Time isn’t at a premium on my island. There is plenty of it during the day, too much it seems.
But there is paradoxical quality to too much time, especially in the setting of counting down an unspecified number of days until a wished-for event. The event looms way off in the distance, so far that anticipating it seems a foolish indulgence. And then, like an express train bypassing a local station, the event is gone and the time that we waited has vanished into nothingness.
Nobody wants this period of confinement to continue and it will end at some point. Let’s skip the waiting and fast forward to the happily ever after. But at the same time, I have a longstanding distaste for wishing time away, even if that time is scary or unpleasant. I wished away so many hours of call as a medical resident and a surgeon. How much of my life was simply ignored in the practice?
Being ‘On Call’ has an odd reality that is difficult to explain. On call, we are suspended between wanting to be active so that the time will pass and wanting to stay still so that whatever unpleasant doings will pass us by unnoticed. Every moment without a summons is a relief, but also brings us closer to the inevitable moment when there will be one. It is not fear of what we may need to do as such, but an intractable distaste that the calls may come at any time. We call this sense of suspension the ‘Pall of Call’.
The entire world is now suffering from the Pall of Call. We are frozen in a time when we are constantly alert and anxious, whether it be over health concerns or the security of our finances or our jobs. Even in our peaceful moments (and there are many on our respective islands), there is a shadow that looms like a deep storm cloud. Our laughs, our tears, our screams of frustration are all tempered by the dull intensity of inescapability.
There is no relief to the Pall, except one. As one of my residency friends put it, “You keep your head down and keep answering the calls until at some point the night is over.” At some point, our confinement will be over, the risk of contagion lifted and freedom of motion restored. We will be able to start the long recovery process. But what to make of the meantime?
While every instinct of the human screams to preserve time, sometimes the best thing to do is wish it away and hope that there is time enough on the other side to do all that we hope for.
[This Post was adapted from a essay originally published on Facebook the day listed above]