Lockdown Blues if it Really is a Lockdown

Today is the 75th day of lockdown. I have been keeping track in the journal I write every day. The District of Columbia, where I live, will gently reopen tomorrow, which makes me wonder how I will end the daily count. Is a gentle reopening the measure or is there a starker divide between locked down and open?

The other day, I introduced you to Lucy McBride, a doctor who pays a great deal of attention to the mental and emotional aspects of overall health. (The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good) Clearly, those have been much tested in recent months. It does not happen to have bothered me, but I defer to her greater experience and exposure to sufferers and accept her judgment.

Slipping into problem-solving mode, I began to wonder how to reimagine the current situation.

Oh God, how I hate the need for this paragraph, but it is now de rigueur in the era of virtue signaling by competitive empathy. This story does not seek to suggest an answer for everyone. The overwhelming majority of people have it far worse than readers of the Pundificator. It is also not an “oh poor me privileged lament.” Instead, it is simply a pair of ideas that came to me far too late in the process. Maybe they will be useful?

Yesterday, my wife and I went on a bike ride in Washington. We have done it about three times a week since mid-March. Sometimes, the bikes go on the roof of the car and we ride in the Virginia countryside.

Note to self: is it really a lockdown if we can do that?

In the past, we have taken our bikes to Europe where we have done pretty much what we are doing now except staying in Airbnb’s rather than our house. There are generally just the two of us, though episodically we see friends in various places. Kind of like here with Zoom.

As yesterday’s ride took us past the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, I thought why not do just what we would do in Europe and take some pictures? Everyone, doing the same trip in reverse, would surely do the same.

This led to a delightful conversation — at appropriate distance — with a third/fourth grade education specialist and her boyfriend, a marketer for a fitness related trade association.

The conversation began when all four of us spied a discarded wedding bouquet, and the education specialist said something amusing and a proposabout it. She was going to pick it up but, on the simultaneous advice of the three others, thought better of it.

He had moved to San Diego in January just as the two were becoming a couple and, in a shocking development, they decided to get back together when both began working from home. They are not among Lucy McBride’s group of depressed patients.

Perhaps a technique for Covid-related blues is to think of it as a vacation because, in some ways, at least for older people, there are similarities. Also, we might as well get good at it because our less mobile years could look rather similar.

A second theme also occurred to me.

Why did it take me so long to come up with this way of looking at a most unusual period of our lives?

I have ridden bikes a lot so that idea was easy. I have never experienced depression (that I can think of). Nonetheless I have been reading about it in the context of overall health.

Still, the idea of thinking of a lockdown as a privilege (like a vacation) or as a way to change your mindset did not occur to me for several weeks.

Why does it take so long to come up with ideas?

There is endless criticism of those who were supposed to have had a plan for an epidemic because they were not absolutely correct — or even remotely correct — from the outset.

I suspect the critics over emphasize the similarity of this episode to prior ones when, in fact, the differences between this virus and others might be the more important consideration. Maybe, “you have seen one virus, you have seen them all” does not apply?

Not only did it take longer to determine what the problem was, the solutions did not immediately materialize. Then they changed. Was this just the learning curve at work?

I have yet to find the tap that turns ideas on and off. They just seem to happen when they happen.

Imagining yourself on vacation is not the model for everyone but imagining your present circumstances in the context of something you might otherwise like to do could be helpful.

I doubt the epidemiologists and virologists are done with new ideas, but I also doubt this will go on forever.

Meanwhile, my selfie skills could use some work.

10 Responses to “Lockdown Blues if it Really is a Lockdown”

Chip Oat, May 28, 2020 at 4:44 pm said:

I suppose it is medically possible for someone as active as you to become depressed. However, given how much we know about the benefits of exercise for mental health, and without being a doctor, I’d say the odds are pretty low.

Have you ever known a depressed court tennis player? I’ll bet not. A depressed novice racquets player? Very possible.


Temple Grassi, May 28, 2020 at 6:20 pm said:

Yes, I knew a depressed court tennis player! A couple of years ago, I played a young ‘hard belly’ (squash player) who was just getting into the game. I was warned that this kid had been the captain of his college team and he was coming along nicely. The match was 2 out 3 sets and the kid was ‘fast out of the blocks’ and won the first set easily. He also jumped out to an early lead in the second but he started to get overconfident and I was ‘nickle/dimeing’ him and I took the second set . I could tell that he was upset, the marker had spoken to him about his sportsmanship. When I sensed that he was thinking ‘how could I be losing to this fat old guy ( 71 at the time!)’ , I knew I had him. And have him I did , taking the third set going away!

I walked into the bar about an hour later and there he was with his buddies! They all turned to look at me as ‘my man’ had told them what had happened. They waved me over and they very nicely bought me a few drinks. ‘My man’ just sat quietly just shaking his head now and again! Depressed he was and I was ‘over the moon’! By the way, I got crushed in the next round of the tournament!👏😉


Haven Pell, May 28, 2020 at 6:29 pm said:

Yes Chip, extremely low. Depressed novice rackets players would be an epidemic if it were a larger game. Even if those games are shut down for the moment, we should be grateful for the things we are able to do and for the technology that reduces isolation.


John Austin Murphy, May 29, 2020 at 5:23 am said:

My mental analogy (rationalization) for the Covid-19 shutdown has been the week following the great blizzard of 1978.
The 2020 shutdown has, superficially, felt like an extended version of the 1978 forced vacation.

However, the 1978 forced vacation applied to everyone, and therefore released all from FOMO and the stress of competition. At least it is remembered by me that way.

Upon further consideration, the 2020 shutdown definitely has a different ambiance due to the overwhelmingly negative impacts imposed upon some, whether they be victims of the disease, or those who serve society in some onerous capacity.


Haven Pell, May 29, 2020 at 1:33 pm said:

Your point about FOMO is a good one. When some are out and about, FOMO will set in for those who are still at home.


Peter W. Bragdon, May 29, 2020 at 2:10 pm said:

Good on you for always being so positive! Great photos of you and Simmy. The last time I was at the Reflecting Pool was with John Walker during the March on Washingtion in ’63 — I was with a Cathedral Group at St. John’s Church. We filed out of that beautiful Chapel behing a CIO group singing “We Shall Overcom” — did not know until that moment that this was a labor song before adoped by the Civil Rights movemen.
Being an Eeyor except when I am with energetic friends like you, I am an expert on depression. I found the way out of doldrums is an attention to ritual: about 25 years ago the Head of the Governor’s Academy Board, Dodge Morgan, soloed around the Globe — no stops on the way — in 155 days — his sailboat “American Promise.”. He shaved every day! I practice this ritual today during a time when I go for long stretches without seeing anybody but glorious Dottie. And I make it a fun event — use a brush and lather! A good way to launch each day! Be well. You and Simmy be safe- Pete


Haven Pell, May 29, 2020 at 2:28 pm said:

Your advice reminds me of the graduation speech at a military academy in which a General advised the soon to be officers of the importance of making their beds each day.


charley matheson, May 29, 2020 at 7:44 pm said:

Is returning to the court to be humiliated by by old men a sign of depression.
I on play doubles so I can blame the partner.
I learned all the tricks I remember by a fellow named Clarence Pell. He got tired of beating me so I became a young doubles partner for him having learned a few serves.
The way to win is to relentlessly give your opponent instruction even if he wins the point.


Haven Pell, May 30, 2020 at 8:27 am said:

There is more than a ring of truth to what you say.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *