Novelist | Singer
We’re all used to COVID by now. I read back through my terrified entries about washing groceries, avoiding any contact with people besides my husband, and fighting my terror of touching anything that doesn’t exist within the walls of my own house. No one has been here, and the house looks like it wouldn’t be fit to receive company without a major facelift. No wonder everyone has started putting fake backgrounds on their Zoom meetings. They’re afraid the news will get out about their piles of stuff that they can’t seem to find time to organize, or simply lack the will to do so.
We have all hopefully found some sort of solution to dealing with the emotional Tilt-a-whirl of 2020. Never mind the COVID, which is bad enough. What about this upcoming election? Black lives matter? California conflagration, Gulf shore hurricanes and flooding everywhere. And the one that almost everyone has put on the back burner. Climate Change. That alone kept me awake at night before this year. Thank the heavens for David Attenborough. Let’s hope he doesn’t let us forget about this most important issue we’re ALL facing. Maybe we’ll start to take care of that in 2021, but I doubt it.
How do you do it? I tried drinking, but that’s almost always a bad idea, and it gets worse with every year I tick onto my age. I tried watching Snooker, and that worked for a while, but I think essentially it’s not in my blood, even though all those players are an impressive mix of control and incomparable skill.
Sometime in the summer, when we were all losing our minds, opening up all the windows and trying to pretend the weather wasn’t stellar as we forced our eyes back to the screen, talk began about the upcoming football season. Football????? During COVID? I could see baseball, and that basketball bubble thing made sense, but seriously, football? Full body contact from hulky, sweaty men breathing as hard as they can, mashing their bodies together, piling up three or four deep in the quest to possess that 11 inch long prolate spheroid (I looked it up) that will bounce in any direction. A rodeo bull is more predictable. What an environment for a crazy COVID outbreak.
Of course, the outbreaks and infections came, but as of today, October 20, 2020, we’re still watching football; real football, not some COVID version with masks and plexiglass.
I used to hate football. I hated how violent it is. I hated how weird and manic people got when they watched it, the fans yelling at a vocal chord damaging volume. But as these things go, my husband watched it, especially New England, so I started watching a little, trying to maintain an open mind. An open mind is required to figure out what the hell is going on in a football game. I stuck with it, and you know what? I learned that football is a remarkable game.
Al was patient. He wanted me to watch with him, so he kept explaining and I kept reading and Googling terms and rules even though language like “taunting” and “unnecessary roughness” don’t fit as far as I’m concerned. “Taunting?” Neaaa neaa neaa! comes to mind. I’m glad they don’t pull that flag very often. “Unnecessary roughness” is just—funny. I can break your ankle if it isn’t intentional–it’s just part of the game.
I love to watch the receivers launch six feet into the air, snatch the prolate spheroid like an insect trapping iguana, then land straight onto their backs, their heads bouncing sharply off the turf. Then some massive 300 linebacker falls flat on top of them, and the tangle of muscle, helmets, cleats and grass-smeared uniforms finally plows to a halt, but only after they have taken out four bystanders. And everyone just jumps up and the receiver tosses the ball to the ref. Then they run out onto the field and do it again. I know they’re all hurt, but what commitment!
They are incredible athletes, with the coordination of ballerinas and the cooperative organization of army ants. It’s truly an American game, with all the ingredients of Americana: grit, toughness, speed, risk and frequent injury. And totally captivating. Football requires total concentration from the observer, and it requires all those frequent stops for everyone to say, “What the hell just happened?” Our brains would explode if there were not breaks.
Pro football happens all at once on Sunday and Monday, so we have settled with one game per day (thank you DVR), which takes us until about Thursday, and we don’t get football burnout. Plus it’s easier to remember who won what game. I started watching just about the time that Brady stepped up for New England, so following the Pats was easy and fun. Now that Brady is a Buc, we still watch, but much of the time, I don’t care who wins, which oddly makes the game more enjoyable. I can cheer for both sides and admire all the good plays.
That takes care of ferocity.
Then there is the part of me that is filled with gripping anxiety. We can’t expect everything to return quickly to normal. We have to pace ourselves, because this COVID situation will last for some time. No vaccine is magically going to swoop in and save the day, even if it’s manufactured soon. We need patience, empathy, love, and creativity. We need to find what we individually are capable of making from this chaos. We need relaxation, deep breathing, fresh air and time to hear, smell and touch nature and ground ourselves as the world inhabitants we are. We need to rediscover ourselves. Not what we see on-line, but our true selves.
And so I ride my bike and practice T’ai chi. Breathing, balance, gathering and sending, espousing gentleness, loving the earth, loving myself, finding my ground. It doesn’t matter if I do it perfectly, and whether the sense of physical and emotional well-being is real or imagined doesn’t matter either. What matters is that I do it. And that I know why I do it.
This winter will be long, maybe the longest winter of all of our lives. Search for your ferocity and your Zen. Take care of each other. Laugh a lot. Get plenty of sleep. Kiss a dog.