Tim Ashe legislating from home.

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe discusses how self-isolation and the pandemic have affected his life.

How are you handling self-isolation?Helping lead Vermont through this crisis, remotely, has been grueling. Twelve hours a day, day after day. It reminds me of taking timed math tests in college, when your mind raced to solve some number of problems in the allotted time. Except it’s hour after hour after hour, day after day, and the number of problems to solve never seems to go down! I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ve nearly hit the emotional wall a few times, only to tell myself there’ll be a time to collapse and recuperate when we’re on the other side of this. Then I face the reality that this might go on for a long time. So to stay fresh and sane, I make time to read for at least 30 minutes each morning, and to go for a run each afternoon. And I have to confess that I have watched the occasional vintage Barcelona soccer match — a guilty pleasure.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?I really hate the way technology has infiltrated our lives pre-crisis. Social media, texting, FaceTime, etc. Our connections to one another are being moderated by tech mega-companies. During the Stay at Home period this has only been amplified. I’d been trying to reduce my screen time significantly, but that plan has been destroyed for now. As the Senate President, my work is usually all about face-to-face interaction with other senators. It’s what I love so much about the role. Now we’re communicating as tiles on computer screens. We’ll make it work, but I don’t like it.

What has been the most pleasant surprise?The quiet. I keep noticing how quiet it is. At times when there’s usually lots of noise, in places where there’s usually lots of commotion. It’s just quiet. I don’t like the reason for it, and it’s tinged with melancholy, but there’s something magical about the quiet.

How much of what you’re doing do you think will you carry forward after the pandemic?I’ve been thinking about my family and friends much more while in isolation. My partner and I have overwhelmingly booked schedules in normal times. It’s hard to come up for air and focus on family and friends. That takes a toll on relationships, and it’s the regret that haunts me more than all others. On the other side of this I’m determined to reignite many of the relationships I’ve let suffer.

And what do you feel the lessons will be that come out of all of this?I think we’ll all be a little more selfless. This pandemic has really put in sharp focus how our actions affect others. We’ll never know it, but individual actions we’ve taken imperceptibly prevented someone else, someone we might not know, from getting sick or dying. I expect we’ll ask ourselves more frequently: “How will what I am about to do impact my family, my friends, strangers, the community?” At least I hope we will.

You can watch Tim Ashe give regular updates about the pandemic, including interviews, on his Facebook page.

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