Adjusting to the new abnormal

We’ve been in shutdown mode for almost two months, and recently I was reminded of how this weird situation might be getting to me: I couldn’t remember which day of the week it was.

Being confined at home, except for a few outings to the grocery store and a restaurant once a week, hasn’t been terribly hard for Stew and I. We haven’t lapsed into fits of anger—we haven’t tried to kill each other—or suffered bouts of insomnia or ongoing depression, as some friends report.

Yet the humdrum-ness of this new routine is becoming onerous. We’re surviving alright but feel as if someone has put our lives on “pause” indefinitely, leaving us unable to make plans beyond what are we going to eat tonight. Our lives seem truncated.

San Miguel street life seems to be stirring a bit more. Or is it my imagination? Are we just unconsciously adapting to—”normalizing”—such oddities as shopping for groceries wearing a face mask or getting squirted with hand disinfectant every time we turn around, even at the hardware store?

Even our mail from the U.S. gets a pfft of disinfectant before it’s handed to us by Luz María, who dons gloves and a face mask, as if our parcels were radioactive.

Despite it all, last week we had a bit of good news from our young lawyer Javier, that the other side seems eager to finally negotiate an agreement to the land dispute that’s been simmering for the past two and a half years. That break has felt like a gust of fresh air in our otherwise cloistered existence.
Of the two of us, I seem to be coping a bit better, thanks to my unfocused fidgeting, which I call  “hobbies,” but others might view as a form of ADD.

I’ve been reorganizing my computer photo files, a task that should take me until the Second Coming; selecting and loading music into our car stereo system’s hard drive; looking through books and magazines for gardening ideas, writing blog posts and such.

Stew does the cooking, a serious responsibility, now that the option of going out to dinner on the spur of the moment suddenly is not available. He’s good at it and enjoys it most days.

Other days, he seems bored and grumpy, the banging of pots and pans signaling not so much the joy of cooking, but a bit of frustration, almost as he were seasoning his creations with a dash of resentment.

I mostly stay out of the way, except for occasional grilling on the terrace, and definitely cleaning up, which can be a challenge on its own, even with a dishwasher, in the wake of Stew’s more complex creations.

Many restaurants in San Miguel have launched take-out menus and some deliver, but neither one of these bennies is readily available to us living ten miles or so outside of San Miguel.

Limited as our dining out options have become, we are lucky compared to some of our friends with chronic pulmonary disease or other health problems, who are terrified to leave their homes. That would be a tough regimen for us to follow, and we feel comfortable that, with due precautions, we’re not in danger of contracting the virus, by visiting a restaurant once a week.

Watcha you lookin’ at, Tucker?

Meanwhile, our lives here just mosey along. Nothing as exciting, or ridiculous, to report, as the political sniping going on in the U.S.

Félix is busy spreading wildflower seeds, and we pray for rain.

Last week, amid much rumbling from the skies, some rain fell, but hardly enough to measure. Stew and Félix have installed a weather station, complete with a rain gauge waiting to make its debut.

My photo-organizing marathon goes on for several hours each day. So far I’ve reached 2011. I have about 30,000 photos in my computer, if only about 10-15 percent of are memorable.

But I’ll never know what I have until I go through them.  This morning I ran across a cute picture of a baby rabbit Félix rescued a few years ago, and which appears on the upper right-hand corner of this page.

I’m the cuter one of the two, by far.

And at night, God bless Netflix. We’ve been watching “Crash Landing on You,” a South Korean soap opera consisting of 16 episodes, each about 90 minutes long.

It’s the perfect quarantine entertainment: there’s romance, snapshots of the politics and history of North and South Korea, comedy, action, martial arts and very attractive lead actors. Best of all, it’s a fantasy that takes your mind away from the dreary news from the U.S.

We also were lucky to catch “Unorthodox,” about a girl trying to break away from a Hasidic community in Brooklyn, and HBO’s “The Plot Against America,” a dystopian drama that depicts the fate of a Jewish family in New York, under U.S. President Charles Lindbergh, who installs a pro-Nazi government in Washington.

The latter show was excellent and chilling, specially its eerie similarities to the political climate in the U.S. today.

Beyond that, we have a box of DVDs friends have lent us, and our own collection of classic dramas and comedies. We might maintain this rhythm even after the quarantine is lifted, whenever that is.

One beneficial aspect of the quarantine is that we’ve given up on television news, regardless of political bent. No Rachel Maddow, Judge Jeanine, Don Lemon, or Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, whom a female friend regards as “cute,” but who reminds me instead of a constipated groundhog. My apologies to groundhogs.

Stew and I just read the New York Times and Washington Post in the morning, get all riled up about the news for about an hour, but it all blows over after breakfast.

Compared to some of our anguished friends, we are coping fairly well to life in confinement, except for the present open-endedness of the quarantine, the uncertainty.

As long as the COVID-19 virus keeps its fat finger on the “pause” button, it’s impossible to make any plans beyond next week. That’s the worst of it.

Will our trip to England in October actually happen? When do get to visit friends in San Antonio? Will Jimmy and Robert reschedule their wedding in Las Vegas?

All we can do is wait.

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