Don’t ask me what I did this past week. It would tax my pandemic brain to tell you. I know I was busy from the time I awoke to the time I went to bed. I’m certain I kept up on daily chores and important routines, like cleaning the kitchen and exercising. I made an effort to tackle the never-ending tasks like e-mail and social media. I’m pretty sure I made a little progress on some of my larger projects.
But on Wednesday, at the end of another long day at home, I sat down to relax and said to my husband, “Wait, wasn’t I just here? Wasn’t I just sitting on this couch reading last night? Don’t you feel stuck in time?”
In movies when characters are stuck in time, they literally freeze. It’s only the heroes (and sometimes the villains) who can walk among them with purpose and motion. When I was younger, I would’ve been quick to cast myself in the role of hero, the person who could still take action when no one else could, the person who would save the world. It’s a bit unsettling to realize in middle age I feel more like one of the frozen.
Some days I wish I were that character sitting motionless on the train station bench reading a book, oblivious to all the chaos going on around him. Other days I wish I were the woman stuck waving happily at a new arrival as if all is sunny and good. Some days, I’m more like the stationmaster checking my stopwatch as if all that matters is keeping the trains on time. Other days, I feel like the character who’s looking up in awe, one of the first to see the danger arriving, and covering my mouth in fear and concern. On my best days, I like to believe I’m the character who, though frozen, is pointing the way for the heroes as they arrive to save us all.
In the spirit of self-kindness, I’m not beating myself up for no longer imagining myself as the kick-butt hero who saves the planet. If there’s one thing my career has taught me it’s that the small actions of ordinary people can also change the world. Maybe the guy on the bench is reading a book on anti-racism. Maybe the waving woman is welcoming a speaker for her non-profit fundraiser. Maybe by keeping the trains running, the stationmaster is enabling a congresswoman to get to her important hearing.
So, even while time seems lately to be standing still, I’m still writing checks, donating time, providing encouragement, promoting good works, expanding my learning, and trying to send love and light into the universe.
In the movies, when the clock starts ticking again, people often pick up where they left off, oblivious to how close they came to annihilation. But not always. In some films, they look around and realize in what seemed like a blink of an eye, their whole world has changed. I suspect that will be us. And the heroes will melt into the crowd and join the rest of us leading our small but purposeful lives, and we will all move forward together.
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