As the pandemic has dragged on, you’ve probably found yourself asking one question, over and over again, to anyone who will listen—even to yourself: What day is it? It’s a simple question, but also a very revealing one.
With less travel, with no meetings, and, for many of us, not even a commute to work, time and place seem to have slowed down or merged. The week and weekend blur, the hours both drag and go by in an instant, all is one. We’re like that character in the new movie Palm Springs, trapped in some sort of space continuum, where every day is the same day on repeat.
And while this may seem miserable, you may also find yourself coming almost to enjoy it, as the character in that movie did. Is it really so bad to spend all this time with your family? Is it really so bad to live a quieter, slower life? Yes, it’s costing you money, it’s cancelling plans, it’s disrupting so much…and yet like all things that go on long enough, with time even this distress has become muted, if not downright pleasant.
Perhaps it was this very feeling that Marcus Aurelius was referring to in Meditations as he reflected on both the current moment, going through a plague, and the decades of his youth, waiting to become emperor:
“Everything has always been the same,” he said, “and keeps recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred, or in an infinite period… that the longest-lived and those who will die soonest lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have you cannot lose.”
It didn’t matter whether you lived to be 40 or 400, Marcus reminded us, every day was the same. It was all the same in the end.
So yes, this whole thing is strange and surreal. It’s at times terrifying and not without its heartbreaks. But it also just is. Each day we wake up and face another day. Whether it will mark our 90th day in quarantine or the start of 90 more, who can say? And what does it matter? Today is what is in front us, whatever day of the week that happens to be. It can be wonderful and it can be enough. If we choose.
P.S. This was originally sent on September 3, 2020. Sign up today for the Daily Stoic’s email and get our popular free 7-day course on Stoicism.