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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Time, Timing, and The Times: Sunday musings…11/22/2020

Time, Timing, and the Times: Sunday musings…11/22/2020

1. Flights. I misread a sentence that began with “flights of fancy” as “flights of decency”. Kinda like that old bumper sticker about “random acts of kindness”. 

Should be a thing, flights of decency.

2. Letters. Beth has an “uncle” who is an artist (as an aside, it’s still hilarious to remember when our kids discovered that Jay wasn’t really related to them). Over the years he has gifted me many times with stationary bearing his work. In truth these cards are so beautiful that I really haven’t had the heart to send them to anyone. It’s sorta like having a case of wine you really love and you just can’t bear the thought of running out.

Still, in these fraught times, despite having bad handwriting even for a doctor who once actually wrote in medical charts, I believe it is time to use Jay’s gifts for what they are intended. Perhaps I will take the opportunity to re-learn cursive, a skill that I might then be allowed to pass on to my Littles as a kind of social gift. 

And maybe, just maybe, Jay will pass on to me the rights to at least one of his drawings so that I can continue to enjoy his gift once the gift of having him here is no longer. 

3. Teleoanticipation. The science of finish lines. Another in the long line of Twitter finds for me. As creatures we seem to be wired to aim for the finish line. Not only is this goal-directed stance productive, but we also gain a sense of structure that leads to a reduction in stress and anxiety no matter how weighty a particular finish line may be. Just the fact that we know something will end, something other than a life that is, brings us a kind of peace. 

If we endure, if we can just carry on, we will make it to the finish line. 

This, as it turns out, is one of the great challenges we all face now as we soldier on through the Pandemic (seems like that should be capitalized). We have no finish line in sight. Not only that, but in something which nearly every public leader has compared to what societies have only faced before in cases of warfare or other devastating plagues, we’ve not received the kind of leadership that prompts one to forge ahead without any finish line in sight. Please note that this statement is not directed at any particular leader or leadership group in any particular city, state, or country. Churchill’s figurative progeny has yet to show their face anywhere on the planet. 

Without inspirational leadership we are left with a challenge without an end in sight. The challenge of living with the Pandemic, both for ourselves and others, is made all the more difficult because we don’t know how to pace ourselves. On Monday I was quite sure that I could see the end after a second company announced the success of their vaccine trial. Today’s newspapers are awash in analyses that explain why the vaccines will have little impact on the race just ahead. The finish line still lies somewhere ahead, out of view, with no guidance as to how far away it might be. 

I have played the game of delayed gratification before. Several times, in fact. Every doctor does so; we give over years of our younger lives to our training in favor of many more years of practicing medicine. Every parent does so as well; the joys (and travails) of raising our children come before most of our personal desires in most cases. But in both of these examples you can see the finish line, at least the finite finish lines of graduations and the new races that begin with them. 

It’s clear to me that a significant part of the anxiety we all feel now is the uncertainty we feel about not being able to see a finish line.

By any account I am in the last 3 innings of my own game of life. There’s just less time left, you know? I’m not saying that I have any strong fear of being sick, getting lifted in the 6th inning, and sent to the last locker room; like everyone I know and love I’m doing my best to stay healthy in all ways. No, what I’m feeling is this sense of running out of time. And not just time in general but the very specific time of being with the people I love. Family and friends here and afar. I see this in tiny decisions I barely know I’m making. I have always loved to read. My brother used to get so mad at my folks when I would get a book for Christmas or my birthday. “Now I won’t get to play with him until he finishes that stupid book.” Just this morning as I cut out the book reviews of my next reads I realized that I’m not really having next reads but rather choosing to do stuff I’d always read through because that other stuff means I am fully “playing with” those around me. 

Listen, I know that it is more than somewhat disingenuous to think of “stay at home” orders as in some way analogous to gathering in shelters during the Battle of Britain. I know that. Still, like those courageous souls who dutifully descended into the darkness to escape the hell raining down from the skies, randomly taking from them their futures, stories abound of the additional challenge those people faced in not knowing when their nightmare would end. Pheidippides did not know how far away he was from Athens when he began his fateful run, but he knew where his finish line was. 

“The last thing we run out of is the future.” Michael J. Fox. 

It is time that this Pandemic is stealing from each of us. The obvious theft of a life lost but also the theft of time that we have always chosen to spend among those we love. Time that we cannot spend in that way. Not knowing how long we will go without those connections, not being able to see the finish line, makes it all the more difficult. There is little comfort here save this: not knowing how long we will be about this is something that is real, something that is hard. It’s OK to feel that.

But as hard as it is, for most of us there is still some future out there. Still some time. Still more miles to be traveled, however near or far our own Athens may be. The most important step is not the next one, it’s the one we are taking right now. We run our race today, with or without seeing the finish line. We own only today. We stand on the mound, the ball still in our hand, ready to make our next pitch. Today.

Our future is the next step. The next pitch. We’ve never really known when we ran out of future, never really seen the finish line. All we’ve ever really had is today. All of our finish lines depend on us staying in the race today. Run today’s race. We can endure. We can carry on. We can reach all of our finish lines.

We can keep on running. 

I’ll see you next week…

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