Whatever gets you through, right? These past four weeks have been a roller coaster of emotion — moments where I’ve felt like yeah, ok, I can do this for as long as it takes, and others when I dive deep into despair and wonder how I’m going to do this for even one more day, let alone weeks and weeks. I cry easily. Those images of exhausted health care workers on the front lines in makeshift gear just completely gut me. And those pictures of messages left on doors of now closed restaurants and stores break my heart. And don’t even get me started with movies. I always cry at movies but the tears come fast and furious now. I forgot what a tearjerker Top Gun is. I might have ugly cried during the last scene when Maverick is alone in the bar but then Charlie walks in without him noticing and puts “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” on the juke box and you just know they are going to ride off into the sunset together on his motorcycle looking totally bad ass and live happily ever after. Also, have you seen the end of Pitch Perfect 3? So moving.
I have to admit because of my volatile emotional state I’ve not consistently done a great job of modeling good behavior for my children or been super effective at comforting them. I have to remind myself that they too are going through some pretty serious psychological shit and they need me to be strong. And I’m trying. Because they are everything. But, balancing my family’s needs with mine, concentrating on work, and managing the household day to day (including grocery shopping which has suddenly become the most dangerous of tasks) is so much more complicated and exhausting now, even though in theory I have much more time to do it all. On the surface it sounds so shallow and first world-y — lamenting about being “stuck” in our comfortable home, where we’ve got every creature comfort available at our finger tips and way more snacks than we need. Where we are all healthy. Healthy!! We’ve always been healthy, but I’ve always sort of taken that for granted. But now it’s not a given. Now it feels like pure luck.
Yes, we are lucky (very, very lucky) and I think we all recognize this. But the staying home isn’t really the hard part, is it? It’s the the lack of human interaction, the feeling of being cut off and isolated. Living solitary lives. Being separated from people we love. Hugs we can’t give. Conversations we can’t have because let’s face it, handy as ZOOM is, it’s also awkward and weird. Anyway, I could go on and on. But I don’t have to. Because you get it. You really do. I keep reminding my kids of that– that’s it’s not just us, it’s the entire world that’s experiencing this and that fact should provide some sort of comfort at least. We are alone, but not really alone. Together apart. So what do until we can be together together again? How do we manage in this strange new life? We find the things that distract us. We focus on the good things. So, on that note: here are my top 10 good things from last week:
10. Writers & Lovers: A Novel This is the book I read this week and it was really good. Really, really good. (Shout out to my friend Kate who in all the 16 years I’ve known her has never failed me with a book recommendation–she is the reason I’ve read some of my absolute favorites.) I liked this one because it’s set in Cambridge, MA which I know very well from skulking around there in high school and living just outside Harvard Square back in my younger days. It’s set in the late 90s (which coincidentally is when I lived there) so there are a lot of mentions about places I actually went to– i.e bars I drank at. But that’s not why I liked it so much. I liked it because the characters are flawed but endearing and completely believable. The prose is amazing. I’m very picky about how books are written — too many flowery or descriptive words and I’m out. One dimensional, stereotypical characters? Obvious dialog? No thanks. This book has none of that– just solid writing with fully developed characters and an engaging story. Plus it took me back to a time when quarantining wasn’t a thing and living through a pandemic was the furthest thing from my mind. A good escape.
9. Fancy Dinner The other day my daughter was in a funk. Like not just a regular “this situation sucks” funk that seems to be a baseline for everyone these days, but a lying on the kitchen floor wrapped in a blanket, staring at the ceiling in despair funk. It worried me because she’s not usually like that. Also, she was blocking the fridge. I tried a million different ways to cheer her up but nothing was working. Then she turned her sad little face to me and said “I just want to dress up. Can we have a fancy dinner tonight?” So we did. We exchanged the sweatpants we’d been wearing for days for party clothes, set the table with candles and china and drank rose out of champagne glasses. It worked.
The act of grooming really does more for you than you’d think. It’s one of those things that we take for granted, because in normal life we do it almost every day. I hate the phrase self-care–it really grates on me– but there’s no other way to describe it. I didn’t realize how important it is for your psyche. It’s not vanity. It’s so much more than that. A good habit.
8. Games Both Kahoot & Evil Apples provided me with a bit of unexpected pleasure this week. Kahoot is a quiz platform that my daughter introduced us to. I think it’s mainly used by elementary school teachers to engage a classroom full of easily distracted adolescents, but I never said we were very sophisticated in terms of what we consider entertaining. We spent a few hours one night challenging each other by asking questions designed to determine how well we knew each other. You think you know your kids and your spouse really well (especially after three uninterrupted weeks together), but you don’t know them well enough. Until you Kahoot as a family and you learn things that maybe you actually want to unlearn.
Evil Apples is like Cards Against Humanity but you play it virtually. You still chortle and snicker guiltily with your friends as you slap down inappropriate phrase after inappropriate phrase. You just do it at home, in your pj’s, with your own stock of booze and salty snacks. Obviously, you still have to play it with the right people — the ones that will forgive you for being so gauche, so wrong, and so raunchy because they know it’s just a game and it’s not really a reflection of who you really are. It’s just a way to get yourself to laugh so hard that beer shoots out of your nose (not that that’s happened to me necessarily).
Also guess what — analog fun still exists! Some of our faves include “Weird Things Humans Search For”, Paradisio, a good old fashioned deck of cards, and Simpson chess. We also love playing the only gaming system we own, which is Atari. It’s not analog, but pretty close. A good waste of time.
7. Some Good News I stopped watching the White House press conferences a week or so ago after realizing that they were directly related to how distressed (and disgusted) I was feeling and how much alcohol I was consuming. For my own mental health I made the not very difficult decision to ignore them until that glorious day when they don’t exist anymore. It’s a three ring circus come American horror story I can definitely live without. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not still happening, or that the state of our nation and our world is any less disturbing. That’s why John Krasinski’s decision to start his good news only show is one of the best things that happened this week. Real things that are actually good are really still happening in the real world! Thank God! I have to admit I cried through the entire first episode (again with the crying!!). His second effort, with the cast of Hamilton–well, what can I say about that except: more, please. So, thanks John for giving us #somegoodnews when we all need it most. A good reminder.
6. Wallpaper Back in October when I took a month off after what I thought at the time was the worst year of my life I ordered some wall paper to hang in my bathroom. Because it was going to be the project I accomplished while I was unemployed. The package arrived one day and I stashed it in the corner of my bedroom, thinking I’d get to it at some point. But then I went back to work and well, you know how that story goes. Anyway, I finally opened the box a few weeks ago and then last weekend we hung it. On the walls! It was peel and stick and it was ridiculously easy. It took me 7 months to open the package, one week to roll it out and two hours to put it up. There’s a lesson there in procrastination (or not procrastinating?) maybe, but in any event, here’s a picture of it and don’t you just love it? Now I’m going to order some more for my kitchen. And I might even hang it up. A good lesson.
5. Running I’ve never been more grateful that running is a part of my life than I am right now. Running for me is more of a stress reliever than anything else. I’ve never been really fast, and I don’t really love the physical aspect of it (especially as I get older and I feel it in my knees), but I love the way it makes me feel when I’m done. In real life I start most mornings with my running group. Getting up at 5:00 am is worth it when you’re meeting up with people who act as therapists, confidants and cheerleaders all in one. I’ve come to count on it & think of it as one of the most valuable parts of my day. Now, obviously we can’t run together and I haven’t seen 5:00 am in weeks (because without them, why would I?) But I still go every morning- after coffee & the news and before I settle in for a day of juggling work, zoom meetings and kids needs and all the other things. It really helps clear my mind and prepare me for the (long, long, long) day ahead.
I was thinking recently how when you go for a run the first mile really sucks (at least for me it does). Your breath is a bit ragged and you’re either going too fast or too slow. But then you head into mile two and you start find your rhythm. Your breathing evens out and your stride becomes consistent and you settle in to a pace that works. And that’s kind of how I feel about navigating life from a socially responsible distance. Even though it’s been four weeks I don’t think I’ve quite hit mile two yet in this quarantine marathon. But, breathing comes a little easier day by day and my legs don’t feel so heavy. I haven’t hit my stride, but I know I will soon and even if I don’t, there IS a finish line. At least I hope there is. A good metaphor.
4. Randy Rainbow Randy is what cotton candy would be if cotton candy were a person. Fluffy and fun. And he gave me my biggest laugh of the week with this video. I won’t say more– just watch it here. A good laugh.
3. Amy Walsh: @tacticalimagination I spent the first few extra hours of my week watching Tiger King. But turns out there’s only so much murder, mayhem and madness you can take, especially when it centers around the worst human beings that exist on this planet. Or at least it seems like they’re the worst. So… in my search for a better way to occupy my time I came across Amy Walsh’s Domestic Infinite Instagram challenge. It’s a series of 10-minute creative projects you can complete by using found things in your home. It takes just enough effort to feel challenging and it gives you an opportunity to look at all the things you’re sick of looking at in a totally different way. If you’re as tired of Tiger King (and Netflix in general) as I am, check this out! A good outlet.
2. Text Messages & Zoom Meetings (obviously) I used to use texting much as I used to use phone calls, back when phone calls were a thing. Strictly for making plans or a quick hello. But these days I appreciate the group text strings that are now 28 days long and counting, the marathon conversations with my sister, and the random hello from an out of touch friend that I’d forgotten how much I liked. These texts have provided me with endless laughs, great advice, tasty recipes and helpful information in a rapidly evolving and increasingly complicated news cycle — you know all the things that I normally get when I meet friends for dinner or drinks in real life. Text notifications are now a very welcome part of my day.
And ZOOM. Haaa… I hate ZOOM in normal times. But now that it’s the only way I can see the beautiful faces of all the amazing people in my life I have a new appreciation for it. This week I got to check in with friends I hadn’t seen in weeks or months, visit with my nephew who somehow manages to energize a room even through a monitor, have a virtual 80’s ski weekend party with no skiing but lots of laughs, and a family cocktail hour that spanned 18 households in 4 countries on 2 different continents. How cool is that? A good connection.
1. A Postcard Do you ever get personal mail anymore? I mean besides during the holidays or when you’re celebrating a birthday? I don’t… or not much anyway. But the other day a postcard arrived and of course I burst into tears, because as we’ve established I’ve been crying a lot lately anyway… but these were good tears. Grateful tears. Because it was a postcard from my very creative and very thoughtful bestie who has been a constant in my life from our silly, reckless college days right up until our present day and for all the years and things that have come between then and now. It was a postcard with a photo of us plus lots of other people that I really love that make my life happier and better just by being in it. And its message was “we’re in this together”. It was exactly what I needed in that moment. A good message.
Honorable mentions go to Instagram memes that used to annoy me but are suddenly relevant & relatable and make me laugh out loud or snort, or both; all my friends who got new puppies because their puppy pics are adorable; and my son’s snickerdoodle cookies which to my delight and dismay he’s perfected by making approximately 273 batches of in a 7 day time frame.
These are the things we’ve done to help us us navigate this new normal that is in absolutely no way normal. Tomorrow we’ll have to figure something else out. So, if you’ve got any ideas let me know because we’ve got miles to go before we sleep (and miles to go before we sleep)…