Little pleasures keep us strong...
There's much to be angry about these days. I won't list here all the reasons Americans should be furious -- if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter,* you know how I feel about the current, constant messes we find ourselves in, and who's to blame.
But the truth is, we should be angry. Very angry. In fact, we should be FURIOUS! Fury is a great catalyst for change. And change is desperately needed in America right now.
But while I've recently realized, yes indeed, it actually is possible to remain in a state of constant rage, neither you nor I should stay there 24/7! Stress and anger wreak havoc on the human immune system. We must pace ourselves.
Just as anxiety kills the immune system, things like joy and calm boost it. And we must stay strong -- hell, we must stay alive! -- for the battles that lie ahead.
To find some semblance of peace these days, I've been watching news less,** and trying to focus on little things more -- little things that give me pleasure, things I either took for granted, or was completely oblivious to, or didn't have time for, until I was holed up for over 100 days (and counting) like a male Rapunzel (yes, my hair is almost that long at this point!).
So at the risk of getting all Goop-y and sounding like Gwyneth Paltrow, here are some of the little things I'm learning to notice, learning to appreciate, learning to do again, now that there's time -- in an effort to stay balanced and calm (most of the day!):
Grab that pussy! Our cat Toby doesn't usually sleep with us, but he loves to jump on the bed to greet us in the morning. He's never more cuddly than in the early morning. Now that there's no reason to rush out of bed, I'm learning to enjoy lounging a bit, and cuddling and connecting with the kitty. He particularly loves to attack my feet under the sheets. (I also really love that I'm around to engage in his spontaneous bursts of playful energy that send him suddenly, unexpectedly bouncing off our furniture throughout the day and evening.)
And s-t-r-e-t-c-h-! Without a day job or film set to rush off to, I have as much time as I need for yoga stretches as my coffee brews. Since lock-down in LA began, I'm having almost zero aches and pains. Taking that time also helps me shake off emotional residue from any stressful dreams, and allows me to begin the day grounded and peaceful. Listening to my coffee machine gurgle as I do those stretches, and noticing how Toby stretches alongside me, make me smile.
Check yourself or wreck yourself. I no longer rush through writing my "morning pages," or worse yet, neglect them altogether. Journal-ing first thing in the morning always helps me "check in" with myself mentally and emotionally, as well as focus my intentions for the day ahead. It's like putting yourself in Wonder Woman's lasso of truth each morning: you cannot lie to yourself when you write morning pages -- that's especially beneficial to someone who, like me, quit smoking only 10 short months ago! (Thank you.)
Its a jungle out there! Our apartment building is next door to a long-abandoned house. The view from our second floor dining-room window is a sea of green; the overgrown large trees gives our place the illusion of being a tree house! Now I have time, after I've written in my journal, to linger over my coffee, to gaze out the window, and to soak in the nature just on the other side of the glass. The fat, acrobatic squirrels perform circus acts, leaping from limb to limb. A variety of birds flit in and out. I feel like National Geographic as I spy upon the three feral cats who call this urban jungle their home. They've established quite an interesting hierarchy among themselves. They are usually peaceful, but then WATCH OUT!
Too, too much good TV! I never had any intention of signing on for Disney+. I'm a DC guy, not a Marvel. I'm not particularly "into" Star Wars. And frankly, with few exceptions, I find Disney's animated features a bit treacly (and more often than not, disloyal to the literary source material). But after over 100 days and nights at home, and after binging Unorthodox and the second seasons of Dead To Me and YOU on Netflix, and Mrs. America and Hillary (and too many old TV series to count) on Hulu, then watching everything Wonder Woman-related on DC Universe, we were desperate for new viewing material. Hamilton proved too tempting to resist. Now I'm finding myself, like Alice in Wonderland, falling down the rabbit hole, into a deep treasure trove of behind-the-scenes documentaries on dozens of classic films, the studio and the parks (I'm currently gorging a series about the "Imagineers"). I've also discovered Disney+ has lots of unexpected guilty pleasures (Muppet Movie, Big Business) and those fascinating National Geographic specials (I've already drained Titanic and Alcatraz!). Who knows what's next? If things continue as they are much longer, I might get to watch the entire Marvel and Star Wars line-ups. In order, no less!
Craig's (very short) List: Looking for day jobs is no longer drudgery. First of all, there are so few gigs out there, job hunting now only takes up a small part of the day. Since I find only one or two possible jobs on a good day, I have time to craft really detailed cover letters. (Alas, so far, crickets. But I'm not giving up. I can't. Who can?) Likewise, perusing the breakdowns [casting notices] takes about five minutes. Pickings were already slim for actors over 55 before show biz went into hibernation. There had been talk of returning to altered, cautious film production, but that talk is now squashed by California's inability to control infections. So staying "on top" of casting news is now the easiest part of my day.
Music, the old fashioned way! When I was a kid, back in the dark ages, you just had two places to listen to music alone: your car radio or your home stereo. (the "Walkman," that little tape player with headphones, didn't become affordable until I was well into high school.) Last Christmas (which now seems 10 years ago), I went "retro" and bought Laurence a turntable so he could listen to the hundreds of vinyl records in his collection (and the 100 or so in mine). But now, I'm enjoying it too. I love listening to music the way I did when I was a kid: play the full album, side 1, then side 2, while laying on the floor or the bed and doing nothing else at all but staring at the ceiling, or closing my eyes, and really listening to -- absorbing -- the music. Why did we allow music to become ... background noise?
A Book Tour Without Putting on Shoes! While I'd naturally prefer to be promoting my book the old-fashioned way, there are advantages to doing it all via remote. We even figured out how to offer signed copies of SUB-LEBRITY! (Email me for details!) I've given myself until September to promote my book (stay tuned for news on my August blog tour). Then I have several new book ideas to start on. If, god forbid, we're still locked down in LA by fall, I'll take advantage of continued downtime and write twice as much!
Cook? Me? But I'm ... Out of Excuses! About 100 years ago, when I was a young former farm boy living in SF, I became quite good at stir fry. (It appealed to this newly relocated Hoosier because (a) I love vegetables and Chinese food, and (b) cooking in a wok seemed so exotic and worldly!) Unlike all other cooking -- which I hated -- I loved making stir fry dishes. Alas, I met Laurence, who, for reasons I couldn't understand, enjoyed all cooking. So I let him do all the cooking! In the almost 30 years we've been together, he'd occasionally ask me to make a stir fry dinner. "I'm too tired after work," I'd whine, or "It takes too long to chop all those veggies!" . . . Well, guess who's not working now? Guess who can spend all day chopping vegetables now? So tomorrow night, we'll see if I still enjoy stir-fry cooking. I've already told Laurence, I don't guarantee that it will be edible. My goal, frankly, is just to not burn our apartment to the ground. Keep the baking powder handy! And the Alka Seltzer.
So those are just some of the little ways I'm staying calm, distracting myself from news, keeping peaceful, and filling -- I mean, appreciating -- all this free time!
Of course, if Congress doesn't soon pass additional economic life-preservers, I may call for marching and screaming in the streets sooner than expected!
But until then, let's stay as strong, and get as grounded, as possible during this impossible, unbelievable detour in American history. Let's enjoy those little things that define our good lives. Those things are what we fight for this fall. So get tough. Know what you're fighting for. Know what you're voting for. And be prepared for the ugliest presidential convention and election we've ever seen.
How about you? What new discoveries have you made? What are you doing to keep sane (and your immune system strong!) during this insane time? Please share in a comment below! #AloneTogether #StaySafe #SaveTheArts #VoteBlue #EndTrump
* I stay much less political on Instagram!
** But enough to still stay informed!