Years ago, my husband and I bought a decorative clock that hangs in our kitchen. It broke. We’ve tried to repair it but haven’t had any luck. Because we like it and consider it more than just a clock, we’ve left it on the wall. After all, at least twice a day, it’s right.
Over the years, we’ve looked for big ornate clocks to replace it, but never found anything we liked as much. Until now. Over the holidays, we walked into a store to return something and there on the wall was a large, beautiful clock that looked perfect for our kitchen. We bought it.
Once home, my husband carefully hung it on the wall, and we were delighted to see it was the perfect size and accented the kitchen as nicely as the old clock. There was only one problem. It didn’t work. I’m not joking.
We checked to make sure we hadn’t missed something obvious like flipping a switch. We even went to the store and bought new batteries just in case ours were too old. It still didn’t work. Like the old clock, the hands were riveted in place, making time standstill, or so it seemed.
I started to think about the idea of time standing still which for the past two years has seemed more than just an idea. Since the pandemic, for many of us time has been at a standstill. Isolated at home with so much on hold, like the movie Groundhog Day sometimes it seemed every day was the same. We watched the ticktock of our clocks as if they were in slow motion or had stopped. Time appeared to move so slowly as if was trying to stand still or even go backwards to the way things used to be.
Stuck in this endless loop of sickness and death has been depressing and overwhelming. For so many, the unimaginable and untimely losses of loved ones have made us wish we could turn back our clocks.
As we begin 2022, we can’t and shouldn’t forget what we’ve been through as the pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives. That’s why it’s so important to start the new year by moving our clocks forward. As we push the hands of time, we will undoubtedly be frustrated with the “new norm” that’s forced us to change how we live. However, focusing on the future can allow us to rethink priorities, look at opportunities and count our blessings.
Over the past two years, millions of people have quit their jobs, taken up hobbies and spent more quality time with family than ever before. Some of us discovered we like zooming better than commuting. Being forced to learn new technologies has allowed many of us to continue working. Expanded telemedicine and videoconferencing has led to record levels of innovation as so many people and businesses had to reinvent themselves online. And while social distancing has gotten old, it may have reminded us how important human touch is to our emotional well-being.
For more than a year, I was not able to see my mother in person. The isolation and absence of family and friends has taken its toll on her. I realize I’m not alone. I’m incredibly grateful she is still with us which is not the case for so many others.
Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says the effects of the pandemic are similar to those created by economic depression and war. She says it’s hard to measure the long-term impact and missed opportunities, especially on today’s young adults, yet moving forward, they may think of health and education differently from earlier generations. Even though so many of these changes such as virtual education was not by choice, additional online and remote self-learning may expand the way we teach and learn in the future.
While we can argue we didn’t want any of these things, epidemics and historical events have been changing the way we live since the beginning of time. As humans became more civilized and started building cities and crossing borders, smallpox, measles, the bubonic plague, Influenza and more have killed off populations and defined future generations.
From inventions to political movements, significant events have always altered our lives for better and for worse. Martin Luther King Jr spawned the civil rights movement. Actress Hedy Lamarr invented technologies used in GPS during the second world war which ultimately led to Wi-Fi. The September 11th attack on the World Trade Center led to the “War on Terror” and the Spanish flu of 1918 which reportedly killed 50 million worldwide sparked protests and strikes demanding improvements in working and living conditions.
Through every life-altering event, we humans developed a greater sense of gratitude and appreciation for things we’ve taken for granted. Freedom. Touch. Travel. Celebrations. Family. Friends. Time.
There are many wonderful quotes about thankfulness and gratitude however one I like the best is from writer William Faulkner. He says, “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”
Time is similar. If you don’t make the most of it while it exists, it will simply stand still.