Alexa Lawrence: Something I learnt while 'drifting in the meantime'

Our lived world has a habit of ending every so often to remind us that we are not the centre of everything.[1]

I have spent too much precious time online lost down digital rabbit holes in that other world to which I have become addicted while waiting for life as I knew it to resume. It is a vast electronic region with its own geography, where what is important is mashed up with what is not, and it’s hard to distinguish the difference.

Lately, I’ve come to recognise that all this online activity (permitted in lockdown when physical contact is not) is creating a kind of 'meantime', a place in-between what I once knew as ‘normal’ and the unknown ‘new-normal’ that I crave. Sometimes, it feels as though how I am living now, in this meantime, is not authentic; just a slowed-down, watered- down, let-down version. It feels like a liminal space, an interval between real life past and real life future.

Am I wasting my time, waiting for real life to start again?

One morning recently, while mulling over a YouTube video of Steve Jobs’ commencement address at Stanford in 2005 (which I’d come across down one of those rabbit holes of course) I was pulled sharply into the present by a wet dog-kiss on my arm. Edie wants a walk. The quote I had been trying to recall from that commencement speech, and the yucky wetness of my dog’s plea for an actual walk came together suddenly as insight.

Isn’t that the most wonderful thing about the random intersections of ideas in time; how they turn instantly into awareness! This was the moment when I recognised that our time with Covid-19 is not some kind of 'meantime interval'. This pandemic, with its public lockdowns, bubble living, borders and masks is the real time, the actual, alive time, our one and only lifetime. So, I have now turned toward the rising sun, which I know will always rise, whether or not I see it, and I have resolved to live this pandemic life with gusto - regardless of restrictions, masks and booster shots.

Let me return to Steve Jobs, that complex, flawed personality who was both a creative genius and a total jerk.[2] Six years before he died, he was invited to give the commencement address at Stanford University for the graduating class of 2005. That speech has become an exemplar of speechwriting, for its simplicity and structure. It is worth watching.[3]

The quote I was trying to recall from that speech when Edie licked me into the now is, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something".

Some of us, without quite realising it, may have been holding out during lockdown for the anticipated new normal; for something else to come along. But Jobs’ words highlight a profound truth about the primacy of living each day well, whatever the conditions and constraints may be. Each day is a day that we have now. (ALEXA LAWRENCE) PN

[1] These words may not be my own. I found them in my journal but can’t remember if I read them somewhere or wrote them myself. I would be delighted to know who the author is.

[2] Bill Murphy Jr. was-a-creative-genius-steve-jobs-was-a-total-jerk.html

[3] Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement

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Published 3 December 2021