship and business meetings. Some find it helpful to check off days on the calendar while other find it distressing. It is worth finding out.
There is more, though, to having the name of the day be meaningful, and that is keeping personal structure. So instead of noticing you had a hair cut appointment you now can’t keep, you cut your own hair and schedule the next appointment with yourself. Schedule when you take walks, get groceries, and so on. Decide when to work on puzzles, when to eat what. Couples are keeping date night in new ways rather than letting it go.
While this all seems simple enough for many of us, for some, it takes deliberate effort and reinforcement. They are more likely to just do things when they feel like it rather than keep a structure. While that sounds like freedom, it can unwittingly fade into darkness.
Let us also not forget those of us for whom the calendar now only consists of stressful dates. The day bills are due are anticipated with dread. When unemployment checks come with their additional value, the end date will be burned into the back of the mind. The day of the week you get your weekly food allowance from the food bank has meaning. You don’t miss it. In such circumstances, the above methods for structuring time with positive things matter even more.
While some physicists say time may not even be real, for us humans, it does matter in how we relate to it.