1. Go to Sleep

I once traveled internationally with a slight woman on heavy medication. During a long layover she stretched out on top of a row of suitcases lining a crowded African airport hallway, bunched a scarf into a pillow under her head and dozed off. Her literal layover zoomed by. She was a small spectacle, but those who eyed her with curiosity likely also felt great envy for her ability to time travel. I know I did. And I also admired her unconscious balance.

Ron and I time traveling through the 20th century.

2. Cross Datelines.

In the days when Ron was traveling a lot I remember once he called from Southeast Asia on a random Thursday to update me on his schedule. He sounded tired, and I knew he was several time zones away. He told me without hesitation that he would be back Wednesday. That confused me. Local times and the rotation of the earth seemed compelling evidence that Wednesday had already come and gone over the entire earth. He said he didn’t know, but it had something to do with time zones, and he was really jet lagged.

I said something like, “Okay hon, love you,” and we hung up.

He’s finally done it, I thought. He can travel through time. 

I went to the living room to see if he was in fact already lying on the couch since the day before. 

He was not.

3. Make Up Your Own Version of Time.

In New Delhi, the time zone varies by an extra half hour. This is perhaps due to indecision, maybe a compromise, or possibly an attempt at mathematical precision between longitudinal meridians. Things were made simpler in China, a country more than 3,000 miles wide (similarly girthed to the United States) where they decided to have just one time zone, for the sake of unity. The unified Chinese experience morning whenever Beijing rises in the east; even if the capital is as far east of western China as New York from L.A.

Ron and I time traveling in Ethiopia circa 2005. It was still 1998 there.

My favorite made up time is in countries where the calendar is set on an entirely different year. Ethiopia is seven years behind the rest of the world. Their worldwide pandemic began in 2013 and rages on now, in 2014. I hope their 2020 goes better than it did for the rest of us.

4. Do Nothing or Go to IHOP

Pandemic and retirement together have been a cocktail of tranquilizers given to us like we are about to embark on a multi-year space journey involving a sleeping pod. Doing nothing, and not much, and waiting for the world to re-open is a terrible way to time travel. 

Looking across the Gulf, waiting on the world to change.

I realize that for most people drumming up pity for a problem like this is akin to sympathy for an American suburbanite whose latte wasn’t properly foamed. Still, I know it’s a real problem because it makes me jealous of the earth itself. How dare this planet continue orbiting around the sun and revolving constantly when I am forced to sit still? 

This yearning to be elsewhere is constant, even subconscious. On a recent Wednesday evening our car sort of turned itself into the International House of Pancakes after church. Were we subconsciously drawn to that word “international”? Maybe. It was breakfast for dinner, perhaps in deference to the fall season time shifts. We sat in a vinyl booth and drank weak coffee. 

“At least we have IHOP,” I told Ron, grinning with a mouthful of Swedish crepes and lingonberry syrup. 

Like most people, we’re waiting for the endemic, and more international possibilities than pancakes.

5. Mark Anniversaries.

In 2020, during the dark days of pandemic quarantine when time literally stood still, we began planning something to look forward to. Since then, waiting has seemed like the year-long anticipation of a pregnant elephant. But Lord willing, we will spend 30-plus days in Mexico to celebrate 30 years of marriage this December. 

Sunset in Punta Mita, Mexico, 2018, the last time we left the country.

It sounds amazing, and it is, or rather, I hope it will be. But I feel a little disingenuous talking about it as though it were the only thing in our lives. We have regular lives with problems and triumphs, love and heartbreaks, like everyone. But once every 30 years or so, why not throw a Gatsby-level party for ourselves? Thirty actual years together have happened. Some were better than others. Some were memorable, others not so much. But the cumulation of shared experiences is astounding. And perhaps only long-married people understand how relationships ebb and flow, and how a lover turns into a friend, and then weirdly into a sort of conjoined twin.

So, we’re headed south to party like spring breakers with two heads. Except that now we’re 30 years older, fatter, and creakier. And when I wonder why I feel like I’ve been traveling through space and time for a few decades, I remember that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

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