Here we are, heading into Week 545 of sheltering in place. How are you feeling? I mean emotionally. If you are running a fever, have no sense of taste, and your joints ache, that is another grim subject.
For most of us, life goes on, although ordinary life events have a sort of underground feeling to them. For instance, families with newborns can't freely welcome the usual visitors, and any baby shower has to be virtual.
Life events are a shadow of themselves. Birthdays mean dropping off a present and perhaps visiting in the front yard for a few minutes. Weddings are postponed and often downsized, or couples have friends join them on Zoom or elope. Even for funerals, attendance is limited and distancing is maintained.
We who live alone seem responsible only to ourselves since no one is going to drop in unexpectedly. Would anyone know if I ate an entire quart of ice cream at one sitting? Besides my digestive system -- and my thighs? I clean house only for myself, although I admit a nagging vision of me keeling over, my daughter coming to investigate and saying, "Wow, when was the last time she vacuumed?"
We are living in an alternate universe, where Europeans reject our lucrative visits and school is not a given. Old people are learning to Zoom, and youngsters engage in creative play such as building an obstacle course in the backyard.
I have heard this is a good time to set ourselves goals so we can feel a sense of achievement. Well, I did get my taxes done. That is, I hired someone to do my taxes, but I am the one who gathered everything together and figured how to get it to the accountant without taking any health risks.
I also am tracking my accomplishments during this time, and they are nothing to brag about so I review them humbly. Does trimming my bangs count? Or mastering Instacart? How about staying sane? I did buy a SodaStream to carbonate water and figured out how to set it up and use it, but I will admit it was not rocket science. Or even preschool science. Although the instructions do say not to let children use it.
My son, who lives in Berlin, thinks I should take this time to learn to make sauerkraut. "This is the perfect time to learn about fermentation," he said. Luckily, he has already mastered sauerkraut because things have opened up in Germany so he is getting out, wearing a mask of course.
Does reading a lot of books count as a goal? For a while I felt my brain could only handle cozy mysteries, kind of like when I go on trips that entail multiple airports and time zones. But as time passed, I resumed a variety of reading matter.
I just finished "The Splendid and the Vile" by Erik Larson, the story of Winston Churchill during his first year as prime minister when German bombs fell nightly on London and the future was scary and uncertain. This put my hardship of staying in place into perspective -- at least I have no bombs falling on me. They, on the other hand, could hug and go out with friends even as the bombs fell.
I also am reading "War and Peace," albeit slowly. It is a long, satisfying read and a great escape as the French troops advance to Moscow -- at least I am not on the battlefield fighting Napoleon -- and the love entanglements grip my heart. Since I have no deadline to complete the tome, it is a joy to read Tolstoy's well-chosen words a bit each day. As he depicts the Russian national soul, I ponder the American equivalent.
I just heard that the angriest block of voters is grandmothers who miss seeing their grandchildren in person. Hear, hear! I have always touted resilience as the most important attribute to possess and nurture in our children. Now I am being tested on my own resilience. Maybe "anger" isn't the right word for what I am feeling, but I am sure am sighing a lot.
Editor's note: Dolores Fox Ciardelli is Tri-Valley Life editor for the Pleasanton Weekly. Her column, "Valley Views," appears in the paper on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.