Monday, April 6, 2020

Routine Maintenance

The other morning it occurred to me that I had not shut off my computer for three weeks.

When I was working full-time, I would turn it off when I left the house for work, then turn it on when I came home in the afternoon, and leave it on overnight when it backed up every night and updated whenever Microsoft sent the download.  But since I’ve been home for three weeks, I kept it on: writing plays, keeping in touch with friends and family, reading, blogging.  But Saturday morning I shut it off, went out to the patio in the dawn’s early light and did the crossword.  I left it off for three hours until the pull of my new play became insistent.

We all develop routines.  I did when I retired, changing — or trying to change — my wake-up time to something closer to sunrise, finding new routines on the way to work (Starbucks in Miami Springs knew my order when I showed up) and coming home in the middle of the afternoon and finding things to do around the house.  Now I’m finding a new routine: working from home, learning how to use Zoom, and other little trivial things that become necessary in this situation, this crisis, this new world.

Yesterday I went to Quaker meeting via Zoom.  It was new, but it was also like it always was: the Friends in their homes, sitting in silence, later sharing, reuniting, shaking hands virtually, joking (are you mediating or is that a screen-freeze?), and doing what we do every Firstday.  Later that afternoon, I attended a meeting of the car club board, testing this new way, trading our jokes and seeing a bunch of old guys who know the insides of a 1939 LaSalle or Corvette but proud that they didn’t need to ask their grandson how to set up this newfangled contraption.  It helps.  And we will all be better for it.

Routines help us cope with the overwhelming enormity of what’s happening in other places that we hear about, we read about, that loom in the distance.  Worrying about remembering the Zoom password help to digest the fact that nearly one thousand people in this country have died from Covid-19; not by ignoring it, but by somehow making us realize that a little thing that occupies the mind, that fits and fills the routine, keeps us from being paralyzed by the enormity.  It’s our human nature to do this.  It keeps us from sheer panic.  That’s one way of surviving.  For some of us, it’s a comfort.  For some, it’s the only way.