Woke up from a nap Tuesday afternoon and was convinced it was Sunday. At 71, either I have begun to fail or I have found the secret to happiness. I am constantly losing track of time and I no longer give a damn.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

The pandemic and Carolyn’s retirement have conspired to destroy my temporal orientation. We are having a wonderful time being home together all day, but we tend to get up sinfully late and not get much accomplished. Every day feels like Saturday now that Carolyn isn’t working.

For several months I was having trouble sleeping. Circadian rhythms all bolloxed up. I’d turn in at 11 and be up again by 2, wandering around the house, fixing a late night snack, then falling asleep on the couch in the living room. When I noticed the sofa starting to sag, I decided it was time to stop sleeping on it.

My solution was to start going to bed at midnight or 1, usually after watching Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel or a 1970s B movie. That way I tend to fall asleep sooner, but I also tend to wake up at 7 and then sleep in until 10. These days I am dreaming when I used to be working.

We are all familiar with how time passes faster and faster the older you get. Summers were eternal when we were little kids. Now they come and go so fast that, other than a few trips to the beach and some cookouts at the lake, they are sometimes over before they start. Last year, owing to illness, I had no summer at all. I watched it pass from a Maine Med window.

Lately, I measure out my life in trash days. The trash goes out Thursday night for Friday pickup and Thursdays come way too swiftly. Every time I drag the barrel to the curb I think, “There goes another week of my life.” I really don’t mind taking my life out with the trash, but I wish it weren’t happening quite so quickly.


I’d be tempted to think that social distancing and self-quarantining were making me morose were it not for the fact that I’ve always had a dark turn of mind. I’ve been acutely aware of my own mortality and the passing of all things since I was a teenager. It used to depress me, but as I get older the inevitable just seems, well, inevitable. No big deal, really.

Losing track of time, however, is a bit unnerving. If I had any appointments, I might forget them. If I had anything to do, I might not get it done in time. Were it not for Thursday trash nights and Monday no-newspaper mornings, I might lose track of time altogether.

As Albert Einstein famously did NOT say (though it is attributed to him everywhere), “The only reason for time is so everything doesn’t happen at once.” Until the pandemic passes and Carolyn and I find new routines, however, I am less concerned that everything will happen at once than I am that nothing at all will happen.

I eat too much. I sleep too much. I watch too much TV. I write a bit. I read a bit. I stare at my computer screen. I sometimes feel like going to bed at suppertime, sometimes not at all. I sometimes get up in the wee hours, sometimes not ’til noon.

Time to take the trash out.

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