Forgive me for not dispensing well-being advice and wisdom here. We are all navigating through uncharted waters today. Most of us are doing the best we can. There are times we get things right, and times we don’t. Below are some of my own reflections, and perhaps not uncommon examples, of how I have attempted to navigate those waters.While out driving the other day, I noticed I had developed a new habit when I am on the road: When I come to a stoplight behind another car, I am now socially distancing behind that car − stopping an extra 6-8 feet from where I would normally stop. That makes no sense. I’m pretty sure the CDC has no guidelines about this. I guess staying away from others has found its way into my psyche and the general way I am functioning in the world today. I look forward to the good old days. Till then, I imagine I’ll probably keep my distance both on the road and off.
Everything I read says that it’s important to maintain one’s social contacts to avoid spiraling into the feelings of depression and anxiety often associated with isolation. So I recently called a friend to meet me for a “car lunch.” (My term: I’m sure there are better ones.) We agreed to each bring a sandwich, meet in the parking lot of a nearby local library, and spend the noon hour talking with each other through our open windows while remaining in our respective cars. It seemed like a healthy and elegant solution to self-quarantining. We weren’t there 20 minutes before a police officer pulled up and interrogated us about what we were doing and why we were there. He let us stay, but for the rest of our lunch together he periodically drove by to check on us. So much for elegant solutions!
A couple of weeks ago, I needed to get some papers from my office. I drove downtown, walked into my building lobby, got onto the elevator, and promptly realized that I could not remember the elevator code to get to my office floor − the floor I had been going to for years. At the time, all I could think of was that I was grateful no one was around to see me fumbling through my wallet for the elevator code.
I’ve noticed that the quality of my daily routine and wardrobe selection seem to be declining. My wife is one of those disciplined people who maintains exactly the same morning routine as when she was daily going into her office, including dressing up nicely as if heading off to a business meeting. I’m told this is the recommended way to manage a healthy stay-at-home lifestyle. In contrast, I often find myself defaulting to my favorite sweatshirt and jeans. Invariably, however, before noon, she delicately asks me if I’ve shaved and showered. That usually works!
I’ve mentioned the evolution (actually devolution) of my wardrobe habits. That has sometimes included avoiding the time-consuming task of lacing up my tennis shoes. My favorite pair has laces that seem like they must be a yard long. As you can imagine, double tying each set of laces takes time. And who is going to notice untied tennis shoes? (Certainly no one in my Zoom meetings.) The other day, I had to drive to the store. Wearing my favorite (untied) footwear, I walked carefully out to my garage. I figured I’d tie up my laces when I got to the store. My first step out the door and down the stairs to my car went fine. My second step, not so much. Unknowingly, I’d closed the door behind me on one of my yard-long shoelaces and, mid-stride with one foot essentially tied to the door, I fell forward 3-4 feet, down the stairs and onto my garage floor. Having what I like to think of as the agility of a cat, I avoided breaking anything when I hit the concrete. I did realize, however, that my mother was right: Always tie your shoes, Doug. (Even when sheltering at home!)
I woke up the other morning. It was Sunday. The weather outside was beautiful. I’d slept well and was looking forward to a relaxing day. I was planning to exercise and probably do some chores around the house. Then it hit me. It was not Sunday; it was Monday! What’s going on here? I noticeably felt disappointed. I don’t know why; it’s not like I had anywhere to go. I’d never had this happen before. Since that time, I’ve talked with a number of others, lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Evidently, occasionally getting days mixed up is not all that uncommon today. Whew! That makes me feel better.
Everything I’ve read says that it’s not healthy today to watch or read too much news. The research is clear: It can make one feel depressed and anxious. Or, even worse, it can exacerbate one’s existing feelings of depression and anxiety. That makes sense. I decided to practice what I preach. I would break my 3-month long habit and not spend multiple hours watching (and re-watching) the evening news, or at least, significantly limit my exposure to it. You know what? It works! I did feel better and found myself not ruminating so much about our country’s state of affairs. The only problem is that I seem to have replaced the evening news habit with a new one I now need to break: Netflix. I’m working on that one!
At recent Zoom meetings, I find myself being a lot more aware of the length of people’s hair, including my own. I’ve heard some participants even commenting when someone else shows up having recently had a haircut. At one of my last Zoom meetings, someone even commented about the length of my own hair. I didn’t mind at all; we laughed about it. The problem is that I have not yet been able to bring myself to go to a barbershop and have some stranger hover over me while cutting my hair, even with a mask. I imagine I’ll get over this reluctance about the time I quit social distancing when I’m driving my car.
These reflections and anecdotes are illustrations of my own efforts to navigate through today’s uncharted waters. I hope some of them resonate.