As we move through this overwhelming coronavirus pandemic, I have learned a number of things. But one self-absorbed reality I’ve realized — or perhaps confirmed is more accurate — is that I am really quite dull and boring.
I’m not a social media maven, limiting myself to Twitter, but through that (and sometimes through old-school newsprint) I do see what those entrenched at home do to fill time or to convince themselves this time at home is not wasted. I find that I don’t need to cook new dishes, take up a new hobby or prepare short displays of my talents (first, I’d have to discover them). I have no urge to imitate a painting. I’m not looking for this “self-time” to broaden my horizons. I’m not attracted to Zoom cocktail parties. In fact, I’m doing pretty much what I’ve been doing for the last few years. This in itself is proof of how boring I am.
At one time in my life, I baked bread, made soups, cooked a variety of dishes, made jams and pickles and sewed my own clothes; I’ve painted unpainted furniture (never done pottery or taken dance classes). I marched to protest laws against abortion and the Vietnam War, spoke at Take Back the Night rallies, had a wide circle of friends (mostly women, but some men), wrote real articles on a range of topics, travelled to make presentations, had the pleasure of running along rivers in many countries, as well as cities in Canada, held a few relatively responsible jobs and generally had a busy life. That gradually narrowed, but not completely.
After finishing (more than) full-time work nearly four and a half years ago, I spent a busy year, the activities of which petered out. Although perhaps “petered out” is not quite the right phrase: maybe stopped completely is a better way to describe it. (Hard not to internalize that message!)
Finding myself with a great deal of time, I mused about volunteer work, but couldn’t decide what it should be — what could I do that would be of any help to others and did I have to prove I could do it before I actually started? If so, it would be a high hurdle. I made a list of what need to be cleared in the house: I didn’t want to have to do it when I move or want leave it for someone else. Can’t see that much has been accomplished there.
I’d enjoy lunch now and again with a friend, maybe go to the AGO or museum or to a movie. I started to post regularly on Slaw.ca (a legal blog) and started this blog, all my own, totally amenable to whatever I want to write about (exhibit A being this post). Anyone can see idlemusings.blog posts are few and far between.
The Shaw and Stratford Festivals were a highlight of life before I finished my full-time contributions to the legal sphere and have continued to be afterwards. And I devoted myself to my garden when seasons and weather permitted. Fortunate to live near a park, and in earlier lives, near rivers, ravines and running paths, I’ve run (not that everyone recognizes that’s what I’m doing) for years. And even that meagre list sounds fuller than my hours were.
And so six weeks ago, while many people’s lives changed, mine did not — at least, not much. Lunches have been replaced by emails and phone calls, inadequately, of course. I’m able to go out walking (running is less fun when you’re dodging people walking or cycling towards you). I read (but not really much more as I did before, which I find quite shocking). Stratford has called it a day for this year, but the Shaw keeps hoping, although I doubt I’ll venture there even if it mounts the plays I’ve booked.
I’ll be gardening soon, although I’m not sure yet how much of that there’ll be to do. Do I want to whisk through a garden centre the way I do through the grocery store? Will I be willing to whisk through a garden centre rather than order plants on line? I ordered books online for the first time a couple of weeks ago (browsing through bookstores is one of my pleasures), and that went well, but plants are a different breed: who knows whether dessicated begonias will show up at the door?
I should state clearly that I’m very lucky during this time. It’s true age makes me vulnerable to more serious consequences if the coronavirus catches me. I don’t discount that.
However, my dull and boring life is somewhat of a luxury now. I’m grateful that I have the good fotune (so far) to escape the worries impinging on so many Canadians’ lives. And while age makes me more vulnerable, it also has made my life easier. I think of the employees who are now unemployed and who may or may not have a job when “this is all over”. I think of those trying to scrape together the money to pay rent or the mortgage.
I definitely think about those living in long-term care homes and similar congregate settings whose lives have been sacrificed because we haven’t been willing to fund social care adequately. I think about inmates crowded together. I think about the people who are homeless. And I think of the women who are not alone, but live in fear of the person they live with.
I think of the caregivers who are on the front lines of treating patients with COVID-19. I think of those who work in “essential services” so that I can buy groceries or others can travel to their essential businesses.
I think of two parents working remotely glad to have work but who also have kids to care for and for whom they must organize their “schooldays” — and then I think how much worse for the single parent, more likely than not a woman, who might be fortunate to be working, but is also trying to care for children. And how they are all in their apartments or houses nearly all the time. I think of the parents in the park near me whose toddler started running towards the playground, only to burst into tears when told “you can’t go there, it’s against the rules”.
I live in a comfortable house and, like others, my investments are down, but I don’t need them to live on. Someone said to me, “this has told us whether we really want to be with the people we’re with” and the answer for me to that is, “definitely yes”. He and I are dealing with this together, mutually supportive of each other.
Okay, I’m not a complete philistine. I listen on Twitter to the short pieces Yo Yo Ma plays. But my attention is primarily still drawn to the awful state of affairs south of the border (I always play the Randy Rainbow videos); I keep up with news on coronavirus developments; and I think about whether I’ll be willing to leave my stay-at-home life when more and more opens up. Because the life I led before the pandemic pretty much describes the one we’re supposed to be leading right now, staying at home.
Truth to tell, dull and boring seems pretty lucky to me right now, as far as things go.