Privilege Blog

The Best Analogy I Could Muster For Coronavirus Life, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:06am

In retirement, I have changed my approach to accomplishment. I moved from a detailed to-do list, to simply trying to hit a few defined marks every day. I’ve talked about this before, but, here’s a reminder of my goals, because who among us does not love the minutiae of another being’s life?

“Marks” In The Before

  • Eat vegetables
  • Avoid saturated fat
  • Work on my writing (revising my novel, reading other people’s work, blog, etc.)
  • Do some administrative tasks (taxes, Mom’s estate, house refinancing, car insurance etc.)
  • Get physical activity (walk, garden, clean house)
  • Do something to take care of the house (garden, clean–love a dual purpose task;))
  • Be responsible in my online friendships
  • Lie prone and watch television
  • Drink the fractional contribution to my goal of no more than 5-7 glasses of wine/week, which might on any given day be zero
  • Make dinner
  • Tidy up a bit before going to sleep
  • Sleep

In the Before, as I have seen people call the time before quarantine, I usually hit 9-10 out of 12. Should I congratulate myself at my remarkable consistency in watching television? Hold that thought.

Since we went into lockdown I’ve been hard-pressed to hit 6-7. Oh I can manage the full list if I try really hard. But when I do, and here’s what I wanted to say, instead of feeling energized by that productivity I feel broken.

Here’s what else I wanted to say. Imagine your life as a kitchen. Those marks we all hit, those are appliances, running on power from outlets we installed 20 years ago. The refrigerator is always running, you can tell from its hum and whir. You’ve learned that you can turn on the dishwasher, the stove, the lights, and even a microwave and an Instant Pot all at the same time. Maybe now and again you blow a fuse with a food processor on high, but you just head out the garage and press a breaker switch.

Now someone installs an enormous rocket-launcher, right where you usually walk, between sink and stove. It uses huge amounts of power, and you can’t predict the schedule. Oh, and, kicker, it’s invisible.

In this world your fuses explode when they blow, requiring a fire extinguisher. One which you do not own and have to order online. Here your shins are covered with bruises because you keep forgetting there’s a huge rocket launcher in the middle of your kitchen. Here you are exhausted from leaping over something you cannot see. And you don’t, if’ you’re honest, really look forward to cooking any more.

That’s quarantine. Will it shoot the moon today? We don’t know! Will all our fuses blow or just a few? We don’t know!

So I’m adding marks I’m hitting, sometimes without knowing, to my list. Thank you, invisible, wholly novel, rapidly-changing pandemic.

  • Wipe down plastic and glass food containers with rubbing alcohol before putting them into the fridge. Date all the bags of groceries so I know which items have aged out of a virus load naturally. Be reminded, every time, of possible risk.
  • Worry about the health of my family
  • Keep a mask on my face during a 30-minute walk. Breathe heavily. Be glad for breath.
  • Despair and rage at the wholly uncoordinated federal government response
  • Prevent brain from trying to solve problems for which it has neither sufficient skills nor information

That last is the hardest, and for all I know, the most demanding. The reason I don’t know if it’s the hardest is because I can’t see it. These internal coping mechanisms are invisible, even to us.

Finally, in the Before, hitting those 9-10 marks led pretty consistently to well-being. Eat well, exercise a little, don’t drink too much, done. Now, hitting those same  marks depletes me to the point that I fracture, become volatile, give up.

In the After I’ve had to add intentional activities for well-being. Sturdy Gals do not prefer to say this, but here we are.

  • Smell the roses. Really. I smell my roses, sometimes several times/day.
  • Sit in the sun without a hat, feeling heat on my skin.
  • Treat my indulgences as conscious rewards rather than failures of will. Have a pork dumpling? Yes please. And I allow myself to enjoy every bite.
  • Take conscious breaks. From what, doesn’t matter. Just any time I interrupt something I’m supposed to be doing, in order to do something else, I define it as a needed and intentional break.
  • Congratulate myself, over and over and over again, on doing such a good job. I congratulate you too. Even for watching television.

That last is the hardest. My standard internal voice exhorts me to Do Better, to Work Harder, to be, as I have said, Excellent. But you can’t chide yourself to do better when you’ve got an invisible rocket launcher in the kitchen. Scolding yourself for the predations of an unpredictable and voracious appliance, unproductive.

You have to tell yourself, babe, you’re doing such a great job. Even if you only manage to turn on the microwave and fill the pitcher of filtered water.

You’re doing a great job. We’re going a great job. And eventually we will get our kitchens back. My mail order beans just arrived from Rancho Gordo. We’re doing such a great job.

Have a good weekend.


49 Responses

  1. yes! i have lists of things to “accomplish” each day, and do my best, but am finding it harder than it was in the “before”. the flower shop and the fractional wine allotments help. this whole experience requires a re-order of priorities in ways big and smal.

    1. I can imagine a flower shop nearby would be lovely. I make do with my garden, which right now is full of white roses so I am well-rewarded there.

  2. At first, I felt quite a bit of anxiety. That has gone away. On some days, I accomplish a list of things that impresses me. Other days, I accomplish very little, other than cooking three meals. I am still enjoying cooking. It’s the changing of the sheets and the cleaning of the house that seem SO taxing. I like your description of what we are going through as having a rocket launcher in the kitchen.

    1. I thought it was just me. I have to lay down after I change my sheets and stuff the duvet into the cover etc. Beyond exhausting.

      1. Beyond. I like to go outside and sit on my bench. Without a hat. Oh the audacity.

    2. I’m glad you still enjoy cooking. Oddly I almost prefer cleaning the house, probably because I do it less often, ha! And thank you. Rocketpeople, all of us.

  3. All kinds of Yes, Yes! to this post, although I can imagine how much worse it must be in a country whose response to all this is so very chaotic and ineffective and inconsistent (and those scenes from Michigan, so disturbing from this perspective).

    Also, because I always love the quirky ways we all connect — my son-in-law also orders Rancho Gordo beans (although he has also been known to delegate me to pick them up when I’m visiting below the border. . . .

    May your weekend include some very good TV and as many pork dumplings as you need. xo, f

    1. Thank you for the weekend wishes:). It is worse in a chaotic country, because we don’t know what rules to trust nor what will be asked of us next.

  4. Oh a good metaphor is so helpful. Thank you! This is a beautiful description of what I haven’t yet been able to describe. I feel so lucky to be experiencing this time in the country (I fled the city with my daughter) that I don’t acknowledge the rocket in our kitchen. I’m also taking care of an elementary-aged daughter and a teacher of teachers, which means that all of my work is online – and there are all of the urban public school students on the edges of my consciousness. That’s it’s own rocket — often in the Bedroom, blasting off when I’m trying to sleep.
    Be well, Lisa – and thank you.

    1. Thank you! I can imagine a rocket blasting off as you close your eyes. May it stay on the launchpad tonight.

  5. I don’t know why everything is so hard, but your analogy helps. I am exhausted and I have it really easy. So much compassion and appreciation for all who are down in the trenches.

    1. We are all trying to help each other in any way we can. xoxox. You just made me think of the people who have to be out there, and the people who have to be in the hospitals. They have a rocket launcher in the kitchen and a missile launcher pointed at them while they work. I cannot imagine. The rocket launcher must feel benign.

  6. I can so relate to this…(love your metaphor) but I tend to be in denial about the effects this barrage of news is having on me.

    Plus I really limit what news gets in my brain…may catch a piece of the evening national news as my husband always watches the 6:30 news, plus British and French foreign news stations, an hour prior.

    But lately even the blogs I enjoy have the horrible, awful, very bad news about the pandemic and what said blogger is doing, or buying, or recommending while staying at home. I’ve taken to reading their past blogs when I can.

    This morning early while looking at my fav blogs, I realized that I was getting a migraine in my right eye- bright, flashing spots of light blocking out my sight as I tried to read. So I shut off my computer and went out to the garden and sat under the lemon tree with my tea and rested my eyes, and brain. Soon eyes back to normal, and then got dressed (sometimes a feat in in itself) then outside to cut a bouquet of roses to bring in and just enjoyed arranging them.

    1. I am sorry to have perhaps added to your stress today. I can only imagine that many bloggers feel as I do–we cannot write unless we address what we are feeling in some way or another. But sitting under a lemon tree sounds lovely.

  7. So glad to hear that I’m not the only one having a hard time doing anything. I try to do two things per day, one of which is usually exercise of some kind. Fortunately, I’m not the dinner-maker so don’t have to scale that mountain every day. And I’m very generous to myself in how I interpret my two accomplishments.

    1. I like your approach. I can feel all that you’ve learned in this lifetime in what you say.

  8. What an excellent metaphor! As a lifelong achievement junkie, I’m having a hard time feeling good about myself on days when I just don’t have the juice to move forward on career projects. Stubbing my toe on that rocket launcher sucks out my energy for a while. But we’re fortunate–comfortable home, enough food, even TP! Day by day, we check a few boxes and try to be gentle with ourselves.

    1. Thank goodness for adequate toilet paper! And I think you’re spot on, achievement is an addiction for some of us and it’s very hard to be so strung out right now.

  9. Such a good metaphor, Lisa. Although my rocket launcher is much smaller than yours.I’m finding my trust in and approval of our federal and, to my surprise, our provincial government helps a lot. Our provincial premier, whose politics I do not agree with, recently blew his stack, and called the “Covid protesters” who were picketing the lock-down outside Queen’s Park (our provincial legislature) “selfish yahoos.” Oh it was a fine moment. We had a good laugh, and were proud of him that he spoke his mind.
    I am calling my mood these days oceanic… some days I’m swamped with a huge roller of a wave, other days I’m riding the peak. Today is a good one. I’ve just hung the laundry on the clothesline for the first time this year, and written a post about white tee shirts. And tomorrow Hubby and I are going for a long walk in the country and packing a picnic lunch. We finally seem to have spring here.
    Take care my friend. Up here we’re all thinking about you guys down there. xo

    1. Thank you. Loved your post on white tees. You have such a clear and elegant sporty aesthetic. I love it.

  10. Thank you Lisa and all you, my favourite bloggers, who go somewhat in making all this easier. You do not make me more dispirited. You merely tell me that indeed we are all in this together, and we share the horror of it. But the community of bloggers and blogger readers is a sisterhood and I am grateful for it. Sorry if this sounds overemotional but sometimes the weirdness of all this is hard to bear.

    1. Not at all overemotional! Overemotional is me realizing this morning than a whole set of replies I’d posted here had failed to register;). A swell of community feeling is a tide I’ll happily roll right out on. Thank you. I am very grateful for this crew.

  11. Lisa thank you for this and letting me know I am normal for the ten different mood swings I have on a daily basis now. I am with you enjoying the roses and sun, eating whatever the hell I want. then despairing about the country, fearful and so on!! Hang in there and keep up the writing. We need this. Hugs to you. Kim

    1. I love your description of the days. And I am so appreciating your original and lovely taste on the internetz. A tonic.

  12. Oh Lisa, Your pre-Covid life of “marks” is much like mine. But where has that life gone?
    If I don’t continue something will my brain disappear?
    I do have a ways of coping but it does not really allow me the metaphorical “pork dumpling”. Be reassured Trump’s responses are horrible!
    I would stop wiping down your plastic and glass containers because I don’t think it will really help. I wiped my credit card with alcohol and had to replace it. Discover suggested I use hand sanitizer on it instead.
    Your blog is beautiful.


    1. Thank you very much. Will our brains return once the affects of this virus have rippled through society and become part of it? In whatever way that happens? Very good question. And yes, I discovered that rubbing alcohol and colored plastic do not mix AT ALL. I do have hand sanitizer too.

  13. You have made a great analogy there, Lisa, very apt. It’s like all the old rules have gone out the window and the behaviour that used to bring rewards doesn’t necessarily do so now. But we have to keep trying. It would be so easy right now to throw in the towel but every day we don’t drink too much, eat poorly or slack off on hygiene is a victory. When we achieve all this we deserve to sit in front of the TV with a big steaming bowl of pork dumplings.

    Take care and stay safe. x

    1. Thank you! You remind me that I am perhaps a pigeon fretting that someone moved the sugar water;). Maybe we all are.

  14. Well said. It’s funny how our idea of what we must do, what is the right thing to do, can become weighted and turned around particularly living in a country with an unprecedented crisis and a mad king leader substitute who lost touch with rationality, decency, and consistency some time ago. (My friend and I watch Cuomo’s briefings to hear a sane response from a governor unafraid to include the word ‘love’ in his updates.) First I wasn’t having any alcohol because I don’t usually drink at home and didn’t want to end up overly attached. Then a nightly G&T seemed a good idea. Then the nightly G&T seemed burdensome. It took me a bit to realize the obvious idea that a G&T or no G&T is entirely up to me. A few weeks in I told myself, “Do what feels right and make that your victory.” Your idea to, “Congratulate myself, over and over and over again, on doing such a good job. I congratulate you too. Even for watching television,” is what my therapist has said to me for years. It is the best life advice, particularly for those of us who tend to be perfectionists, hard on our self for whatever reason. Thank you for the generosity of this newsletter, a constant amid so many alterations. Congratulations on however you choose to spend your day today. You are doing a very good job. xo.

    1. “Do what feels right and make that your victory.” OK. OK. I am so used to victory being only what I have exhorted myself to do when I did not want to.

  15. Today I became so excited because I was actually able to order and receive food and booze from Costco. I mean I was very excited. You might say rationally exuberant! I’ve spent the whole day cleaning the refrigerator! The holiday!!! Just to put away my exciting Costco food delivery!! Of course in cleaning the refrigerator I made a mess on the floor I had cleaned yesterday. I’m going to have to wash it today again. Sheets? How can the week go by so quickly I just put on clean sheets last saturday. Now it’s time for clean sheets again. drinks? Usually on a bad day it’s scotch. Staying away from sugar? Well I can’t take a blood test so fagget about it. Having fun with friends on instagram. Planned on exercising every day. Hasn’t happened. Learning Final Cut Pro. Hasn’t happened. I can’t bare to think about who is leading us. Bottom line. Just do what you want to do when there’s a scary invisible rocket launcher in your kitchen.

    1. Rationally exuberant! So much better than electric despair;). I love your spirit so. I would love to be able to just inject it into my veins.

  16. Well said. I feel much the same these days -some days are diamonds and some days are stones. I cheer myself up by regularly telling myself how well I am coping and knowing that this moment in time will pass.

    1. Shine bright like a diamond. Shine bright like a diamond. I’m singing that song to myself in my mind right now. xoxox.

  17. You said something to me in a discussion “We have less capacity” and that is my daily mantra. I tend to really push myself, and feel (before all this) that everyday I needed to feel productive. What “productive” is during this time has to change for me and yes, just watching a TV show is sometimes productive enough. I also sat in the sun for 15 minutes today with no hat or sunblock – it felt good to break some rules.
    Like everyone else, I never know how I’m going to sleep, and what mood I’ll be in that morning. I’ve had a hard week realizing that this is going to go on for 18-24 months, if we’re lucky. It’s a new reality that I’m still processing, and at this age, I feel angry and cheated our of things planned. Thanks for this very real post. I can’t read blogs that just talk about shopping right now….at all. xo

    1. xoxoxox. So hard to learn to lower our expectations of ourselves. I hadn’t thought of the sunshine as breaking some rules, only as sensation-seeking, but I guess in the end those are the same things.

  18. Oh, Lisa! This post resonates with me. Brilliant metaphors to capture the nebulous nature of this ordeal. Your mention of taking a break for no apparent reason caused me to chortle. I find myself doing that often and unapologetically. Not my normal way of rolling, but what the heck? I applaud myself for surviving another moment in another day of unmitigated and endless uncertainty and then get back to the task at hand.

    1. Thank you. Here’s to solidarity in the era of unmitigated and endless uncertainty. <3

  19. Can we at least take a moment to consider that those “horrid Covid-19 protestors” are probably people who don’t have any income right now?

    I mean, how many people here still have an income regardless of being on lock down?

    I’m seeing way too many people who are financially secure making the protestors out to be awful people, and it seems really smug and oblivious.

    1. @Lorri,
      Thank you for this! You so eloquently describe the chaos of a brain that is trying very hard to manage. And we ARE doing great! Please know how very much you are appreciated.
      Now is the time for non-judgmental attitudes and compassionate care for ourselves and others. And for being present…even if only for a moment here and there…

    2. I am sorry for those who have lost their incomes. I truly believe that we should have simply shut it all down, and had the government plan to pay everyone 80% of lost income directly, without trying to shore up components of the economy. One simple act, and then the government focuses all their efforts on testing, PPE, treatments, and vaccines, rather than arguing. But that just wasn’t the way we decided to do it.

    3. I am totally compassionate for those protestors who have lost their incomes, however, it’s the carrying of confederate flags, nooses, and swastikas that are beyond atrocious.

    4. @KSL

      No one approves of confederate flags, etc . . . but those are the ones who make the news. There are plenty of people who protest in their hearts simply because of the coming heartbreak of huge amounts of people becoming broke, homeless, and without medical care the way it’s going.

      My sister and niece have been furloughed from their solid jobs because their company lost Five Million in contracts in March alone. My niece is due to have a baby this month.

      They have some savings and hope to be rehired months from now if the company can regain the business they lost. If not, I can’t imagine what will happen to them.

      So, this hits close to home for me.

      Side note to Lisa: The Jimmy Kimmel bit about Pence delivering empty boxes was debunked. He cut down the original video to mislead and issued a backhanded apology after deleting the monologue. I’m no fan of Pence, but one wants to be accurate. You may want to adjust you tweet about it.

  20. What a great picture you have painted! I like it. Thanks for being a consistent voice of inspiration to me.

  21. “Take conscious breaks. From what, doesn’t matter. Just any time I interrupt something I’m supposed to be doing, in order to do something else, I define it as a needed and intentional break.”

    This is my rationale for visiting your blog, among others. Thank you for the voice of reason.

  22. Thank you so much for coherently expressing what has been trapped in my isolated soul. It is so wonderful not to feel alone.

  23. If this strange world we now inhabit has done one thing that is good it is this: the internal vicious voice is finally silenced, for me. It simply cannot be heard over the more important external needs. I hope it never returns. Things have been stripped of all unnecessary add-ons and the most important aspect is to stay alive and don’t harm others. Phew.

Comments are closed.