I can’t tell if my Night Blooming Cereus has COVID Cabin Fever or if he’s trying to find his son across the street, but look at this baby go!
My guess: he wants to see his son, waving from across the street. I’ll have to ask my neighbor who owns him to do a drive-by at the window. The son is more mobile.
Losses of all stripes occurred in the terrible, terrible year that was 2020. I won’t foist the Gratitude thing on you here, or brightside the pandemic. But we’re in an interesting phase now – of leaving a nasty past behind while imagining the future. To slash through this period of straddling two vastly different landscapes, coinciding with both post-holiday doldrums and the worst cabin fever since the dawn of man, I recommend frequent, sane-making laffs. Then: we prepare for take-off. Game?
Tips for the last of the Weird Dark Tymes:
- Go outside. Bracing! Vault into another mood. Woodland creatures intrigue.
- There is unused winter clothing in your house someone else needs.
- Know that people worldwide are cracking up. A colleague said, “We are all tired of being inside with the same people and we are losing our minds.” This was 6 months ago.
- Use your library. Apply the balm (or catalyst!) of books (on tape?), music, movies, poetry, art.
- Crinkle your eyes so passerbys get the smile behind your mask. Do the nod.
- Toss or give away one thing a day. Beats making a big chore out of it.
- Organize a drawer a day. Save the disaster drawer for last. Or just leave it.
- Create passwords that amuse you. I like ValuedCustomer, which is how robocallers address me. (“Is Valued Customer at home?” Noper!) Or Youhavewon$1million. Or CertifiedFinalist.
- Do something nice for someone without letting on who did it.
- Remember 3 good things that happened in 2020, then smack it goodbye.
- Try Mo Rocca’s book, Mobituaries. Funny, informative. Thomas Paine, Sammy Davis Jr. and codpiece parts: A+.
- Or fiction: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Laugh out loud, with dark mystery.
- Check out Z Dogg, a cool Bay Area doctor who talks Things Covid, including how mRNA vaccines work. Cheering!
- List what you’ll do once normalcy returns. Keep adding to list.
Other ideas: Most people now use digital calendars. Oldsters use paper. I have 20 years’ of small, heavily scribbled Hallmark calendars (Belmains had them, sniff sniff!) that I plan to peruse, then chuck. I’ll be proud (“I did all that?”), mystified (“Who’s Bob M.?”), while noting with detachment a lifetime of overscheduling. I’ll make a timeline of my life, because I never recall what happened in which year (easier for people with children, who do the reverse math). I’ll call this my Life Timeline. Lifetime Line. Time Lifeline. What?! Won’t you join me?
I’ll revisit my Happy Box, into which I throw things in that will make me happy later. A drawing from a child, a festival wristband, something found on the street, a thank you note from someone I don’t remember (Bob M.?) for something I did that the note does not explain — but so nicely worded, who cares? I rarely pull out the Happy Box, but when I do: solid gold. Stuff from people no longer on this plane … I’ll cry and go to bed early. I’ve moved this thing with me 15 times since 1989 for a reason.
Resolve This: As I suggest yearly, rather than making a painful list of New Year’s resolutions, list instead what you did in 2020. Bonus this year: you get to include TV viewing. The point is to feel good, not bad. Were there things you meant to do but didn’t? That’s what 2021 is for, darling. If you resolve to live healthier (yawn), do extra bad stuff before the purge. You know, gas station meats. Ramen Pride. A can of Coke. Meisterbrau.
I wish you all the luck in the world going forward, and send Dear Reader cosmic intergalactic vibrations drawn from the future when all of this crap is far, far behind us. There will be live concerts and comedy. Spectator sports. Working From Office. Broadway. Art openings. Camp. Travel. Movie theaters. State Fairs, New World Festival, Tunbridge World’s Fair, Wassail Parade. Weddings and funerals. Contradancing and chorus. Church and chimichangas. Everyone will go nuts. It will be a banner year.
Limber up. Prepare for launch. It’s coming, eventually. Good day.
You might have time to watch this musical mindblower. Truly astonishing. It prompts more questions than it answers. What are your questions?
I’m celebrating Halloween a day late (and a Mallomar short). I wasn’t in the mood yesterday and as a friend put it, these days, “Every day is Wednesday.” Time is now fluid. I plan to celebrate the election returns late, too. About three months late. But I. Do. Plan. To celebrate.
In a college semester abroad, I asked my host family “mother” in Dijon how they could endure the constant peril of WWII. She said with a certain French intonation that’s hard to describe, “It was wartime. But life went on. We cooked. We ate. We laughed.” I was baffled.
Wiser now, I know that even during wars and pestilence and other supremely difficult tymes, as long we have food in our bellies and a bed, humans find a way to laugh. I lived by a funeral home in Randolph for years, and some of the rowdiest parties I’ve ever heard were wakes. People just rip it up, man. Recalling the deceased’s antics or foibles … hair … footwear … who knows?
Because we all struggle daily now, this month I’ll distract you with gems old and new that made me laugh. Won’t you join me?
Last month I received a birthday card depicting a fish wearing a halo. I anticipated a joke inside about an “angel fish” with a reference to my angelic personality. Inside instead was Holy Mackerel! with a reference to my age. I asked my housemate if mackerel was a greasy fish. He said, “Yes, very…Mediterranean. Served with olives and the like.” Holy Mackerel, the official entree of the Vatican. At least on Fridays.
Things sure are weird now, early and often. Reminds me of past peculiarities. Like on a fundraising trip for Dartmouth-Hitchcock when in the hotel gym I came upon a lone, elderly gent motionless on a weight bench at 6 am, pondering. He says, “I’m thinking about a bread.” Originally from New York where such encounters are common, I ran with it. “What kind of bread?” What he mimed, with a swirling flourish of his hand indicating filling, became clear: “A danish!“ I said. Yes, a danish. He was thinking about a bread.
Tech oddities abound now. Why? Who knows? I’ll text someone and the dog walker or my banker gets pulled into the recipient list for no apparently reason. Occasionally, “U” appears on my phone’s calendar. Stands for what, “You” Meaning “me”? I scheduled “Me Time”? I hate Me Time. Also “pampering.” Sounds like a big baby who needs coddling and special hands-on “treatments.” Like you’re being diapered. That could be a new service. Big Baby Treatments. $350/hour. It probably already exists.
In August, my phone Facetimed someone by itself while sitting on a table. I hadn’t summoned Siri and, besides, what could I possibly have said that rhymes with “FaceTime Colleen” —Peacetime Latrine? Holstein Careens? Spacetime Continuum? I don’t say those very often. Sometimes my texts, right before I send them, now add Yes! at the end. It happens too quickly for me to delete. It’s generally to comedic effect, whether making sense or not within the context of the text (e.g., “Let’s go biking. Yes!” Or: “I can’t stand that place. Yes!”). But does it make me appear an overly enthusiastic dork? Yes!
Recently, my dear Vermont nutters and I held a gathering that was a competition, a Curbside Drop-Off. Our hostess dusted off her FREE sign, and we each put unwanted but usable items – chicken wire, tires (mine), an old Atlas, a tabletop Santa Claus – at her roadside curb as we cocktailed and watched from a distance far enough so as to not intimidate our “shoppers.” The odds were heavily in favor of my tires going first, and I was anticipating this big win, but no: the marital aids, in concert with two plastic pumpkins. God love the playful young couple that claimed them, and the
timeless allure of silicone and plastics. My tires eventually went; some items didn’t go; prizes were awarded. I won nothing, but was handed the booby prize by someone who didn’t want it: a can of mushroom pieces and stems. Usable? Yes!
The last laugh involves foliage, which was as spectacular that year as it was this year, presumably due to drought. I grabbed an old camera with film in it and took a friend who can’t drive on a scenic tour of the foliage. I made him pose against stunning vistas and ravines, the colors forming a rich background for his handsomeness. When I finally got the film developed months later, surprise! The film had been black and white. We laffed and laffed. B&W foliage shots: a first? Yes! And last.
Okay, I lied. One thing I must relay to you in closing. The good news is that, while COVID tracing, I speak to families from all over the world that were born or now live in the US. Sometimes in English, sometimes with a translator. Astonishingly, almost everyone is very nice, regardless of race, birthplace, gender or age, wealth or poverty, how midly or hard-hit they are by the disease… and almost all agree to stay home so as to contain the virus. Mediterraneans, Danish, Americans… Most people are good. So don’t pay too much attention to American politics right now, it’ll sink your view of humankind. We’re just not that bad. Good day.
I’m not going to candycoat it. We’ve had it with this virus. It’s maddening, with no end in sight — a marathon with an invisible finish line. If you randomly approached strangers and asked, “What are you talking about?”, 85% of the time they’d reply, “COVID.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner. These days we can’t plan a thing more than two weeks out…never know what’s around the corner! Reports come in, rules change, doors open and close. I’m kicking myself for not taking a river cruise, going to Scotland, Nova Scotia or Scandinavia, or trying Cuba before it was shut off (again) or surf camp, tennis camp, renting a lake house with friends. Yeah, it’s hard to schedule trips with people, everyone’s so busy, but I could have gone alone! It’s fun to travel alone. All that observing.
When will church start? The Olympics! Choir? Chorus? Contradancing? Canoodling? When will live concerts and sports and Broadway return? Hotels, movie theaters and the next Westworld? Will I lose my job? Will I get a job? Will I get a job requiring hazmat gear or cooties-soaked mass transit? It’s just painful.
On one hand the virus is not a face-melting pox…but then we’d know who has it, which is the problem. To bright-side it isn’t impossible, but it’s a stretch. “At least…” we’re not in a nuclear war; it’s not the Holocaust; it’s not 9/11; it’s not a global Katrina. Yet any way you slice it, COVID-19 sucks. Because we can control little beyond following protocols around masks, distancing, OCD-caliber handwashing, and donating money or time, we just have to suck it up.
We’re increasingly vigilant towards our mental well-being. Resilient human nature has us generally bouncing back, but striving to be upbeat is now more of a repeating calendar task (“no end date”). We have to work at it. A New Hampshire friend quit watching the news. Unapologetic, she says, “I find that going inside is the answer.” Meditating, sending love, enjoying your sheets, picturing a freer future, and resting—knowing that there are many people worldwide without such luxuries. I’ve never slept so much in my life. Dreams are like a free vacation. Occasionally a peculiar or disturbing dream, true, but well it didn’t actually happen, now did it? Didn’t cost a dime or expose you to microvarmints.
For meditation, I highly recommend the (free!) Insight Timer app. Thousands of guided meditations. Choose a topic, or just nature sounds/music and set the timer with various gongs and bells. Great good fun. It displays how many people are currently meditating; numbers have gone way up. Some gems are Canadian Jennifer Piercy (try Yoga Nidra for Sleep), or the young Jonny John Liu, whose name enchants and whose accent lulls in Self-Transformation Through Self-Acceptance. Just download Insight Timer and click on the Search magnifier at bottom. Off you go! I fall asleep before they’re over. Shh.
When spiraling downwards, I try self-talk, summoning pleasant thoughts. Like: this mess involves the entire planet. So the top medical smarties worldwide are working on solutions ‘round the clock. Vaccines! Treatments! Virus-killing UVC light-spraying robots on subways! Maybe this horror will end sooner than we think. Just maybe we are in fact, as one scientific predictor put it, halfway there. Envision what you’ll do when it’s over!
To make handwashing less of a bore: the virus’s fatty membrane holding it together is destroyed by soap. You’re not just rinsing virus down the drain; it literally falls apart. Don’t fret, I missed one! Just lather up, remember your nails and rings. You’re making it impossible for it to replicate. For the (required!) 20 seconds, you know to sing Happy Birthday twice. I sing it
to different people, dead or alive, real or fictional, as I launder my paws. To amuse self. Mental well-being.
I feel your pain, Dear Reader. Keep steady on your mount on this long and crazy journey. If you fall off, just get back on your pony and keep slashing through. I’ll water you both when you pass my station, so you can keep going. The way you act and process thoughts will determine our collective outcome. Think of solutions and wish hard. I miss you. Good day.
There’s an I Dream of Jeannie bottle vibe to his photographic staging here. Ordinarily he lives, unobserved, in a forgotten window sill. He was happy for his moment in the spotlight. As are we all.