I Suddenly Remember What Day It Is Again
Remember, in the early days of the pandemic, this bit?
The joke, of course, is that as the stay-at-home, shelter-in-place orders came in, and much of American life shut down, it became impossible to figure out much of anything about this new world and what connection it might have to the one that came before it. Weekdays became weekends, weekends became weekdays, every day became Wednesday. When I watched that video above for the first time, I thought, “Todd Meany should win a Pulitzer.”
There’s a term for that sensation, “temporal disintegration,” and USA Today described it back in April, through the words of an expert, as “This is because our sense of time is governed in part by the emotions that we experience and the actions we perform.” There was this money quote:
“The more intense the stress is, the more they’re gonna have to focus and cope on the present moment, the harder it will be to overcome it,” she said. “This pandemic is a chronic stressor that’s punctuated by acute stressors … the more people experience that stress, the more they’re likely to face temporal disintegration.”
And she was not wrong: The more intense the stress is, the more they’re gonna have to focus and cope on the present moment, the harder it will be to overcome it. Suffice it to say, American life did not become less stressful after April 2020. So the days have continued to run together, for nearly a year now. The pandemic was a large part of it, of course, but I’d argue that as it dragged on, and it became increasingly clear that the federal government didn’t have any sort of plan to deal with it, the political climate was just as much a factor. Donald Trump ran his presidency with such commitment to chaos that “days” became “a series of moments in non-stop cascading 24-hour news cycles.” Remember when he got Covid-19 and took that helicopter to Walter Reed? Big news day! You stopped what you were doing and stared at the television, rapt by all the madness. Do you remember that that happened on a Saturday? Did that even matter?
Every day has been Wednesday, for nearly a year now.
Until … this week.
Did you notice that the days started to make a little more sense this week? Sure, there was some news this weekend: It’s the first weekend of a new presidential administration, there was obviously going to be some news. But it didn’t feel as all-encompassing as it has for the last four years. It felt like … it felt like it was OK to look away.
And then, on Monday, there was a normal arc to the day. You got up, the president had a few meetings, the press secretary updated the world on what was going on, no one spent all day wondering what cable television program would send our president on a crazed rant. And then at the end of the day, comfortably knowing that the world would not explode while you were in bed, you could lie down to sleep. It has been pointed out that the country, on the whole, seems to be resting better since Wednesday. This is not an accident.
It feels like days have structure, and purpose, and logic again. I am not saying that Donald Trump did such a historically awful and chaotic job as president and set the bar so low that merely knowing what day it is has become a life-changing revelation. But I do know that Joe Biden is president, and I also know that today is Wednesday and yesterday was Tuesday and tomorrow is Thursday. This is incremental progress. But man will I ever take it.
Will Leitch writes multiple pieces a week for Medium. Make sure to follow him right here. He lives in Athens, Georgia, with his family, and is the author of five books, including the upcoming novel How Lucky, released by Harper next May. He also writes a free weekly newsletter that you might enjoy.