Friday Five was a custom at a previous blogging locale where one would share five usually unrelated thoughts, none of which ever got developed much beyond a couple sentences or maybe a paragraph. Gonna give it a shot here.
Like so many others, I’ve been willing myself into sanity by keeping a routine. Mercifully, I still have my job. Our customers are mostly the kind of companies that will do just fine during this thing. And technical consulting is inherently well suited to working remotely, though at some point there’s no substitute for being onsite, and we’ll have to figure that out in time. Until then, I set the alarm, I shower, I put on a decent shirt for the video meetings I do all day (pants are truly optional, and I’m wearing grubby shorts most days). My only mild protest is to grow a pandemic beard, though I am still shaving a clean neckline because I’m not a cretinous sysadmin. I have standards.
But man doesn’t live for work alone, especially this man, so beyond the workday routine, I am maintaining a “sanity matrix” to track and remind myself about the other stuff I have to do to stay rounded and sharp, if that’s possible simultaneously. Of all the things on it, exercise seems to be the most directly impactful to improving my mental health. Since I’m not training for a race, I’ve shortened my runs. 3-4 miles is plenty, and my achilles is grateful for the relief. (It also serves as a self-check: if I can run 3 miles, I’m probably not full of a deadly respiratory virus.) I’m finding special pleasure in lifting again, especially the full-body lifts like back squats and deadlifts. That sensation of so many muscles working in concert against resistance is satisfying. And, like running, lifting can be reduced to numbers, and progress tracked and charted objectively. This is important to me. I’m generally not interested in unquantifiable progress. I used to get into that a lot with my shrink. Pissed him off.
I’m also doing the NYT crossword puzzle every day. Keeping the word part of my mind working is vital, since I can’t really summon the concentration to get into a book right now. (Or to write.) I’ve been into it on-and-off for a decade, but right now it’s a focus point, and a highlight of my days. If you’re a puzzler, you can add me as a friend there. (I know, I know, their editorial board is a trash fire, but they still have some pretty good reporting on stuff outside of the realm of American politics. The Arts section and the Sunday Magazine are worth the subscription price.)
Speaking of newspapers: if you’re lucky enough to still be employed, yet find yourself spending way less due to How It All Is Right Now and are looking for an outlet for that spare cash, consider subscribing to a periodical or two. (In addition to upping your contributions to charities, of course.) What’s coming next is going to require journalism we can believe in more than ever, and that’s not free.
Look. It’s hard to write or even think about anything outside of the shadow that the pandemic is casting across the world. At least for me. There may be a subspecies out there who’s unaffected by this thing. Sociopaths and narcissists, that sort, but I think they’re relatively few in number. There are also those denying the severity of it for political purposes, but they know in their hearts that they’re lying. Me, though? Affected. Profoundly. It’s especially difficult as a pessimist to have much to say that won’t just bum people all the way out. I’ve already been told as much, in fact. My outlook is actively unhelpful. So I will keep those thoughts and predictions all bottled up. Healthy! But there’s no denying the impact on all the other things, and it seems worth talking about those, probably even necessary.