I woke up cranky and emotional yesterday. I have no license to be that way. I’m healthy (minus a recent ugly bout with food poisoning). None of my immediate family members, friends or associates have been stricken ill by Covid. I am employed and working from home, so we have been able to keep up with our bills. I am not working on the front lines. I have no young children at home whom I am trying to home school or keep entertained. I have a solid roof over my head and am still getting along well with the other house inhabitants. Compared to the constant news stream of illness, death and unemployment, I’m lucky. I have it easy.
Yet there it was. The alarm went off, it was grey, cool and foggy out, and it matched my mood. The fog was especially apropos since we all feel fuzzy, stuck in some weird version of Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day where the date or day of the week no longer matters. Every time that alarm goes off, we are faced with the same day, same routines, over and over again. That was my issue. Here I am, drifting somewhere between week 7 and week 8 of quarantine-shelter-in-place-bizarro world with everyone else, and my patience for my routine has run out. We all have our daily grind which at this point has pushed us to numbness. For me, my daily routine involves walking the dog, sitting in front of the computer for 8 – 9 hours, fitting in a basement workout, food prep and tv watching. Rinse and repeat. The biggest issue is that there is nothing to look forward to. No planned outings and activities with friends, no travel, no parties, no shopping excursions, nothin’. For those of us who are social, active and huggy people, that’s about the same as a prison sentence. (Hey, come on, I’m allowed a bit of drama here, let me wallow would ya?)
Weekends are marginally better, because there is time for house projects, yard work, hikes, zoom sessions and calls, and occasionally the true excitement of masked trips to the grocery store, pharmacy or hardware store. Any form of change in scenery is grounds for giddiness. One RW told me that she and her family members are having disagreements over who gets to go out and pick up the trash can and recycling bin. Yes, our level of excitement and fascination has reached new levels.
I have a weekly zoom call with my core group of BFFs. This is an attempt for us all to preserve our sanity and check in on each other. Once upon a time, our conversations were filled with tales of adventure and fashion. Our discussions now center around topics like what we cooked for dinner, how to make face masks, whether or not our grocery store has rice or flour, what we are watching on Netflix, and what books we are reading. We’ve started a show and tell, to share any new and exciting thing we have made or purchased in the past week. These moments of sharing have ranged from the exciting: home-crafted greeting cards and online orders of a new book or pair of sandals, to the mundanely appreciated: hair dye, a unique flavor of tic tacs, and a new butter dish. Yes. This is what has become of us. These are the topics we now find fascinating.
I have discovered that my view of the outside world, and what I find thrilling and exciting, has also changed. With so many people staying home with time on their hands, I look forward to checking out the updates to yards and gardens during my walks. One family built a lovely wood fence all around their backyard, complete with arbor. Another family has had a very large back deck with gazebo installed – I was waving good morning to the work crew while it was under construction. Flowers are popping up in gardens. The garden centers are bursting with plants. Children’s art work appears on windows and front doors. And I’m thrilled every time I come across a painted rock someone has artfully placed in a random location to illicit smiles. Bird watching is now a communal sport, with friends posting sightings on Facebook. One dear RW in my life is ecstatic that a pair of mourning doves have made a nest and laid two eggs in her herb pot on her patio. She says it is more riveting to watch than Netflix. I get it.
The most exciting thing of all at this point is seeing other people, outside of our house-dwellers. Even at a 6+ foot distance, even hiding behind masks, having any form of in-person interaction is like bringing water to someone sitting in the desert. (I didn’t say I was done with my drama). We are starved for personal contact, and in the absence of physical contact, just seeing other humans at a distance and sharing kind words makes a huge difference. Today I stopped into the grocery store, and as I was turning a corner to follow the one-way arrows down the next aisle, a beautiful young girl with smiley eyes looked at me from about 10 feet away and said “I love your mask!” Although it struck me that her generation will be the one that grew up during the pandemic, where mask style drove fashion trends, she made my day and made me smile. I wanted to hug her but of course could not. Besides, being hugged by a strange woman in the grocery aisle would have probably terrified her and sent her mom chasing me away brandishing a pack of bagels.
Today that grey foggy cloud lifted, even if for a little while. I looked for excitement and joy wherever I could find it, like deciding that tonight’s dinner will be a variety of fun not-so-healthy appetizers. Because why not. And because I’m weary of meal prep.
We may not have much to look forward to now, but at some point, somehow, some way, there will be a break in our new routines, and we will learn again how to find new levels of excitement. There will be new adventures, and dare I say it – perhaps even gatherings, activities, and travel in some form or another. We may even, someday, be able to hug each other again. When those days come, I hope we won’t forget how we learned to be fascinated by simple things like birds, flowers, butter dishes and painted stones.