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  • Jan Flynn

5 Things The Pandemic Made Me Do This Week

Two weeks down; who knows how many more to go?

As I write this from my corner of Northern California, we’re on Day 10 of Governor Gavin Newsom’s commendable Stay The Hell Home order (need I point out that’s not its official title?) although the school district where I work closed five days before that.

Like a lot of us, I’ve cycled through a gamut of responses since. Anxiety, boredom, fixation on the latest COVID-19 stats, and weird disruptions in sleep ranging from I-can’t-sleep-a-wink to all-I-can-do-is-sleep.

I worry about my adult kids who live four states away, two of whom are on the front lines (one in health care, one an airline pilot). I worry about my husband, and he worries about me, even though we’re barely out of one another’s sight these days.

The worrying makes about as much difference as spitting on a fish. I know this perfectly well, but these days rational thought is facing an uphill battle.

But even I can’t sustain angst 24/7, and in the breaks between nail-chewing, there are indisputable bright spots. Here are five achievements and experiences I from this week that in all likelihood would not have happened were I not, like everyone else, sequestered:

1. My kitchen is becoming an organizational wonder

It’s a work in progress because there’s only so much decluttering I can stomach in one day and there’s no deadline. After all, we have gotten along perfectly well with the kitchen in its previously haphazard, crumb-infested state for longer than I care to admit.

But already, the refrigerator gleams both inside and out. Those unidentifiable items at the back of the freezer? Gone. And who knew I had four separate little tubs of quince paste, just in case I need it to serve with manchego cheese?

I have no manchego cheese at the moment. But quince paste, it appears, lasts for eternity. All that was needed was to condense its sticky goodness into a single container. Bring on the manchego. Someday. When there are cocktail parties again.

Even the top of the fridge is clean now. So if at any point in this crisis we are visited by a health inspector, and that person is seven feet tall, we’re set.

Also admirable are the drawers and cupboards wherein we keep food wrap and plastic containers, and yes, all the lids to those containers are present and accounted for and lined up like eager little soldiers. Yay, me.

2. Speaking of cocktail parties, I attended one via Zoom

I’m sure we all wish we’d bought stock in Zoom before the world went haywire, but it is turning out to be a godsend, and not just for those who work from home.

Turns out it’s ideal for socializing from home too. This weekend a friend who lives in the upper reaches of the Northwest arranged a Zoom happy hour with a small group of us who once worked for the same large nonprofit. All of us have gone in different professional directions since, but we have always delighted in the too-rare pleasure of one another’s company.

With the magic of Zoom combined with my friend’s initiative, we virtual-gathered at the appointed hour (just shy of day-drinking, but defensible), each with our beverage of choice at the ready. We had a perfectly wonderful time catching up and parsing the world’s problems. As the party drew to its close, all of us wondered aloud why we haven’t done this before.

I’m not ready to thank the coronavirus, but there is something to be said for how having a much tighter frame placed around one’s social life leads to more creative ways to give it expression.

3. Also on Zoom: I took a yoga class and a circuit training class

Yes, I miss going to my local gym and yoga studio. But thanks to the resolve and ingenuity of instructors and trainers, there’s no reason to sit around and let my @$$ turn to pudding.

If you don’t have access to live Zoom classes, there are, like, zillions of seriously effective and free workout videos available on YouTube. Check out Fitness Blender or Jessica Smith TV, for instance. Many of these videos require no equipment and very little space, so no excuses.

4. I read a lot. I mean, a lot

I usually read quite a bit during the course of a normal week (remember those?). But now I’m reading so much my eyeballs are drying out. I’m not even kidding; between reading and watching Netflix, I’m going through eyedrops like they’re . . . um, toilet paper. Too soon?

I’m not just scanning the New York Times every day, I’m devouring it whole. I’m ingesting Medium articles like M&Ms. I’m researching topics that I’ve wondered about for years but never took the time to investigate (which is itself a topic for another story).

And I’m reading books. Whole, big, delicious books. This week it’s Elif Shafak’s 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange Worldmuch of which takes place while a woman who has recently been murdered reviews her life in the ten-plus minutes it takes for her brain to shut down.

Describing the main character, Tequila Leila, as an Istanbul prostitute is both accurate and intentionally off the mark. To read the story of Leila and her friends is to be immersed, not only in the story’s mesmerizing, perilous setting but in the pain and glory that forms Leila, and the love that binds her and her extraordinary friends.

Shafak reminds us that no person can be discounted. Nobody is ordinary. Don’t miss this book.

5. I saw much more of my town than I ever have

That’s because I’ve been taking long, rambling walks. Mostly by myself, sometimes with a friend (and yes we remain a minimum of six feet apart), often with my dog.

In my pre-COVID day job, I am/was on my feet a lot, typically logging over three miles a day just around campus. But now I’m easily doubling that, exploring neighborhoods I’ve never taken the time to really investigate. I’m discovering new paths and new vistas everywhere, right here in my wee wine country town with a population of less than 6,000.

There are charming houses I’ve never seen before. There are wildflowers and birds and butterflies I have yet to learn the names of. There are streams that swell and ebb with the spring rains, and trails I have yet to explore.

And the few people I pass, all just as desperate to get out of the house as I am, smile and wave from a healthy distance. We all get it. We take our happiness where and as we can.

It turns out there is more of that, in these calamitous days, than you might expect.

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