Silver Linings Playbook: Covid-19 Edition, Part 1

  • Books. Books. Books. An earlier resolution to read less on-line, and to limit screen time in general, is all the more fruitful under isolation. There’s still too much Twitter, but Diamond and Vermette and Epstein and Oliver and Whitehead and Riley have all taken me on extended mega-text trips.
  • Social obligations are large and unforgettable — the foodbank, caring for the most vulnerable even by the acting of couching out — but for me, to have my largest imperative be to slow down and stay home feels like a blessing, honestly.
  • Family meals. We eat together most nights. We like each other.
  • We learn new things. Zoom! video-conferencing comes to mind. Advanced disinfectant techniques. Higher handwashing skills. (Bit of a stretch on this. Maybe these are, I don’t know, pewter linings.)
  • The small video gatherings that we’ve begun – some with siblings, others with various friends seeking some elevated and encouraging conversation – are ridiculously pleasant, especially for DancerGirl. Of course: absence does make the heart grow fonder, but there is more. We’ve noticed that somehow it feels more intimate than a face-to-face might. We’re all (seemingly) together on the same couch? Maybe it’s as simple as that, but also there are no side conversations, no division into subsets. We’re all talking and listening to the same thing at the same time.
  • NAPS.
  • Time expands. There is more freedom to notice whatever it is that we most need to notice. Blooming things. Buds on trees. (We are in a northern landscape. Things are springing.) I notice my son’s laconic kindness, my bride’s bright DO-ing.
  • Lunchtime yoga for my working-from-home wife. And I get to watch! (One time, shortly after having a superb yoga app recommended to her, she pom-pom-ed both of us to join her on the living room floor. For some reason, she couldn’t stop laughing.) She still has that Dancer Discipline and aptitude and flexibility, and it’s a wonder to this superannuated, stocky, gone-to-seed ballplayer.
  • Tiger King! The Lanky One was all in this past week. I was near-hypnotized by the opening few minutes and ran for my bedside book, knowing how ready I was to be sucked in. I probably watched 45 minutes of it overall, enough to ask semi-relevant questions of the slack-jawed Lankster. The Great Escape: a documented world vividly weirder than the one we live in!
  • There’s more time for running and other fitness things, and sometimes I even DO them. My version of the “beach-bod” motivation (those days are long gone!) is to re-emerge into public spaces carrying substantially less ballast. I can almost visualize it. (God willing, Covid-19 won’t give me as much time as I’m likely to need!) Typical of my tendency toward poor timing, I’m determined to lose weight while confined to barracks. It’s slow. (It’s not a running day, but it’s nearly 8 pm and I haven’t walked yet. Don’t let me forget!)
  • “Hella video games!” But The Lanky One is finding they don’t have quite the same inescapable, indubitable appeal as they did in his younger days. (GOLD lining for the Dad Unit!)
  • Household reorganization and purging was a thing in the earlier days of social restriction, but now that even that level of interaction with others has gone, so has my Get Stuff Sorted mojo. But The Study (okay, it’s the extra upstairs bedroom) is far less cluttered now, and there’s hope for the garage, too.
  • “All sorts of cleaning opportunities!” (I think DancerGirl might’ve had a poorly hidden agenda on that one. This much I know: there’ll be no Saturday Night in the Living Room Cinema unless we get some of the bachelor-boy ambiance gone…)
  • “Hey!” this high school English teacher and coach keeps on hearing our entire society exclaim, in various ways, “teachers are amazing!” Or “Hmm, maybe Ms. Pettigrew wasn’t the problem…” Or the old (but criminally underused) “You couldn’t pay me enough to be in a room with a whole class of kids! I can’t sort out my own two monsters!” The Covid-19 Crisis is also, on repeat, Teacher Appreciation Day. (Or it should be.) Does my heart good. Pat a teacher on the virtual back!

[Hey, what are your silver linings? Don’t be afraid to pop a few suggestions in the comments below, if so moved. If not, I recommend the exercise. The counting of blessings makes you feel, y’know, more blessed.]

Overall, everything that can be construed as a positive in these scary times seems to come down to three notions. Slowdown.. Opportunity. Transformation.

We all live pretty fast. Our culture implicitly kind of sneers at Mahatma Gandhi’s old chestnut, “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.” We talk about how life has slowed down, the Global Pause, or TGVPESIRM!* The resolutions people make to enhance relationships, learn a new skill or resurrect a long-dead ambition – or catch up on movies they’ve missed, for that matter – are simply because our lives have been forced to reduce their speed. There are all kinds of goodnesses there, for those fortunate enough to stay healthy.

* The Great Viral Pandemic Existential Societal and Individual Reset Mechanism.

Drastic change always creates opportunities. One of our luxurious privileges (and maybe yours, too?) is that we can easily notice them. Shakespeare wrote King Lear when isolated by the Black Death, so how about YOU? I heard that loud and clear, yes. This might be the greatest silver lining of all, as long as we don’t beat ourselves about the ears with it. That’s why I’m (fearfully, hopefully) back at long-neglected writing projects (such as the one I’m procrastinating, in order to write this easier one!), and maybe you’re baking bread or otherwise using the chance to build freshness into your days. Good for us!

But do you know what I hate to hear? (Aside, that is, from depressing statistics or frustrating societal failures.) I’m perturbed by variations on the theme of Back to Normal. Really: Normal was so great?! Listen, I long to hang with my older sons and other family members, to grab a movie at The ByTowne Cinema or even to put my basketball players through some off-season training and general sweaty fun. However, I’m also nervous about that longed-for easing of social restrictions; I don’t want to come out of this as precisely the same guy I was before. (Fatwise. Otherwise.) There’s a big opportunity, among other things, for personal and collective TRANSFORMATION, for installing some new ways of thinking and acting, solidifying a few good habits that I’m using all this time to try to nourish.

Most of us have extra time, opportunities galore, and evident potential for various forms of significant change, and that’s where silver linings LIVE. Again, I’d love to know what some of yours are.

In Part Two, I look for the bright side in MY OTTAWA CITY. Here’s how to get there. Part 3 is the bright side of being Canadian. Part 4 tries on a pair of rose-coloured global glasses.


Comments (3)

  1. Michael Freeman

    Editor’s NOTE: “What are silver linings?” Mr. Freeman began a thoughtful, lengthy comment this way.
    With his permission, I’ve posted it as a response to this piece; you’ll find it as the most recent “He Said/She Said” article, just over there on the right.

  2. Leanna Howden

    Great content in an optimistic light. Not changed much from your teen years! In many ways, Lanky One reminds me of you in those far-back times, ornery in a way not much different than the writer at the same age as him, and before. Like you he sought to identify who he was in different ways, what mattered and where he wanted to focus. The true basis of this edition is gratitude and finding the positive/optimistic aspects in situations where we focus on what we can control.

    • Oh, my: the perils of Big Sister figuring out how to subscribe to The Ster’s website! (“Ster” as in “Little Monster”. I know, TMHI. Too Much Howden Information.)

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