How To Do Nothing

I’m enjoying not doing much of anything.

This is not as easy as it sounds.  In fact, it’s taken me a lifetime to get to this point.  I’m not sure how long it will last but, boy, I’m hoping it doesn’t end any time soon.

And if I work real hard and am real lucky, it won’t.

At the height of self-quarantine in early April I had a routine appointment with a doctor whose office is located in a hospital.

Admittance into the hospital required a temperature check at the door and when I was told mine was a little over 101 degrees, well, imagine my surprise.

Definitely channelled my inner Maya

I had a headache, which is not unusual for someone with severe seasonal allergies such as mine, and that was about it.  But after several more temp checks and a call to my doctor on the inside I was told a COVID-19 test was ordered and I was to return later that afternoon.

Some hours later I was driving down to the hospital’s lower level parking lot where about 20 hospital workers, dipped in what looked liked head to toe HAZ-MAT suits, with long plexiglass shields around their upper torsos, stood at tables on either side of me in my car.

Their hands were weaponized with small plastic test tubes, synthetic clipboards with official looking paper lists and Q Tips the size of the twelve-foot ruler I hadn’t seen since my elementary school days,

It looked sort of like a scene from Alien or Star Trek crossed with a yet to be filmed Tim Burton movie about mass corruption in the medical establishment.

Roughly what I saw from my car

Nevertheless, I soldiered through, weathered the teacher’s measuring stick far up my nose, was told the next day I was negative and then soon after was diagnosed with a bad sinus infection.

It took a while to get better, both physically and psychologically.  I mean, there was something about the Q-Tip ruler up my nose that still gives me the willies despite NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s very apt demonstration last week on TV that it was nothing to be afraid of.  (Note: Good for him.  And notice they didn’t show his face in close-up).

Notice he’s smiling… BEFORE the swab goes in #notpleasant

I also had a lot to preoccupy me while I was healing.  There were four 2-3 hour Zoom sessions per week with college writing students now dispersed all over the country I was supposed to be teaching meaningful skills to as well as reassuring.  Not to mention, dozens and dozens, and still dozens of their pages to read and type feedback to.  On the more personal side, there was also an endless loop of food prep/food buying that included literally HOURS of wipe downs with chemically smelly products that can’t, in the long run, be good for your you OR your food.

In addition to ….well, a  TON more.  I mean, it’s only been this last week that I began to master the art of mentally measuring what it means to really be six feet apart from anyone while walking my dog.

Of course, I still haven’t mastered the art of wearing a mask with glasses.  For a while I thought the advice of washing your specs in soap and water before going outside would prevent the mask from fogging up but that proved to be as effective as stopping the hiccups by having someone scaring the life out of you.

I’m going to have to look this stupid, huh? #signmeup

Yet since I handed in my grades earlier this week after reading 352 screenplays and TV pilots in 14 days (Note:  Okay, not really, but still A LOT), and having increased my speed in disinfecting, distancing, zooming, prepping and cleaning, I do find myself with…..idle time.

Yes, I’m one of the fortunate ones to not be working on the front lines, not have any friends or loved ones fighting for their lives against COVID, and not in immediate danger of being thrown out of my apartment or deprived of my next meal because I can’t meet the rent or afford the grocery bill.

And so are many of you.

Also known as Twitter

Yet there is this strange restlessness, anger and resentment in the air I can feel amid the aforementioned MANY I am lucky to be a part of.  People are climbing the walls, screaming at the TV and complaining endlessly about being sentenced to life at home with their computers, televisions, phones and loved ones by their side or a zoom chat away.

Boo-hoo.  Boo, boo, boo, boo, HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.  WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!

Adopt the ruthlessness of Sally Draper

Believe me, I get it.  I don’t like to be trapped or idle either.  And before you go ballistic, I’m not speaking about people who are freaked out because they can’t work and fear they’ll lose everything, or whose very small children are driving them up the walls they probably wish were padded by now.

Instead, I’m speaking of the millions of the rest of you in MY group who, really, just need to hang out for a little while longer and calm the f-k down.

I’ve NEVER been good at not having a plan to give me control over a situation.  I’ve also been the ambitious type, spending my life plotting the next project that will move me forward in my life, my career or in my relentless search for the answers to all the nagging existential questions I’ve had about life and human existence since I was a wee child.

Me, in third grade

The latter might seem silly to you but it’s been both a motivation and an anxiety-ridden plague to me on and off for decades.  So if you can’t relate to it as an example simply substitute anything you try to balance away by activity that you know can easily grind you into the ground if you let yourself get too carried away with it.  These could include love, alcohol, food, work, shopping, crime, sex, gaming or your undying love of all things cyber.

Now that you’ve been ordered to endure some additional self-isolation for a few more months (Note: At least by those who know best) those of you in my very privileged group this summer can start to deal with this by simply saying to yourself and your over active minds/egos….

STOP.  Like, full stop.   You have ZERO reason to be freaking out over what you’re NOT DOING and instead take the time to enjoy NOT DOING anything.

Don’t let those “somethings” tempt you

Human nature being what it is, you have nothing to worry about because pretty soon, you will do something.  Maybe it’s checking in with a friend, being of service to someone less fortunate than you at the spur of the moment or, I don’t know, baking your first loaf of bread.

These activities, none of them, need be IMPORTANT or building towards ANYTHING at all.  They only need to keep you in the moment of just how freaking fortunate you are to be stuck at home with no end in sight without any PLAN or PROJECT for the immediate future.

Oh, something will occur for you to do everyday – many things and many of them mundane – until they’re not and then they are again.

Enjoy it, and then REALLY enjoy it, while you can.

Bruno Mars – “The Lazy Song”

Masks

I am fortunate enough to live up in the hills of Los Angeles where there is lots of green and, for more than a brief moment, you can shut out the world and pretend bad things don’t happen to good people and that you, somehow, are exempt from bad things.

Granted, the pretend game doesn’t always work but in uncertain times, when you’re really in need, it is possible to will a more lovely reality into existence by simply opening your eyes and seeing what stands before you.

Not so much anymore.

Reboot! Reboot!

Early this evening I took my dog Rosie for a walk and all I could see coming down two different hills and then up a third one were masks – lots and lots of colored masks.

Some were black, others were blue and still more had bright bold patterns.   They were, of course, attached to human bodies of varied shapes and sizes and ages, all of whom seemed to have collectively decided to go on a hike or walk, or, more likely, on a specific trip to a well-known destination on top of one of the hills with one of the best views in the city.

Usually at least half of these walkers or hikers or solo fellow humans smile and approach when you have a dog, particularly a cute one, as Rosie will signal to you that she certainly is.

I mean, look at this face.

But that’s not what happened this evening.

This evening not only did Rosie fail to be a people magnet, she and I found ourselves part of a well-defined human obstacle course of avoidance.  The second a mask, or several masks, spotted us, that’s how quickly they scurried into the road, or crossed the street, or looked down and turned away.

It was as if WE had the plague, rather than merely being two of billions of unwilling participants in one.

Over the last few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic now sweeping the globe, it was still possible to pass people at a safe distance with a smile or a nod or even an eye roll at the ridiculousness of our joint medical, um…situation.

Pretty much sums it up

But it’s difficult to recognize a smile when city law now requires that we wear a mask that covers our mouths or risk a hefty fine.  Similarly, we’re being told on the news that we could be taking our life in our hands if we get close enough to any stranger we see in a road in order to give OR receive an eye roll.

These days we keep our eye rolls to ourselves, at least in public, and probably all the time.  For what good is an eye roll anyway, if no one else can see it?

Very much my energy these days

That’s like yelling at the TV when your idiot president is blathering on at a faux news conference about something he knows nothing about (Note: which is pretty much everything) and Lord knows none of us except me would spend even a moment of their normally allotted eye rolling time doing that.

It is interesting to exist in the outside world wearing a literal physical mask since so much has been written over the centuries about the imaginary masks we choose to show to others.

Sorry Phantom, the CDC would not approve. #coveryourfaceplease

I don’t know about you, but at times it’s been confusing and downright appalling to learn just how many virtual masks existed out there and how unadept I’ve been over the years in realizing who was wearing which at what time and for how long.

More surprising is coming to realize over the decades that I’ve been as guilty as so many of those I’ve criticized.  I mean, they felt convincing enough at the time – my masks of heterosexuality, of success, of endless good humor – despite the fact that they were about as representative of my inner truths as the president is of his at one of those aforementioned “press briefings.”

My mask of heterosexuality probably needed some work #lol #denimfordays #sofly

What was even worse was the knowledge, as I grew older, that the protective gear I thought was 99% effective at keeping my inner truths at bay to everyone else, was nowhere near that.  These were quite inferior masks.   Something more akin to washing your hands with icy cold water, sans soap or alcohol based disinfectant, after visiting a church service or synagogue on Easter or Passover in one of the nation’s hot zones of infection, and expecting it to somehow fool the virus and shield you from its infection.

Be fashionable, please.

In other words, not so efficient and not so good.

What is also not very good, but endlessly ironic and really quite efficient, is despite the fact EVERYONE will now be wearing actual cloth masks in public, it will be EASIER THAN EVER to recognize what’s really going on underneath them and the commonality of truth that we share.

We are all terrified, we all want this to end and we are all frustrated that no matter how we slice it or roll it around in our minds, we are not much different than the faceless person we stay six feet away from on the street as far as the virus is concerned.

Be kind to your fellow houseplants

Imagine, it’s taken everyone wearing a mask to realize we are all, essentially, the same.  And in the same boat, or sinking ship, depending on what we choose to do from now on.

Billy Joel – “The Stranger”