Day 201 in lockdown in Melbourne: I seem to have lost any sense of time. The future and past collapse; there is only today. Anything scheduled more than three hours in the future might as well be a year from now. Anything that happened yesterday is lost. It was in another lifetime.
Is this what living in the present is like? It’s not what I expected. I thought it would bring contentedness. I imagined I’d be meditating a lot. Enlightenment? Nirvana? It more feels like being … nowhere.
18 months ago we were just starting to lose plans. We grew used to losing them, again and again. Now, we don’t make them anymore. The future stretches out, infinite, empty. Unknowable.
Sure, the future is always uncertain. We’re just more aware of it now. What’s more concerning is that the past feels similarly unknowable. I can’t remember what happened yesterday, or the day before. Not really. If I think really hard about it, I get more confused. I consult my calendar, but it’s mostly blank.
I’m often not sure which month it is. It doesn’t help that I’m caught between two calendar systems: In Australia, it’s 20/08/21. In the US, it’s 08/20/21. Today is always a jumble of numbers, randomly assigned. The easiest date to remember is that it’s always Now.
So, yesterday? I’m sure it was sunny. Or rainy. Probably both, in Melbourne. We definitely walked the dog, because we do every day for our allotted hour of exercise. I’m sure I would have eaten food. Consumed coffee? 100%. I can guess what’s happened in the future and the past by what I do today: Read, write, sleep.
I wonder if I’m going crazy, so I take a mental health quiz. How many times in the last two weeks did you feel down? It asks me.
This is an impossible question. Why not ask me, How many times, in the course of your life, have you eaten a cupcake? Be exact.
I decide the quiz itself is flawed.
A book explained to me once that being in a routine makes time go faster. Everything is the same, so you’re on autopilot. You create fewer memories. New experiences—like going on vacation, or driving a new route to work—do the opposite and stretch time out.
This explains my present-ness a bit, but not wholly: How can the time feel so long but at the same time so memory-less?
I’m becoming like the dog. I understand her more—she lives in the present. She’s unconcerned about what happened half an hour ago. She doesn’t think about the future. This is a small comfort. Or is it? I’m becoming like the dog.
My partner braves the local mall, empty except for strolling police officers, to find mooncakes, a seasonal, celebratory treat I’d grown fond of when living in Southeast Asia.
“These were the only three I could get,” he says, proffering them, each the size of a quarter.
They are golden, tiny, perfect. When sliced, sunshine-yellow custard oozes out, creamy and sweet. The outside is crumbly, doughy, soft on my tongue.
We eat two of them, quickly. Chewy, sweet, delectable.
This is the present moment.
But now they are gone.