From Mid-April until May 6th, I was off of work, having a creative retreat of sorts. It was utterly magical. I slept when I got tired and woke up naturally when I was ready. I had time to go rambling for five, six, seven, or eight miles every day, and was able to write and draw freely. Anxiety–which has been my almost constant companion since adolescence–was nearly absent. My creativity was flowing freely, and resulted in measurable creative outputs. In short: I was living the kind of life that I’ve daydreamed about for years.
Being away from the pressures of modern life, time seemed to move differently. Almost every hour was filled with things that I love, and I was deeply engaged with my work. As a result, the days felt endless, but in the best way possible. I suppose this is what it means to be in flow.
I used to experience that kind of time-dilation in my childhood, when spending time with my friends at science fiction conventions. In those weekends, I would lose track of the hours completely. I was simply…happy. I haven’t felt like that in ages.
This experience felt sacred, fragile, important. My dreams came easily, and I remembered them when I woke. My daydreams were vivid, and my Muse came to visit, whispering plot points and words into my ears. The phrase “dwelling in the dreamtime” kept coming to me.
The dreamtime is an Aboriginal concept referring to the time before recorded history, when the world was forming. Taking it literally wouldn’t be fully accurate. But during my furlough it was as if I had reverted to being, rather than living in the common sense of the word. Since I had nowhere to be at any particular when, time stopped mattering. This is what I imagine life was like for much of human history. I really enjoyed it.
Alas, all dreams must end, and on Cinco de Mayo I found myself facing the return to work. That night, I returned my desk to the “work-mode” configuration, and then went to bed. I set an alarm, and though I didn’t end up needing it, I did find myself waking up with a heavy heart.
It turned out to be a fairly easy transition. But as soon as I was immersed back in my “normal” life, the three-week hiatus felt like a dream; a magical experience from another timeline; a bubble that had burst. It was gone. The time might as well have not existed.
And yet, for three weeks I had bluebells, and writing, and no worries that I wasn’t good enough. The comic pages I drew, the chapters that I wrote, the photos that I took are all there to remind me that there is another way of living. It’s simpler. It involves a lot of “making do” or “making it up” but it is, in so many ways, much more alluring than the standard alternative.
Overall, I don’t know what this means for me in my life, or my existence. It might mean nothing. It might mean I make small changes, putting stricter boundaries around my life when I’m not working. Or it might mean that someday, I’ll go full hermit and write a novel.
Regardless, I’m glad for having had the chance to experience this in-between state. I like the dreamtime. I don’t want to go back to how things were. I dread the day this lockdown lifts completely, and I’m told that it’s time to return to consensus reality. The only good thing about this is that I don’t think I’m the only one. And maybe if we all agree to make a change, we’ll find some way to bring some of the dreamtime back into the waketime of our everyday lives.