It is the second weekend on my island. I started out two weeks ago by opining that my stay here felt like a month (now perhaps longer) of Sundays. Now as the second Sunday rolls along, I feel a little ache of nostalgia.
In a life where you are always at home, what do weekends mean?
The weekend is a relatively new construct, an outgrowth of labor reform in the early part of the last century. Before that, every day was a workday, except Sunday, mandated as a day of worship and rest (and as we’ve seen of the prohibition of entertainment). In agrarian societies this type of schedule makes sense. The cows don’t know that it is Saturday.
Even in my lifetime, there has been dispute about the sanctity of the full weekend. While a surgical resident, my program started having our main conferences on Saturday mornings. We would come to round, do our floor work, report on our patients to the on-call residents and then file into an auditorium to hear some giant in orthopaedics present timeless words of wisdom. After that we would return to the floor for last minute work, the odd case or two and then finally home by the midafternoon. When the wellspring of revolt finally surfaced, the chairman of the program (who happened to be my father) asked us, “Where is it written that Saturday is a day off?”
Now, with the strange exigencies of this pandemic, each day is smudged together, working or no. When the scenery doesn’t change, it is hard to note the subtlety of time.
The upside is that we are being more productive on Saturdays and even Sundays. Zoom meeting on those days? Why not? When every day is a day home with the kids, there is no need to preserve our traditional ones.
The downside is the loss of the ‘special’. One of the things about those long-ago Saturdays is that the morning always had a more casual feel than the normal work week. There was more leisure, more camaraderie. Many of the days ended not with more work but with an impromptu touch football on the central quad of the Massachusetts General Hospital, something that could never occur when later we shoehorned the meetings into a weekday morning.
On whatever island you are, I urge you to protect the ‘special’. Find a way to make a Saturday or a Sunday different (or a Wednesday or a Monday, it doesn’t matter right now). Make it stand out to remind you that time is a mobile construct and that there is still room for joy in our lives.
[This Post was adapted from a essay originally published on Facebook the day listed above]