I recently read an article about Yo-Yo Ma, and how he's getting through the pandemic and isolation... it's a brilliant piece and he's an astonishing man, gifted and generous and kind and compassionate and thoughtful in multiple senses of the word.
|(picture from NYT)
My family. Starting and ending the day with my wife, checking in with my son throughout the day, talking with my sister and parents on the phone… all these things make me feel secure that in a world I have very little control over, my social cornerstones are still there.
My tortoises. I live with five tortoises, a Redfoot Tortoise, a Hingeback Tortoise, a Black Mountain Tortoise, and two Russian Tortoises. Without me, specifically, they’d die; that’s an awesome responsibility in every sense of the word. The daily and weekly routines associated with their caretaking grounds me.
My Dogs. Puck and Olive love me. They think I’m a much better person than I am, which constantly pulls me towards that better Jamie. Gail and Ben could (and often do) care for them, so in a very real sense, the dogs give me much more than I give them. Puck normally sleeps spooned up with me (he’s the big spoon), and Olive checks in on me on a schedule of her own devising throughout the day and night, delivering kisses and flea-bites as she perceives that I need them.
My friends. I’m not as good a friend as I should be. I always mean to do better at the little things that maintain friendships, but they fall out of my head before long. As a result (possibly by unconscious or subconscious design), I don’t have a lot of friends. The ones I have managed to keep over the years are special and interesting people all over the world and hearing from them via FB or email or Teams meeting or the occasional phone call keeps me tethered to “The Outside World” in a way that the previous three things cannot. Friends are the $20 bills in your jeans pockets that mother-time steals when you let her do your laundry.
Music. Spotify is one of the drugs I use to maintain my sanity in the sea of craziness that the USA has become at the intersection of pandemic and race-riots and our idiot-king. I curate and steal and hoard playlists like a junkie, secure in the knowledge that this one or that one will come in handy when my mood jumps (or is pushed) off a cliff. I firmly believe that music can help to reprogram my mental state and body-chemistry.
Cooking. I’ve been spending a fair amount of time in the kitchen since we locked out the rest of the world. A sourdough pretentiously named Prometheus has been a big part of recent experiments, but I’ve also been making pizzas from scratch, a Mexican hot sauce based on a Korean hot sauce, and fermented foods and drinks of all kinds. It’s a pleasant and useful distraction from worries about the things we all worry about, and utilitarian, since we can’t go out to eat (it’s amazing how much we used to eat out or order in).
Writing. Of course, who knows why I waited until number seven to talk about writing. I write every day, some for sharing online, some for future publication, some just to let off steam from a pressure valve that otherwise might sail past the redline and end up in some cartoony explosion. I’m working on a novel along with a quartet of novellas, a quartet of chapbook collections of shorts, and a couple of individual stories that don’t fit anywhere else.
News Aggregators. I read a lot of news. Lots of the news these days is depressing or fake or horrific or repetitive, so I use a number of news aggregators to filter and sort my news for me. I like reading a bit about Covid-19, a bit about the POS-POTUS, along with lots of articles about the environment, tortoises, cooking, writing, TV/movies, and a number of areas of interest… I get these things in nearly the perfect proportions from the apps I use.
Reading. Besides news, I read a fair amount of fiction (not as much as I should, or would like to, but I keep meaning to fix that). I’ve found in the COVID months that I enjoy re-reading stuff I’ve enjoyed in the past. Good stories are a shelter I can climb down into and hide for as long as necessary, letting the words wash over my brain, soothing things, letting the lizard-bits at the base of my skull do the repaired necessary to keep me functioning another day/week/month.
Drinking. I drink a lot. Certainly more water than anyone you likely know (thanks to Sjögren's Syndrome), probably more coffee than you’d think, and perhaps less bourbon than you’d guess. The act of bringing liquids into my body is control, controlling metabolism and health and mood and energy with a simple sip or swallow.