Would you rather . . . you know that game where you choose between two equally good or bad options. To me, it seems like much of the pandemic has played like that game. Every day we had to decide if we ventured out or hunkered down, if we wiped down our groceries or left items in quarantine for a couple of days, if we saw our parents or planned virtual family gatherings. That game, though, may have helped to reveal some things I should let go after we return to a larger existence, a sort of personal “would you rather” for me. Here are some examples:
Write a novel or read one? Just after I was permanently laid off from my job, my darling daughter tossed at me that I could finish that novel I was always saying I wanted to write. I tried, but I kept getting distracted by already-written novels that were too good to put down. Well, honestly, I even powered through a few bad ones to avoid staring at my blank computer screen. I can honestly let go of writing my own novel and just continue to pursue reading wonderful stories by other people.
Clean the baseboard or organize a drawer? The drawer won every time I thought about deep cleaning some part of my house. Why worry about those places that no one sees, I asked myself, when you can create visible beauty in every drawer, closet, and shelf? This choice was also energized by binge watching The Home Edit on Netflix, which fed my tidy soul. If you visit my home one day in the future, please feel free to open all the drawers and closets you would like. Just don’t look behind the furniture.
Pinterest or YouTube rabbit hole? Of the many ways to distract from thinking about dirty baseboards, sliding down an Internet rabbit hole is the best. Mindlessly scrolling — I mean diligently searching — for that elusive piece of knowledge you have to have can consume an entire day. I tried YouTube, which my grown children seem to find endlessly fascinating, but I kept going back to Pinterest. I could tag a stream of recipes I will never make and haircuts I will never try and craft projects I will never attempt, but I believed I could do them all as I pinned.
Cook a new dish or prepare meatloaf again? At first I launched into my Pinterest boards (see item above) searching for flavorful dishes for dinner. I generally had access to groceries and I had lots of time, so I cooked from different countries and created food adventures. Even though my husband and daughter did fend for themselves for breakfast and lunch, the daily grind of creating dinner soon wore me down. I reverted back to my pre-pandemic rotations of meatloaf, pasta, stir fry, and, my personal favorite, leftovers night. I’m hoping that my lackluster performance may inspire one of the other two adults to prepare dinner occasionally, but I’m okay with a routine rotation of family favorites.
Bake cookies or bake cakes? If you haven’t been baking, you’ve been missing out. My sweet tooth went into overdrive, and I began searching for interesting baked goods to make at home. I learned that I should stick with cookies, especially Brown Butter Bourbon Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin Snickerdoodles. My cakes were less than impressive, and even my strongest craving couldn’t overcome their sad texture or lack of flavor. Cookies for the win every time.
Sleep late or nap early? Even before the pandemic I was a master napper, but this period of unemployment and few demands on my time offered an opportunity to perfect my napping game. Forget sleeping late. I am by nature an early riser and rarely sleep later than 6:00 a.m. Give me a daily nap of either 30 minutes or 90 minutes, as prescribed by my daughter who had just completed a sleep psychology course during her last semester at college. Evidently, there is a perfect nap time for your REM cycle, but to be honest, I just heard 90 minutes was a good length.
Get back to before or create a new normal? That is the hardest “would you rather” question of all. There are so many things I miss and will never get back, like a job I adored working with the best people and traveling to fun places. There are so many moments that only happen once and can never be regained, like a triple graduation for my daughter, my niece, and my nephew. Those things I would like to have back, but if I embrace the new normal, maybe it will contain some of the same surprises that this pandemic has revealed, like sharing novels with my elderly neighbor across the street and gardening advice with my next-door neighbor. Like spontaneous game nights with my pod or binge-watching British murder mysteries with my husband. Like discovering beautiful hikes just a few miles away or watching the clouds float by from an Adirondack chair in my own backyard.
As this pandemic surges along, I am returning to work after six months of unemployment. Yes, I would rather be working — and earning — that’s an easy one to answer. I just hope I take a spirit of openness, a renewed sense of a bigger world, and a little peace with me as I create my new normal.
How would you rather live in a post-pandemic world?