Managing Boredom

Here is my typical week: Monday through Friday, wake up at 5:15, roll out of bed, make coffee and something to eat, then open the laptop and start working by 5:30. Take an hour lunch between 1 and 2, then work until 4 or so. Then it is time to head downstairs to work out before heading back upstairs to set the table and help get dinner ready. Once dinner is over, any remaining food is put into the fridge, the dishes are placed in the dishwasher, the counters and stoves are cleaned and the garbage taken out.  If there is nothing else to do, which is usually the case, I’ll take a shower then, depending on the time, fiddle with my I-Pad or watch TV until around 9 before brushing my teeth and heading to the bedroom. If there is something interesting on the tube I’ll watch a little while longer before nodding off, otherwise off to dreamland I go, only to wake up the next morning and repeat the same exact thing.

Saturday is pretty much the same, other than the fact I don’t get up as early. The mornings are spent grocery shopping followed by chores, and those are usually done by Noon. The rest of the day and all of Sunday is is spent trying to stay busy or helpful. I do most of my blogging on weekends, which helps, and so does the NFL, particularly if the Sunday games are any good.  Otherwise I’ll fiddle with my I-Pad or hang out with K, trying to find something decent to watch.

How bored have I become? I’m now getting eight hours of sleep at night during the week instead the typical of getting five or six. Dreaming is often more stimulating and entertaining than reality, so perhaps this is a situation where escaping reality is actually heathier because I am getting more rest.

We have been into our new entrenched reality for over six months, and it has become very old. I’ve become a hermit, venturing outside of my cocoon of safety only to get groceries, get my treatments, and drive somewhere for the occasional errand. Personal contact with anyone outside the immediate family is rare, replaced by Skyping or Zooming.  The new normal is a dull, sobering and boring existence. Managing boredom has become an ongoing challenge. 

Fortunately, I was raised during a time where there weren’t a gazillion channels on television, there were no computers or internet, and we had to find creative ways to occupy ourselves or risk being put to work by our parents. I  would therefore venture outside to find a friend to play with or find a discreet place to read to avoid suffering that fate.  This kind of training, if you will, has better prepared me for dealing with the isolation we now face than most kids and young adults, who I really empathize with.

I can only use relatives and colleagues as an example, but I am so glad that I don’t have school-aged children anymore. I would certainly welcome a little boredom in my life if that weren’t the case, but I’d wouldn’t trade my boredom for the insanity parents face today. I can’t imagine what it would be like trying to balance work, being a part-time home school teacher, and managing the emotions of children filled with energy and the need to unleash it in a world where options are limited at best.

Then there are young adults Nidan’s age (22). After he was furloughed from work, he used his love of the outdoors and exploring the woods to his advantage, and made daily treks that lasted hours to help break up the monotony. This solitary adventure keeps him safe, but still only occupies a sliver of the day.  He also made the smart move to continue his college education, so the classwork chews up some more time, but there is still a void that need to be filled. And like anyone his age, there is the desire to have a meaningful relationship, but how can anyone create that in today’s environment? He has the unfortunate burden of living with two immunocompromised people, which he takes seriously. He is trying to be patient, but he’s chafing at the bit, and who can blame him? It wouldn’t be so bad if the end was in site, but we are all fatigued and impatient about having to had to navigate a life where one breath can potentially kill you or those you love, with no end in sight. Maybe now that Trump and some of his inner circle have become infected, the light bulb goes off and we can actually move towards more of a coordinated, national response to the pandemic, but I am afraid that is wishful thinking.

There is a certain psychology necessary to address boredom. Besides needing to convince one’s self that this will eventually pass, we have to figure out ways to enjoy simple things that we perhaps took for granted, or start new hobbies. My physical limitations prevent me from being able to do a lot of things around the house and yard, so I have to search for more cerebral things besides playing card games and Scrabble on the I-Pad. My agent recently asked me about perhaps starting another novel. I actually have almost one hundred pages of written text on something I started a year or two ago in addition to a series of short stories I wrote that can be used as the nucleus of a new novel. I looked at both again after that conversation and got a little excited about resuming either because they both have promise. Continuing one or the other would certainly occupy my time, but the motivation to sustain the effort needed to do it isn’t there yet. Maybe that will change when it starts to freeze outside.

I’ve always been good at drawing and painting too, even though I haven’t done either in decades, so diving back into that could be an option. It’s a solitary endeavor that chews up time, and we all need things like that not only to make the days more tolerable, but to keep ourselves from going stir-crazy.  

Finding and embracing things like that helps prevent us all from scurrying around aimlessly, like a hamster on one of those metal wheels, their little legs pumping furiously while they go nowhere.  This is critical for me because even though a summer where more than 90% of my time was spent mostly isolated at home is over, there was the drama regarding the house sale that overwhelmed everything else and made it seem less onerous. We could also spend time together outside as a family unit, and occasionally have a close friend or relative over provided we kept our distance and wore masks.  But the colder weather is coming and that option will soon close.  

The onset of a colder climate will initiate a period of time that will be long and dreary, not to mention potentially dangerous. The holidays usually offer a respite, but how can this year’s season be anything but comparatively sterile and underwhelming? At least we are fortunate to be able to experience them in whatever fashion we do with all our friends and relatives around. Not everyone can say that.

By the time the weather turns warmer, there will hopefully have been a change in out national approach to the pandemic and we will have managed to control the spread better, not to mention more promising news on the vaccine front. But until then I’m braced for another six months that may feel like six years. Managing the boredom is going to determine how tolerable it is, not to mention maintaining one’s sanity.  It’s going to take some ingenuity to navigate, but what choice is there?

The Sports and Entertainment Wasteland

wasteland

I’m pathetic.

Since the ten part “Last Dance” series of Jordan’s 1998 Bulls concluded (and I have watched it twice!), there hasn’t been any live sports programming to sustain me. So I been reduced to watching reruns of old baseball games. Thus far I have watched the entire playoff runs for the 2004, 2007 and 2013 Red Sox, and a few games from the “greatest starts of Pedro Martinez” collection, which has been kind of cool. Other than that, it has been slim pickings finding programming that I enjoy watching.

At this time of year I’d orinarily be firmly invested in the start of the baseball season and would have attended a handful of games. I would also be neck deep into the NBA and Stanley Cup playoffs, and have a keen eye turned towards the opening of NFL training camps next month. Instead, I was left with stories of MLB practically destroying itself with their ugly and tone deaf “negotiations” to get the season started before that sordid drama finally ended. They now join the ranks of other leagues that are planning on either completing their unfinished seasons or getting the new one started.

Purists would argue that the integrity of the seasons are compromised because of changes that needed to be made. I could care less. It won’t  bother me one bit if I’m watching the event without fans in the stands because one might actually hear what the athletes are saying on the field/ice/court, which could be both interesting and entertaining. But perhaps it would be less entertaining than I’d like because there could be a five second delay in the transmission to bleep out the naughty words. What a pity!

So yes, it would be wonderful to have sports back to entertain me and provide an outlet to escape. The thing is I have a hard time believing that the plans that have been hatched will actually come to fruition. I don’t doubt that some if not all of the seasons will start or resume. I just can’t see any scenario where all of these sports leagues will complete their seasons as planned.

Let’s face it. Athletes are going test positive at some point, and some will get pretty sick. That is a given. The difficulty is in containing the spread so it doesn’t ravage the team or the league.

Basketball and hockey are contact sports with a lot of sprinting, sweating and heavy breathing, which are not conducive to stopping the spread. So even though they have the fewest remaining games, you can’t convince me their plans won’t become compromised.

The NFL? They have the most athletes and coaches in the locker room and on the field. They pound the shit out of each other, as sweat, snot, blood and God know what else flies around. They huddle in a group to hear the play call. That doesn’t sound very safe to me. Of all the sports, that is the one I question the most in terms of how everyone can be kept safe. Plus the season ends in the winter, when most people think the virus will rebound. I just don’t see how a sixteen game season is viable under those circumstances.

Baseball probably has the best shot of completing a season as they designed it because players are already social distancing when they are on the field. But a bunch of players and staff members have already tested positive before camps have even opened, which does not portend well for a sixty game schedule and playoffs that span a four month period. Plus they are assuming that everyone follows the honor system by stringently following the rules when they are off the field or on the road. Good luck with that! And really, does anyone truly believe that the players will suddenly be able to contain themselves and stop spitting?

I’m anxious to learn which athletes err on the side of caution and opt out of playing altogether because of safety reasons, particularly if a family member is in the high risk category. It would not surprise me to see some big names on that list. And if any of the athletes or their family members actually die from the virus, and you can’t dismiss that possibility, how can all the leagues not shut everything down and wait until next year?

Which leaves me once again trolling the Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/name your platform wasteland for entertainment. We’ve been at this for three months now. K and I have scoured the depths of these places to find something enjoyable to watch at night and have learned a few things. First, there are some hidden gems you never heard of buried in these places that are worth seeing. Second, there are plenty of really good documentaries to watch if you like that sort of thing. Lastly, you have to work hard to find these nuggets because there are sooooooooo many bad movies out there. They outpace the gems by at least a ten to one margin, and some of these movies are so bad that you shake your head and wonder how anyone was able to get the production financed.

So yes, you can find stuff if you look hard and long enough. Our problem is we are at the point where the amount of time it takes to plow through these platforms to find something worthy enough to even watch the trailer, assuming it exists, isn’t worth the effort.

I raise a glass and toast the MLB, NBA, and NHL for giving me something to look forward to (I’ll believe football will be played when I see it). I just don’t think anybody will be able to finish what they start, and perhaps something will occur that prevent any of this from getting off the ground.

So I will be left with the reality that the sports and entertainment menu is barren, that there won’t be any new programming any time soon, and that we will have to continue to troll the depths of the programming that exists to try to find something that is remotely interesting. Otherwise I will probably resort to the sports reruns again. After all, I have at least a dozen games recorded that I haven’t yet watched, but I’m not really enthusiastic about watching any of them.

Of course, I could use this time intelligently and start a second novel that has been percolating in my head for months. I really like the concept, I think it would be a really entertaining read, and I think the subject matter would make it very marketable. That would be the smart thing to do, but I know what went into the first one, and I’ve been feeling pretty lazy lately.

More on that in a future post.

 

My Coronabeard

Beard

I have never been a beard guy. Facial hair yes, as I have worn either a mustache or mustache and goatee for more than half of my adult life. But a beard? It’s never been my style.

I grew one during the winter of my junior or senior year in college, primarily because I wanted to see what it would look like and, because I went to school in Maine, I thought it might keep my face warm during the winter semester.

It did keep the face warm, but I got rid of it after a couple of months for several reasons. The first was because it was much redder than my hair. Not carrot top red, but I didn’t like having my hair one color and my beard another. It wasn’t a good look.

The second reason is that my facial hair had the feel and texture of steel wool. If the color wasn’t bad enough, having a face that felt like it was encased in Brillo added to my lack of enthusiasm.

Lastly, I simply thought I looked my better without it, and as a hormonal college student, I avoided anything that might make me look less attractive to the coeds. So off it came, never to see the light of day again. That was close to forty years ago.

As you may remember from my last post, once I learned I would not be able to get my hair cut for the indefinite future, I vowed not to shave either, so the beard is back.  I figured, why not go for the hippie look? That was something I never had the balls to do as a teen because I was not the rebellious sort. I’m still not, but since I am working from home and we aren’t socializing, I’m curious to see how long both can get, and what that will look like.

The hair has a loooonnnnngggg way to go before I can say I have flowing locks because I had a short cut a few weeks ago. I also wonder how “flowing” the locks will actually become. As a person in his early sixties, my hair is much thinner than it used to be, my hairline has receded a LOT, and a bald spot has emerged on the back of my head. So how long can it actually get? Will it flow and look decent, or will it look like I stuck a wet finger in a live electrical socket? I guess time will tell.

The beard has been growing for a couple of weeks now, and it is no surprise that it is  mostly white. At least it blends better with my hair color now. And thankfully it is past the itching stage. For a couple of days it felt like I had ants crawling on my neck, and it was driving me a little cuckoo.

There’s no doubt the decision to grow the beard was an impulsive one, but there is a definite logic behind it.

While I would never consider myself a control freak, the element of control was the primary factor. Let’s face it. Our lives have been turned upside down and we are living in Bizzarro World. How long this lasts, and how much emotional and financial havoc it will wreak is unknown.  Hopefully, if we’re smart and take this seriously, we won’t succumb to the virus and will get past the worst of it reasonably soon. But since a quick and successful outcome depends in large part on everyone singing off the same sheet of music, which we know isn’t currently happening in The States, the truth is there is very little we can control about this situation.

Perhaps the idea of control has always been a myth, and we were living under the illusion that we have some control over our lives and destiny, but that illusion is clearly shattered for the time being. We are adrift and, like a sailboat on the open seas in the middle of a hurricane, we are hanging on the best we can, trying not to get swept up in the maelstrom. Therefore anything we can control, no matter how minute, is a welcome respite in this out of control environment.

That is why I chose to grow the beard. It’s my choice. I can keep it if I want, get rid of it, trim it, change its shape, and essentially do anything with it that I please. Everything about the beard is 100% within my control. It is the only thing in my life I can say that about right now. Of course, if K can’t stand it I might have to reconsider, but that might be a different story for a different time.

The other reason for growing the beard and hair is that when this is finally over, their respective lengths and degree of unruliness will be a living testimony for how long we had to endure. Now that the United States leads the world in verified COVID 19 infections (and we’re just getting started), I suspect I’ll be growing both for a while. New York City is the epicenter of the virus, and guess what state not only borders New York and NYC, but has many residents that commute to the big apple for work?

You guessed it! Connecticut! The southwest corner of the state, the one across the border from NYC, is getting hammered, and the virus is sweeping from west to east, mostly along the coast but its tentacles are inching north as well. We have over 1,200 confirmed cases so far, and that number doubles every two or three days. I believe I read that our state is in the top five as far as the number of infections per capita, which only fuels the belief that it will be a while before the worst is over.

I just hope I don’t look like a geriatric Grizzly Adams when that day comes.

 

 

 

Virus

I had everything planned for this past weekend. Do some painting on the new house on Saturday, have a relaxing Father’s Day where I did very little as possible, take Monday off for my annual physical, do a few errands, then do some more work around the house site.

Well, the first part of that went according to plan, but when I woke up on Sunday, I had a raging sore throat and felt a little punky. I looked at my CPAP machine and discovered I had run out of water, which explained the sore throat, which went away after a cup of hot tea. But as K and I traveled to the cemetery to leave a Father’s Day plant on my Mom and Dad’s grave, a raspy cough settled in and my nose started burning. I figured it was a cold, and didn’t think too much of it because the last time I had a cold it was short lived, so I assumed this one would be too. Besides, it eliminated the temptation to do anything strenuous , and I was down for that because that doesn’t happen too often.

But when I woke up Monday morning I felt warm and sweaty, but attributed that to the cold. I ran two errands and delivered some stuff to the job site, but when I returned home, I felt really fatigued, but again figured it was a combination of the cold and the MS. Besides, I’d be seeing the doctor in a couple of hours and he’d assure me it was what I thought it was.

When they took my temp once I got into the exam room, the temp registered 100.8, and the doctor said my lungs, ears and sinuses were clear, that what I was dealing with was a virus, and that a lot of that was still going around. My instructions were to go home, drink a lot of fluids, take it easy, and let it run its course. So I went home, took a shower and hibernated in the spare bedroom, not wanting to share the joy. A few hours later I felt really hot, took my temp and looked at the digital display that read 102.3. Fuck!

So I took some aspirin, sweated like a pig for two hours, and felt infinitely better. The temp read 100.5 as I turned out the lights, and I figured that the worst was over. I’d stay home another day, lay low and be as good as new come dinner time. Unfortunately the thermometer was back up to 101 and change when I awoke in a sweat and has fluctuated been that and 102 all day. My nose burns but is clear, my cough is heavy, deep and dry, and my ribs are sore from the periodic coughing spasms.

All day long I haven’t ventured out of my room because I don’t want K to get this, since the house progress is more dependent on her than me, and am bored out of my fucking mind. Why else would I write something so mundane as describing this virus. It has been the most stimulating thing I have done all day.

The picture that started this post is what I have been staring at all day when I wasn’t watching Netflix. As you can see, it is cloudy, damp and dreary, which fits my mood perfectly. The frustrating thing is I don’t feel so sick where I can just sleep all day, but whenever I do anything I feel the heat rising.

Isn’t it interesting what you will watch on TV when you are so bored you want to scream? So far I have watched the documentary on Ted Bundy, who I knew nothing about (what a sick, evil fuck) some of the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam Nam, and a documentary about Metallica that chronicled the band almost breaking up. Real cheerful stuff, I know, but like the weather, it fits my mood.

My MO is never to go to work when I am sick, and to let 24 hours pass when it comes to a fever. Based on that I am looking at another day isolated from everyone. It probably serves me right because one of the things I have been crowing about ever since I was diagnosed with MS, and that was 11 years ago, is that I rarely get sick anymore. I can count the number of times I have been sick on one hand. If memory serves me correctly, three days on the shelf will be the longest I have been down since then, and I have forgotten how much I hate being sick. I wouldn’t be in such a grumpy mood if this was going to be limited to one day. But I am looking at day 2 tomorrow, and I have no idea if there will be a day 3. If that happens, maybe I will suck on my vape pen all day long and let the MMJ mellow my angst. That will either kill me or cure me.

I have no idea how I will spend the day tomorrow, other than get up to pee every hour because I am pushing fluids. Maybe I will find something else to vent about. Meanwhile, thank you for indulging me. And send whatever positive vibes you can my way over the blogosphere.

I am really getting tired of this shit.