A Variety of Thoughts in the Time of Covid 19

A Variety of Thoughts in the Time of Covid 19

I’m on Twitter. I like it there. If I am angry, I say so. People who are also angry, or simply agree with me, follow me. It’s virtual hand holding. Oh, I’ve had to block folks. They’d be the ones to tell me to shut up or worse. There were a few that threatened me. But I’ve decided to defend what I believe in, and I’m not silent concerning those things. Back in California, I walked out of a gathering, because the people there, in my opinion, had hardened their hearts.

Now there is Covid19–and ironically, it can bring people together. Last night a woman tweeted that her mother had died. I wrote back: So sorry. I have thanked God many times that my mother, the person who gave me more than I could every repay, died in 2013. TRUTH.

WORKING AT HOME

My mother Jinni was tireless. But now, she reminds me not to be tireless. To take care of myself and my family. To fight back at Covid. Jinni would. When I yearn for a nap, I think of her.

Jinni would sometimes walk into our living room and “collapse”, as she would say, on the dark green couch, falling instantly to sleep for five minutes or ten.

I often watched her as she struggled to get up and back to it. (My mother worked in our dining room, typing insurance policies to pay the bills.) At some point, I began to understand that she longed to have a reason to just relax, to lie there and do nothing. But for a widow with three children to raise, that reason never came. And at the end of the day, when she was “processing” what she had typed, pulling carbons apart and stamping paper and using paper clips, she would take my face in her carbon-smudged finger and tenderly kiss me.

How could I have become anything but active, when I had a mother who labored at home keeping us all perfectly safe and healthy, who settled us in school, and then one day put on high heels and nylons and went downtown to work.

Jinni might be comfortable with COVID. She’d be working at home again.

SHEDDING LIGHT ON THIS TIME

Now that many of us are home most of the time, we need to focus on things that lift the spirit: warmth, comfort, cleanliness—and also the stamp of our own individual personality. These are essential.

Our rooms call out to us and we decide to make some choices. A throw or pillow add color to a cloudy day. Books, plates and photographs provide comfort, help us decide that we are okay. We will be okay. And as we face the darker seasons, light is essential, enhances where we live. The blocks of sunlight on the floor; the rocking chair that creaks, because it was grandmother’s. The shadows, the lamplight, when daylight departs. If we have to BE HOME, let’s make it cozy, cheerful, comfortable.

TELEVISION

Many bloggers will alert you to things to watch on television. That’s awesome. And most nights that is what my husband and I do—currently watching THE CROWN. And also the news, Rachel Maddow. I cannot begin to say how her finally being back, telling us upfront, how she dealt with her partner Susan having Covid, and almost dying—how hard that was for Rachel to tell us, how that was for us to watch. The pain in her voice, her face. Especially since Rachel has been a constant presence, warning us, urging us to be careful. She is part of why so many people are still alive, so many doctors and nurses finally got the PPE that they needed.

READING

And there is always reading. On Sunday we get both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. We could read all day! And when we moved, almost all of our books came with us. Books are life.

From Lauren Grodstein’s A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY

“We were standing looking out on a beautiful April evening. The magnolia in the yard was cloaked in blossoms, and the rabbits that lived under the purple hydrangeas were foraging in the fading daylight. The air in the room smelled heavy with food and sweat and burning wax and Lysol and clean linen. Steve didn’t cry, didn’t speak, just held both my hands in his own. His grief was stark and monstrous behind his thick, gentle glasses. The room was silent.”

AND FINALLY: THIS IS FOR ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN A LABOR AND DELIVERY RN 

From Gentle Reminder by Ray Spooner  

Go placidly amid the laboring patients and remember what peace there may be in coffee breaks. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with the unit secretary; for she controls everything…Enjoy each delivery as if it were your first…You are a labor and delivery nurse, no less than the obstetricians and the midwives; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe will fall apart as soon as you sign out. Therefore, be at peace with God…and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of shift change, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and popcorn trodden into the carpet, this is still a beautiful unit. Be careful. Strive to be happy, and don’t go home with the narc keys in your pocket.

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

Do You Like To Vacuum ? Applauding Manual Labor

There seems a human instinct to want to do physical work.

Do you like to vacuum? Weed in a garden? Plant vegetables? Wash your car? Maybe you enjoy grilling out when the weather is good or taking on a small chore like painting the porch floor or sanding a piece of furniture out in the yard. I’ve done all of these things and more, because I enjoy some physical labor. There are benefits for sure. Physical labor can: burn calories; increase pride of accomplishment; satisfy the urge to be creative.

The Decline of Manual Labor Jobs

Victor David Hanson writes about our changing society in his article AS PHYSICAL JOBS DECLINE, SOMETHING IS LOST. He asks if the reader thinks that the decline of physical jobs in our new culture is to our advantage. “…life superficially appears to get better. Cheap cellphones, video games, the Internet, social media and labor-saving appliances all make things easier and suggest that even more and better benefits are on the horizon.”

But is this a good thing? Hanson talked to academics, lawyers and CEOs, to find that most of them made sure that they biked or ran or lifted weights. So if obesity rates are higher in the class of people doing manual labor, why is this. One possible answer I found: these men and women started out being active and their diet consisted of many calories to support that activity. But as they aged and their metabolism slowed, their eating habits did not change. And possibly they rose up in their jobs and were foremen, more than laborers. Thus age meant packing on the pounds and not burning the calories. Of course not all are overweight. Many are quite fit due to their active work and healthy eating.

But Hanson And I Have A Question For You

What did you do in your past life that you would love to brag about? Or what did you watch or experience that really got your juices going? Hanson claims that the greater percentage of answers would include physical work–the expending of exhausting energy. Like climbing a mountain, conquering a sport for the first time, building something–and to that effect watching someone else expend that physical power. Hanson writes: THERE SEEMS A HUMAN INSTINCT TO WANT TO DO PHYSICAL WORK.

Does TV Have the Answer?

Think about how content on television has changed. While we go to the pantry to get more chips or some caloric snack, we might watch reality TV where people do energy expending stuff. Hanson writes: “In a society that supposedly despises menial jobs, the television ratings..suggest that lots of Americans enjoy watching people of action who work with their hands.”

WHY IS THIS? Because despite our advances, physical labor is the platform, the basis for our success. Men and women have to build cars, pump oil. No app can do that. Hanson writes: “The high-tech, post-modern society still depends on low-tech, pre-modern labor.” That could be you working to prepare a meal for your family, or the mechanic trying to discover why the computer on your car is reading an error. Someone has to get down and dirty to make things happen.

Those I Depended On

When my husband worked in his white collar job, I tended the household. There were many physical things that I could do to keep our home running smoothly. Some of them I mentioned above. But when the basement began to seep water, when termites were found behind a wall, when the roof leaked–I needed the American worker. Without them, house and home would crumble around us. Though to be fair, right this moment my husband is repairing a drawer in our kitchen, one with an odd working angle, not a fun project. He’s found the necessary part and powered up the drill. I will allow a brag or more when he gets the job done.

More of Us Need to Do Physical Stuff

There are many upsides to taking up a chore. As Hanson writes doing what my husband is doing saves money and increases independence. It also helps we humans identity and find common ground with men and women who work.

Philosophical Benefits of Manual Labor

Hanson also mentions something we might forget when shut up in our air conditioned houses and cars, or eager to always dine at a restaurant where we don’t see the slime of meat or the detritus of vegetables. That kind of life hides reality. Some things that we encounter in day to day living must remind us of the struggles of human kind. Maybe they are not our immediate struggles, but someone’s. Hanson writes: “Working outdoors, often alone, with one’s hands, encourages a tragic acceptance of nature and its limitations.” He goes on to say that people who work 20 hours or more in minimum wage jobs know reality more than he did teaching in college.

Final Thought 

Hanson ends his piece by quoting Euripides, the ancient Athenian playwright: “The hopes of countless men are infinite in number. Some make men rich; some come to nothing. So I consider that man (or woman) blessed who lives a happy existence day by day.”

Thanks for reading. I’m going to do some chores now.

PS The Bureau of Labor Statistics States: Among workers age 25 and over, those with an advanced degree were more likely to work at home than were persons with lower levels of educational attainment—43 percent of those with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12 percent of those with a high school diploma. (But work at home means sitting at a computer, not building a highway or putting out fires.)

Photo Credit: The New York Times. Take a Labor Day Tour of Blue Color Art.

 

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