Diane Vogel Ferri is a teacher, poet and writer. Her essays have been published in Scene Magazine, Cleveland Christmas Memories, Raven’s Perch, and by Cleveland State University among others. Her poems can be found in numerous journals. Her chapbook, Liquid Rubies, was published by Pudding House. The Volume of Our Incongruity was published by Finishing Line Press. Diane’s essay, “I Will Sing for You” was featured at the Cleveland Humanities Fest in 2018. Her novel, The Desire Path can be found on Amazon. She is a graduate of Kent State University and holds an M.Ed from Cleveland State University.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

April 2020 - Has Time Stopped?

Even as a girl I sometimes wished that time would stop. I was afraid of missing things, of not appreciating the world, of getting caught up in the day to day requirements of life.  I have always had a strong compulsion to never waste time. Even though it makes me efficient and productive, it is a characteristic I have often regretted. I believe it has kept me from developing stronger relationships with others in my rush to get on to the next thing.  As a teacher I would be one of the first ones out the door at the end of the day. It wasn’t that I didn’t work as hard as the others or complete my duties, it was that I worked quickly and often viewed standing in the hallways gabbing with colleagues as a waste of time––which it wasn’t. When I was in high school I usually walked home alone rather than spend precious time waiting for the bus.
One time I asked my mom about when my children were small. We were together a lot in those days. I asked her if I had rushed through their childhood, if I’d not appreciated it. But she said no, I enjoyed every minute with them. I thought I had too, but was relieved to hear it from her viewpoint.  If you have left your youth behind you are well aware that time seems to accelerate. It can be frightening how fast the weeks and years pass and there is nothing we can do about it. There is always a moment when you realize life on earth is much shorter than you expected it to be.
But now it seems like time has stopped in some ways. There is no urgency to the day, no requirement to get up at a certain time, no need to accomplish something that could be done tomorrow. I have felt small waves of depression when I have wasted one of these days during our country’s lockdown, when I just don’t feel like doing any of the activities available to me. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for those who suffer chronic depression or anxiety, who are completely alone, who are in unsafe situations with no escape.
Not only do these days blur together and often feel unproductive, we may feel helpless.  We can only do the things that can be done on a computer or phone to help others or communicate. I usually don’t enjoy talking on the phone, but now I welcome a call from a friend. We suddenly yearn to hug or touch another person. We might be appreciating our jobs and our freedom and learning about all the things we can do without. 
It has always been difficult for me to do nothing, but over the years I have learned to sit on my deck in the summer and just gaze at God’s creation. I can sit at my kitchen table in the morning and watch the birds at the feeder, and it doesn’t feel like wasting time anymore.
In a way time has stopped in its schedules, activities and socialization, but my new granddaughter’s weekly developments have not stopped. I can only hear her first laugh or see her roll over on a video. I have purposely visited and played with all four of my grandchildren every single week of their lives and now that effortless joy has been broken, and I feel some measure of grief over that. 
I have nothing to complain about though in this weird and surreal time in our lives. I have everything I need and am among the privileged. I go to church online, I read a book to my grandchildren on apps, I can even tutor my adult students over the telephone.  Even though I have learned to slow down a bit and not berate myself as much for a wasted day, I can still learn from this experience.  After all, no one else cares what I am doing every day in my home, if I have produced something worthwhile or not. Most of us have discovered that many of our anxieties and fears are brought on by our own expectations, and we truly have no idea what to expect of our world right now.  All things are not equal, but in that respect, we are in this together. 

Maybe I have learned that having time stop is not all that desirable, after all. 

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