Finding our comfort zones in these dark days


Last updated 2/5/2021 at 8:04am

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'Give me a baseball cap and a Zoom shirt, and I won't move the world, but I'll be glad to talk to it.'

I was teasing my wife about getting packages every day, just because she's been on a bit of a roll. It felt like I was constantly bringing her a box or two from the mailbox, or off the front porch.

None of this is surprising. We've all probably experienced bizarre delays in shipping over the course of the pandemic, and then there's the fact that pretty much everything we need on a day-to-day basis in this household is now delivered.

What would have felt indulgent and wasteful a year ago now seems practical and responsible, along with being a highlight of these dull days. It's always Wells Fargo wagon time here.

It's not like my wife is buying jewelry – most of these have been tiny things, a pair of comfy pants, some shelving, a faucet attachment. All of this makes sense, too, for this different life of being home all the time.

And I have my own stories, with the same motivation – finding a way to make the days a little more convenient, a little more comfortable, in a bizarre time to be alive. None of it has been dumb, or expensive, and quite a bit has been digital, just getting around to upgrades I've been putting off.

Unlike my wife, I don't think I've bought clothing over the past year, online or otherwise. While she teaches classes remotely and has meetings to attend, and so tries to avoid giving the impression that she just rolled out of bed when that's often exactly the case, I just need a Zoom shirt.

You know what a Zoom shirt is. I've got a few of these, actually, hanging in my closet for those times when my salsa-spattered sweatshirt needs to be off camera. Give me a baseball cap and a Zoom shirt, and I won't move the world, but I'll be glad to talk to it.

I don't care about my clothes anymore.

I don't, and there's no reason I should, but that's why a stray comment posted somewhere by somebody drew my attention the other day. This woman had realized that after months of isolation, she'd stopped caring about certain aspects of her life.

This all seemed positive; there was less concern about what others thought about her, for one thing, and she apparently has lost interest in shaving her legs.

I understand all of this. No matter what our lifestyles are (or were), there's usually some aspect that's presentational. I suspect most of us want some control over how the rest of the world perceives us, even if it's purely theoretical control, and now things are different.

I've never cared about shaving my legs for anyone, and now I care even less. I have a Zoom shirt. I'm fine.

I liked this idea, though. I liked the idea of looking back on the past year through a positive lens, finding out what I've discarded or minimized as my priorities have narrowed and become more focused.

I need food and shelter, obviously. I like electricity and running water. If I were to lose my internet connection, I'd probably be fine for a minute and then just die. Priorities, as I said.

Everything else seems to be on the table, though (a lot of it is literally on the table, as I've apparently stopped caring about that, too).

I tossed this question out to several friends the other day. Their responses were interesting, although it's a hard concept to nail down. Vanity is easy to let slip, if only for the obvious reason that we see so few other people now.

I've grown a full beard a couple of times over the past months, always sliding past that awkward stage where I look like a prospector down on his luck without a thought.

So there were a lot of comments about this, although some people were more proactive about their appearance, just in the interest of social hygiene (I'm guessing). All of us had easily dismissed the need to wear real clothes.

Eventually, though, we found a common thread, and it seemed to be comfort. Whether we'd lost interest in familiar things or gained new passions, our concern seemed to be centered on getting through this.

Most of us made some noise about nutrition concerns becoming less fussy, if maybe temporarily. I, for one, found it interesting to see if it were possible for a human being to not only survive, but thrive on a diet of only peanut butter cookies. It is possible.

Mainly we seemed focused on mental health and not so much the physical. I know that "comfort" has become an adjective for most of my behavior, depending. I comfort scroll and comfort listen, eat comfort food and watch comfort TV.

I'm hyper-aware of my mood, and alarms go off at the slightest thing. I search for light, because honestly? It can't get much darker.

But I also take comfort in hope, and there's plenty of that among the chaos of these past months. We'll figure out this vaccine thing. Our lives will evolve back into something that feels familiar, if forever changed by images of droplets flying all over the place.

And I'm comforted by not being alone in this, which turned out to be the whole point of this exercise. If this is sacrifice, then it's shared, and I have a Zoom shirt.

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