COVID Journal: Malaise gives way to a kind of ease

It’s now week four of self-enforced staying at home. The daily and weekly routines have started to achieve a certain kind of structure, or at least a plate full of activities:

My wife and I have a scheduled one hour Zoom appointment with a Feldenkrais healer every Saturday morning, when we work off whatever kinks and stresses have accumulated during the week by making small movements and surrendering to the floor.

Twice a week we do exercise routines with weights.

Twice a week we clean parts of the house. I try to remember to spray cleaning solutions on most of the doorknobs and light switches at least once a week.

Two or three times a week, I obsess about keeping our food supply chain going, expanding the possibilities of different foods and connecting with different direct producers. These boxes arrive and must be unpacked with gloved hands, that must be washed thoroughly afterwards.

Each day we go for the same forty minute walk around our neighborhood, carrying our salted masks, but rarely using them, with perhaps a once-a-week outing to a place more foreign, in the next village over. The days are bright and getting warmer. The cherry blossoms are now gone, but the dogwood and wisteria are still in bloom.

Each day we cook breakfast, lunch and dinner, with food combinations dictated by the whims of our CSA box of fruits and vegetables on hand.

On weekends we allow ourselves one scary run to a local bakery or deli to pick up scones or a pre-made salad. Now I have more sympathy for the 1990s residents of Sarajevo who somehow had to get their groceries while under sniper fire for years on end.

Once or twice a week we Zoom with friends, and in one of these try to contact someone we have lost touch with over the months gone past.

Once or twice a week we set up an evening movie club offering with our kids or friends, as an excuse to stay connected and to monitor their and our wellbeing.

Each day I track Twitter, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Syllabus, and The Atlantic, scanning for hopeful or distressing news on the pandemic, and the attempts to test, treat, or search for cures. I also swarm over the weekly newsletters from, and occasional blogs from the London Review of Books and The Yale Review.  I am learning what ELISA means.

Each day I answer emails and think about why I am not producing the software I probably should be, instead focusing on making software that gives me pleasure: understanding color.

Each day I think about doing art, or watching art from the National Gallery’s Twitter feed, or watching Paul Foxton paint live on Facebook. I am now down to only two or three active sessions of oil painting or pastel painting a week, much less than my pandemic resolution to myself would have it, but slow and steady nonetheless.

Two or three times a week, I will crack an article in the New Yorker, or read more of I promessi sposi.

Every day I report to the Stanford National Daily Health Survey that, so far at least, all is well. That prompts me to monitor myself with a thermometer, pulse oximeter, and blood pressure monitor.

Each evening I check the Marin County Health Department’s COVID website, wincing before reading the day’s counts of new cases, hospitalizations, ICU patients, and deaths. The results are not conclusive, but there have been no new deaths in the past two weeks.

To close each day, we watch an episode from a British crime series, or spend an hour with the TV dramatization of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend.

Somehow, while I am feeling highly inefficient, my blood pressure is down, and my middle-of-the-night mortality nightmares have receded. So I will trade the efficiency for boredom and seeking little joys, juggling all these routines and observing how few hours there actually are in a day.

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