Curmudgeons Are Us

When people ask me how I’m doing with this lock-down business, my answer is quite cheery. “I’m used to tons of time at home, and I love my solitude. I’m doing pretty well, actually!” And that’s true. Maryland has been social distancing since early March, and we have apparently succeeded in flattening the curve… so far. Governor Hogan, a  cancer survivor in his sixties (and a Republican), has cautioned all and sundry that reopening will be a slow, cautious process, and the first steps are at least a month away.

It helps to know my state leadership is erring on the side of my safety, and it helps tremendously that I am one of the 25 percent of the workforce who can work at home. My stay-at-home angst is also eased by the fact that lately, I haven’t been among the forty percent of the population living paycheck to paycheck. I have lean times, but I also have family who would give me a hand if I fell ill and could not work for weeks.

Nonetheless, I’m getting a little crispy. On social media, I’m tempted to snark at both the social distancing police who delight in shaming anybody who puts a foot wrong, and those misguided souls who believe a constitution intended to balance a series of conflicting rights has morphed into a guarantee absolute freedoms. I get snappish at all the “fun quizzes” on Facebook hiding a sinister invasion of privacy agenda, though Facebook has been allowing those quizzes to invade our privacy for years.

And yet, the only thing that lock-down has changed for me, really, is that I don’t go to the horse barn twice a week. How lucky am I, to be so minimally impacted by what is an ongoing tragedy for many others? Even so…

Going to the horse barn to ride for 45 minutes means driving an hour each way through the beautiful Maryland countryside. It means interacting with people I don’t see otherwise. It means about thirty minutes of quietly hand-grazing my darling pony, phone off, nobody else around, just me, the beast, the grass, and the quiet.

So 45 minutes in the saddle turns into a long half day away from the place where I both live and work. It involves a change of scene, conversation with real human beings, relaxation, and a different physical challenge than I face anywhere else. These two outings are my big adventures for the week, my best times of contemplation, and my biggest break from a job that I sometimes do eighteen hours a day without putting on my shoes.

I suspect this lack of breathing room is part of why I have such easy access to my inner curmudgeon lately. Which brings me to my question: If you’ve had to socially distance from your frolics and detours, or the joys that feed your soul, how are you coping? How are you keeping that inner curmudgeon from taking over the whole house?

To three commenters, I’ll send an e-ARC of A Duke by Any Other Name. (And PS… I had my friend Graham make a trailer for this title–just for fun!)



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34 comments on “Curmudgeons Are Us

  1. I have been working from home for 4 weeks. It took some time to settle into a routine. At times, I feel trapped in the office. Am finding that I am working 9 hour days, not 8 hours. And I have worked on Saturday’s as well.

    The upside? I am cooking healthier dinners and baking. Two things I enjoy but don’t have the time for working full time. And no commute.

    I miss my weekly dog class. My friends, the drive and being with other people for an hour. It was my time- in a sense a gift I gave to myself after a long work week. With everything going on in Massachusetts, I do not think I will be going back to class until June, maybe July.

    I miss seeing my friends, my brother and my Mom. Talking on the phone or FaceTime is nice. It it’s so different from a visit. The not being allowed to see them is a powerful message.

    To deal with the imposed isolation and WFH stress, I am leaving my desk for a quick morning and afternoon break. I might start laundry, get a cup of tea or walk Rose around the neighborhood. My neighborhood is very quiet in the morning, no people just bunnies and birds.

    Am walking the dogs for about 30 minutes during lunch time. It’s good to clear my head and reset for the next few hours at work. If we see a group of people , we turn around and choose a different path.

    WFH has a lot of positives. It is stressful when combined with the socially distance rules. Am happy to stay at home until this virus passes.

    • I wondered about your pup time. I hope the pleasure of working from the place the dogs are (home), outweighs any inconvenience or isolation. I betcha dollars to donuts, the people staying with pets, especially dogs, will come through this less tattered than the people who are without animal companionship.

      • Good point. Rose is thrilled to have me home. She sleeps under my chair all afternoon. I will admit to talking to her in the morning when the others are sleeping.

  2. For health reasons I have been social distancing for a while now – so I’m more use to it than most. However, it is starting to have an affect on me. I think that is because of all of negativity we are exposed to in the media. It is just so constant – even when it is exposing the good side of human nature – people helping other people, etc. It is hard to get away from it (and believe me I try).

    It is also affecting those I care most about. For instance, my sister who does my laundry stops by to pick up and deliver my laundry, but doesn’t stay to visit or have lunch. We talk on the phone all the time, but it is just not the same. No visits to the spa for a pedicure with my sisters (sob). Worry for my nephew who has serious lung issues already. Worry for a niece who has had her work hours cut in half.

    So it goes. But I keep it all together like I always have. Count my blessing and do my best to stay positive. Part of that is doing a lot of comfort reads. Many of which are your books Grace. Thank you.

    • You are welcome! And the writing works for me as well as reading does, to limit my worries and take me to a place where HEAs are guaranteed. I agree with you about social media becoming yet more negative (which is kinda hard to imagine). There is a lot of bad news out there, also a lot of uncertainty and worry. We will get through this, but… we aren’t there yet.

  3. It’s been strange to have one of my sons around more often and NOT see another. My autistic son is loving having us around, the other son who is staying with us is NOT loving having us around.

    I miss my weekly voice lessons and my choir. I’ve been getting A LOT of emails from the readers of my Choral Ethics column so can write my column easily—if I could sit down long enough to do it. (Last week I took my column virtually on my choir’s Facebook page and will continue for the next few weeks at least)

    DH sees patients in his office–cancer and hearing loss happen even in the midst of a pandemic–and he occasionally goes to his hospital, which is a different world. He turned 65 in January and won’t be called upon, at least at this point, to work in the COVID-19 ICU. That could change any day now and that is not helping my frame of mind.

    I am trying to keep it together for my family BUT inside I am screaming. Because we are together much of the time, I also try to keep the wheels of domesticity churning along–reminiscent of the days the kids were in high school and I had to remind them to do their laundry and pick up their crap. Doesn’t that make me feel *young*, revisiting their childhoods? Nope, it makes me feel old and crabby.

    I talk to my son who is in the city at least once a day and we text a bunch. He’s able to work from home–he works in the legal department of a health care organization so he’s super-busy. We haven’t seen him since March 1 and when I get off the phone with him, I get teary.

    I need to have a good cry, shout and then sleep for a day–but I can’t do it. Someone needs to be the one to shepherd our family through this thing and, it’s me. 🙁

    • Crabby… that’s a good word. I’m crabbier than usual. I always have a knee-jerk “closing argument” mode, when I get ranty and insensitive, and the threshold to trigger it is lower and lower. I hope you can find some solitude, a chance to listen to the St. Matthew Passion, or something decompressing, because you are right–those guys are depending on you, and the stress is real.

  4. Lots of nature walks on our wooded property, gardening and cooking with my kids, plenty of leave-Mama-alone reading time (I’m currently reading your “Andrew”) and a few must-attend family movie nights a week. Thanks, Grace – stay safe and well!

    • Even on days when I don’t get out much, I’m in a better frame of mind if the weather is nice. I can see the sunshine and the flowers, and it helps. Spring has arrived, regardless of pandemics, and it’s as beautiful as ever out there. I find that helps me stay positive.

    • I’ve actually seen recipe loops, chain letters where you send five, and everybody else sends five, and you end up with a whole COVID cookbook!

  5. Curiously, (and sadly), I had decided that this summer I was going to make an all-out effort to get some horseback riding in. I do not live anywhere near where this would be easy to do, and I have no real experience–just some truly lovely memories of trail rides years and years ago when visiting my inlaws. So much for best laid plans. Fortunately, my dog needs/enjoys long walks (except when thunderstorms are within 100 miles of us!), so I’m still getting out. And of course, there’s always work to do in the garden. We’ve been blessed (?) by an oddly cool spring, so I’m not sure how pleasant I’ll be once the temperature outside gets really hot and being there is no longer a pleasant diversion.

    • Margaret, I hope the horses are there when you have the ability to go out for a hack. I went about ten years without riding (last time), and part of what was so lovely about getting back in the saddle was the sense that I could recall a few things, could still pull off a few maneuvers, but I was a beginner again, too. Here’s hoping you have good riding weather later this year.

  6. I am doing a twice weekly yoga class online. It acts as a sort of reset button and helps release some of the built up anxiety. By the end of class I can breathe deeply and that makes a big difference.

    • That sounds like a great way to boost the calm and happy vibe. I hit my tread desk daily, but that’s not a way to feel better. It’s a way to feel lousy if I neglect it.

  7. I have a small flock of Canadian Geese playing clown in my lake to keep me amused. I’m working my way through my TBR pile and enjoying my back porch weather permitting (that’s quite enough EF-0s zooming through either side of me, thank you very much!) I’m blessed with an affordable produce company shipping sufficient to keep heart & soul together weekly and a fabulous friend willing to mask up, shop for dairy, eggs, & fish, & drop them off to me monthly. The closest curmudgeon is the huge vulture who decided to perch in the tall pine by the mail box who humphs when I trudge up and disturb deep vulture contemplation.

    Once assured of access to sufficient food to keep heart & soul together (& assuage the butter cravings created by deep immersion in a certain author’s books with their delightful emphasis on baking), I’m finding myself better-rested than I’ve been in years, feeling remarkably well thanks to the sudden removal of processed foods from my diet, and more productive than I’ve been in years. Decks are being cleared for action, both in the house & in the mind, & a nebulous notion for creating something new is seeping through.

    The screen monsters are firmly OFF except for mealtimes when positive brain fodder is permitted to feed the soul or fill the house with music. Any mention of plague or politics (the poisonous Ps) results in instant OFF & retreat to peaceful contemplation of my minuscule domain.

    Life is good & bountiful in the manner of ancient monastic orders where ENOUGH was cause for great rejoicing. May we all be blessed with enough to meet our needs, whatever they are.

    • Sounds like you’ve a routine from which no retreat will ever be needed. Say hi to the vulture for me. I always did think those guys got an undeserved bad name.

      • I’m leaning toward calling him/her Thump for the sound made both when landing on my roof to survey the geese (goslings are chicken-sized now) & also the sound that massive spread of wings makes when achieving initial lift of both bird & good-sized fish from the lakeshore. I’m fond of the huge turkey vultures. They’re both pretty & terrifying when they spread those enormous wings at close range.

    • Some of us are getting real rest for the first time in ages, getting after the clutter, pruning the social media excess… there are plenty of upsides.

  8. I’m employed and getting a pay check still, which is a great relief. My husband finally agreed to stop working at his part time job, with the public – which was also a great relief. It was just too dangerous for him with his health conditions. My son is also home more.

    It is good that my family is secure and relatively safe. On my side of that coin, I’m happier. I get to work in my jeans and tshirts. If I do have to go to the office, I still wear them there, lol. In other words, this has been relatively pleasant for me.

    The downside is that I regret having to go back to working at the office 9-5 every day, which will probably be May 1. I also regret not going through with retiring. I would have been retired May 1. 🙁

    • Well, your employer is probably really glad you didn’t retire either, and your husband was probably much more willing to let the side gig go because you are still full time. I guess you can retire later? Or maybe they will ask you to keep working, and you can talk them into WFH days. Glad hubbie is home safe and sound.

  9. I am an introvert, and my life under social distancing is not too much different from my usual life. My poor spouse is getting more bored by the week, but I think overall we are coping just fine.

    I spend more time getting mad at those around me who are not following social distancing, though, and thoughtlessly endangering me by getting too close to me without a mask while I’m at my essential-business job. I am a rule follower for the most part, and I want others to follow the rules and be considerate and safe as well.

    Hope everyone out there on your blog is doing ok, Grace, as well as you too!

  10. Snappish is the word to describe us some of the time. I am retired but my other half is semi-retired(forevermore) and works from home.Even though we are usually at home the lack of face to face interaction with others and not getting out of the house is definitely wearing on our nerves.We were also supposed to spend the spring investigating other areas of the country in which to live. The pandemic has just made us more anxious to move. Our beloved Republican governor said a month into the pandemic that he just found out that people could have the virus and not have symptoms but be able to transmit the virus to others.Duh! He also made local politicians reopen the beaches. Our female senator (appointed by our governor) is the extremely wealthy woman who sold and bought millions worth of stocks with knowledge of the virus. I would love to live in a blue or even purple state! We take walks almost every day to get exercise and limit our exposure to news to half an hour a day. There is a group of ten of us(some who have been friends for almost 50 years) who regularly meet using zoom. Thus the pandemic is making us more a part of each others lives again. This is how we have maintained our sanity but we do want to move on with our lives. We will probably stay at home for 3 or 4 weeks after life starts to get back to normal. We are in the most vulnerable group and want to see what happens when everything is again open.

  11. Hi Grace
    I have been living alone for many years and working alone from home for nearly 40. But I miss singing, I am missing my new first grandbaby’s first months and it’s not spring yet here so I can’t garden yet. I talk on the phone and email friends and family but I miss hugs.
    Yesterday was the bottom for some unknown reason and I ended up going to John Donne for help.
    No man is an island entire of itself; every man
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less as well as if a promontory were,as
    well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in mankind
    and therefore never sent to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee

    We are pack animals even if we like/prefer solitude. The lack of contact in our lives changes the context of them.
    I am not grumpy I am saddened by some much of the news and the political maneuvering that is all about looking good and staying in power and so little about caring for people in need.
    Stay home, stay safe and keep writing

  12. I am considered an essential worker so I have still been going into work but my office is a small one and I have been bringing my dog to work with me. I still get to see and talk to people while maintaining the proper social distance. I also live in a neighborhood where I can get out and walk the pup without being crowded by too many other people.

  13. I am an OCD, Type A, Know-It-All Mother Hen. Does that paint a picture for you? And right now, I’m not in control, I’m almost adrift, I know almost nothing, and I can’t make it better.

    I am obsessed past the point of reasonable, trying to figure out how to support those in my social (distant) circle, particularly aging parents.

    No one is having the spring they dreamed of, the spring they planned for. I think we are grousing over the daily failures in an effort to avoid the overwhelming circumstances that are frightening and out of our control.

    Be kind, folks. Save your fire, your ire. I think we are in it for the long haul.

  14. For the most part we are doing well. I don’t have a lot of extra stress other than concerns for other’s health: my kids, my father & step mother, my in-laws. Most of the time, I can easily be patient and understanding with the lines at the grocery store and the shortages that still exist. I’ll admit the 2.5 hour wait to get into the fabric store – including taking numbers to wait our turn to get in line – well, that was frustrating. I was able to get supplies to finish more masks for friends and family. It’s the little things that manage to really irritate me if I let them. I’m obsessive about going through all my emails and the explosion of daily emails from various people with helpful tips for managing stress during covid? They are stressing me out. On good days, I delete. Other times I unsubscribe. No matter what, I end up reading to relax. I’m so excited that I’ll have another one of your books soon!

  15. Love the expression, inner curmudgeon! LOL
    I am retired and honestly I’m enjoying this quiet time way too much. I used to go out at least twice a week ballroom dancing but I find I don’t really miss being around people that much. I go over to Mom’s twice a day to visit (she’s 100 and a dear). That’s it. The rest of the time I’m reading, listening to audio books and watching streaming video. I even cancelled cable TV. Don’t need it. I do miss going out to eat at restaurants, though.

  16. Timely post as I’ve been wrestling with my inner curmudgeon all week. I’m lucky that I work from home, I have work, and I’m sheltering in place with my darling hubby. I am an extrovert so I’m really missing all my in person socializing. I’ve become the instigator of multiple zoom happy hours including one for my high school class of ‘76. Hopefully in a year we will be putting this behind us. Thank you for your marvelous books.