In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray plays an egocentric television weatherman who is fated to relive the same day again and again an infinite number of times until he finally attains redemption by doing a character makeover into a more caring person. Or as enigmatic baseball New York Yankee icon and former manager Yogi Berra once cryptically remarked, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
What I am alluding to here is the state of household solitary confinement so many of us are experiencing while we play our part in our stay-at-home-social-distancing strategy as we attempt to outlast the COVID-19 pandemic. (You can think of it as a stare-down game of “chicken” to find out who will blink first: the virus or us.) These isolation blues we are undergoing, as we hunker down in our bunkers, are giving us cause to redefine our lives to adapt to this new normal.
Let’s face it, as we sequester ourselves at home in our COVID staycations, we are becoming aware that there is just too much time in a day. Whether being lucky enough to be able to work from home or discovering how difficult home schooling can be (for both parents and kids), we find that we often have no idea of what day of the week it is and that weekends have lost any kind of meaning.
Putting structure in our day can certainly help. Interspersing activities such as bread baking, knitting and housework to break up our long periods spent bingeing on Netflix will aid in getting the time to go by more quickly. One little trick I’ve devised to distract myself is to check the house plants every couple of hours to see how much they’ve grown. Besides social distancing, frequent hand washing and avoiding touching of the face, it is necessary to maintain our physical muscle tone and core strength to remain healthy and avoid infection. When the elements or the fear of distance encroachment force us to remain indoors, it is still possible to achieve a good personal workout. Even if we don’t own a treadmill or a stationary bike, the practice of yoga or tai chi can keep us fit. Personally, I spend an hour each day walking circular laps around inside the house while listening to CBC radio or Bob Marley.
Instead of weights, I find that I can build up the strength in my biceps by simply opening and closing the fridge door several hundred times a day as I pass by (and while at it, helping myself to another peanut butter and jam sandwich to keep up the energy, jogging on the spot as I do so).
Food is another important consideration. One of the topics of contention in the “discussions” between my wife and me is the necessity of replenishing our household food supplies and how often to venture to the local supermarket to purchase groceries. We are fortunate that so far we have had friends, family and neighbours willing to do our shopping for us and drop the bags off a safe distance from our front door. Where my wife and I disagree is that although I am greatly appreciative of these kind and generous actions, I feel we are exposing these good Samaritans to needless threat as it means they have to spend more time in the stores than they would otherwise have to do. In my opinion, we should just rely on whatever food supplies we already have in the house. By these I mean those canned goods that were purchased during our fervour to follow emergency preparedness advice in the event of an earthquake, tsunami or attack from outer space, and which are now taking up space in the back of our cupboards and pantry shelves.
You probably have some of these too. You can recognize them by the half inch of dust covering their lids (which, if you dare to blow off, will reveal an expired “best before” date of October 2009). These cans may contain pressed smoked ham, or corned beef, or even baked beans in bacon fat. If you are fortunate, the labels are still intact and haven’t disintegrated.
You may also have a stack of cans of evaporated milk which you can only hope have not stayed true to their name by having had all the liquid contents dissipated into the ether while a solid chunk of white substance remains glued to the bottom of the can. Unlike my wife, I am willing to pry open the lids of these questionable cans and partake of the contents, even if doing so may unleash a new viral epidemic on the world.
Similarly, the depths of our several chest freezers are untapped with edible possibilities. If only we knew what they were! Way down near their bottoms are masses of yoghurt containers that have lost their labels over the years. These have fallen off and now lie stuck together in a frozen block of ice somewhere nearby. Perhaps that’s a lentil stew. Maybe it’s a zucchini loaf. Then again, it could be a banana bread. Didn’t we used to have a sourdough starter that we lost track of?
If the expired cans of emergency food and unmarked containers of “whatever” in our freezers are not enough to sustain us through the pandemic, there are always the myriad amounts of glass jars and plastic baggies containing all the dried beans we have grown and collected over the past 40 years. Varieties such as Tenderhill Bush, Blue Lake Pole, Purple Peacock and Trionfo Violetto ought to provide us with enough protein to see us through to the next ice age. The drawback, of course, is that by consuming and digesting all these beans we will certainly exacerbate the atmospheric greenhouse effect and thereby hasten the global warming apocalypse.
Nobody asked me, but the only thing more boring than singing the isolation blues is having to listen to someone else doing it. Thank you for letting me vent. No one knows for certain, but we may only now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Or maybe it’s just me opening the refrigerator door again.