Two Sundays ago, I tried something new: putting my phone in the desk drawer all day, with all notifications shut off except if a person calls twice within 15 minutes. Then I tried it last Sunday too. I had moderate success, only beginning to cave toward the end of the day to check my phone. So now I am going to do it again tomorrow to end the month on a lovely note and try to make it a tradition.
I should explain…or maybe I shouldn’t, but I will anyway…that for me a phone-free day does not mean a “media-free” day in terms of other devices or being unplugged. For example, tomorrow I plan on reading or continuing to listen to the Sherlock Holmes short stories to which I’ve been reading/listening on my Kindle. I might watch some movies or TV shows on one of the streaming services we have on our TV. I might listen to music on my laptop. I might mow the rest of the lawn that I didn’t finish earlier today with our electric mower (I’m kidding, we have a gasoline-powered mower, but I was trying to go with the unplugged theme).
My phone-free day definitely does mean a media-free day, no quotes, though in terms of news. For some reason, I’ve never been tempted to check news on any of the streaming channels on our TV or on my Kindle or on our electric mower that I don’t have. I only am tempted to look on my phone.
Also I might do all of those things mentioned above. I might do none of them. I don’t know yet. I just know that I won’t be on my phone so don’t call or text me, please. I’ll be “indisposed.”
On the day that I am posting this, Saturday, May 16, 2020, it is the 62nd day I have been mostly staying at home after the library where I work closed on March 15. Initially, it was closed through March 29, then “until further notice” after the governor of our state issued a stay-at-home order later in March.
Last Saturday, as planned, I finished listening to the end of a 1981 NPR Radio adaptation of A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Then on Sunday, I read A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, a short novel that a friend recommended to me the previous week. Out of the two, I enjoyed the second more than the first, which in hindsight is because a post-apocalyptic radio drama during a global pandemic is not what the doctor ordered.
That said, I did enjoy listening to the radio drama, which was very well done, the last two weekends. So I think later today, after posting this, I’ll continue to listen to The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Heirloom Collection, as narrated by Simon Vance, that I got as part of an Audible trial.
I’m not much for audiobooks, but several years ago, I first encountered Vance, thanks to Jennifer of the then book blog, The Literate Housewife, now on Instagram. I even got four audiobooks of him narrating James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, perhaps winning them? through a contest Jennifer was having (to be honest, I don’t remember). I also have two others narrated by him: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which I never have read, but want to…and maybe listen to…some day.
As for the rest of the week:
Tuesday: I had good sessions with my therapist and registered dietitian, with whom I already had started via video and phone before mid-March.
Wednesday: Kim and I went for a walk to Barbour Rock at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which is near where we live.
Thursday: Kim and I had a “Zoom” with two of her sisters and their husbands to discuss the final season of Game of Thrones, which one of Kim’s sisters and her husband just finished watching. Bonus: Zoom gave us extra time so we were able to talk for an hour and half.
Thursday: We bought the final season of Schitt’s Creek on streaming so we don’t have to wait until October when it comes out on Netflix.
We plan on finishing up Schitt’s Creek on Monday, which will be apropos for me in light of what I am about to tell you. It was one of the first shows I began binge-watching (reruns up until this final season) when I entered what has been mostly self-isolation and now will be the show with which I end my own version of quarantine…
…because on Tuesday, I return to work at the library as we are slowly reopening in phases with the first one being the acceptance of checked out materials from the public, starting on Wednesday and running through Friday. I should note that my wife, a 911 dispatcher, has not stopped working at any point.
At the library, we also will be preparing for limited services, but not until we make sure we are following the guidelines for the “Framework for Reopening Public Libraries” as was released by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, which is under the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only yesterday. The Framework, in short, provide guidelines to help ensure the community’s health and safety. If you really want to know more about the plan in our state for reopening libraries (and other businesses as well), I encourage you to check this link. I will add here, though, that I might not be able to answer your questions about the framework or our library’s own plans for reopening as I haven’t been back to work yet and I’m not sure how it is all going to “work.”
During the Zoom, one of my brother-in-laws, who also is returning to work next week, asked me if I was nervous about my own foray back into the work environment. I told him I was a little, but also excited, which is true. But I honestly can say that I just want our library to reopen limited services, such as curbside pickup, to start because I know it will benefit our community, both old and young (and yes, those in between too).
Monday: She and I started watching a Swiss series, Der Bestatter (The Undertaker) on MHz that we’re trying for 30 days. We’ve also been watching two German shows, Professor T. (a remake of a Belgian TV show of the same name) and Der Tatortreiniger (Crime Scene Cleaner). All three so far are excellent.
Tuesday: I mowed our lawn for the first time this year and just in time as on…
Wednesday: It rained, but I still got out for a walk.
Thursday: I took a carload of recycling to our local recycling station that opened Monday; we got a new mattress, our first in 15 years (we are going to get a platform for it in the near future); and we got a delivery from Misfits Market early in the day that one of our cats, Alexandra, was very interested in.
Friday: I got out for a walk earlier in the day before it started raining…and snowing.
Not pictured, I also:
Watched The Darjeeling Limited with my wife, one of the few Wes Anderson movies we haven’t seen, on Tuesday night. It was good, but still not our favorite by Anderson, which is Moonrise Kingdom.
Purchased a ebook copy of Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver on Wednesday after it became available after being on hold from Free Library of Philadelphia for three months earlier in the day. I decided I might as well just buy a copy and read it when I want to read it and not feel pressured because other people are on hold.
Purchased a ebook copy of A Month in the Country by J.L Carr, a short novel that a friend recommended last week. He said he read it all in one sitting and I think I might try just that tomorrow.
Tomorrow I’m joining Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon for the umpteenth time. However, unlike other readathons like this, I do not have a large stack of books or a goal on time. I only have two books: one that is in progress and almost finished, the first of two volumes of Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories; the other, Every Living Thing, the last part of the All Creatures Great in Small series, by James Herriot.
With the Sherlock Holmes, I’m in the middle of The Return of Sherlock Holmes, which is toward the end of the first volume. As for the Herriot series, over the last few years, I have been making my way slowly through the series, usually during other readathons, so I thought I’d return to it for yet another readathon.
I am hoping to do better for this readathon than I have for the last two readathons over the last two months: Off The Grid Readathon and Social Distancing MiniReadathon. Both were a bust (why I’m not providing links), but I’m not going to lie it’s been hard to concentrate within the last 40 days I’ve been sequestered almost continuously except for one or two trips out for medications and groceries. I’m hoping now that with the news of our part of Pennsylvania might be reopening potentially in a couple of weeks, I can focus a little more on reading. It’s not that there’s not anxiety, which I’ll spare you the litany here, but it is less anxiety, or maybe more manageable anxiety now, than what it was a month ago.
Take off the mask you might be wearing. Give yourself a break from micromanaging how you come across to others. Allow yourself the freedom to be you, with all your virtues and vices. Doing so will embolden and empower others to try the same.
from A Mindful Year by Dr. Aria Campbell-Danesh and Seth J. Gillihan PhD
“Excellent! And a mask?”
“I can make a couple out of black silk.”
“I can see that you have a strong, natural turn for this sort of thing. Very good, do you make the masks…”
from “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” in The Return of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In light of COVID-19 and as a nation we are being told to wear masks to help prevent the pandemic’s spread, out of context the above mask quote from the book of daily reflections I’ve been using for this year seems to be counter to that directive. However, in context, where the previous reflection before that invitation is about depression, it isn’t; to wit: “Sadly, due to social stigma, many of us often hide what we’re going through from others” and “It takes courage to let go of a positive facade. There is freedom to be found in making peace with where we are and what we’re experiencing. The great irony is that accepting our situation allows change to take place — it allows us to return to what matters most to us and take action in line with our values.”
To that end of taking off the figurative mask, I do suffer from depression, and not just because of COVID-19 and family and friends that I know who have had either presumptive cases or actual cases, but because I’ve always suffered from depression. I’ve taken Prozac for almost the last 30 years and just before the stay-at-home order, I began teletherapy (because of the physical distances involved) with a counselor through a free program offered by our insurance. In short, it is going well, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Making it easier today is this readathon, with all of my notifications shut off and only periodic updates here on the blog and on Instagram.
I just finished my second short story of the day, “The Adventure of The Six Napoleons,” which I remembered what happened as I was reading, after reading my first short story of the day, “The Adventure of Charles August Milverton” mentioned above. Both are short stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes in the first volume of two that I am reading of the Holmes canon.
I also am using The Sherlock Holmes Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by DK Publishing as a guide, as recommended by Emma of the blog Words and Peace. I’m not always finding the plot synopsis that helpful, although at times I do because I’m not really following what is happening. However, I am finding the historical background of the stories, especially as cases relate to real-life events happening during Doyle’s time, fascinating.
Update No. 3: Saturday afternoon, 12:20 p.m.
I just finished “The Adventure of the Three Students” within the last hour. I also have been checking in briefly on Instagram and providing updates and comments there. However, I still have notifications shut off. I think I might take a brief poetry break before returning to finish The Return of Sherlock Holmes in this first volume of two of the Holmes canon. Here are highlights of the first quarter of this readathon in photos:
Update No. 4: Saturday afternoon/evening, 6 p.m.
I just returned from a walk and am getting ready to have dinner, barbecue seitan pizza, with my wife before she goes to work tonight for a 12-hour-shift. On my walk, I listened to “The Adventure of The Golden Pince-Nez” as narrated by Simon Vance, for my fourth Sherlock Holmes story of the day. Where have been I since this morning?
I took a nap for about an hour.
I tried to read a collection of poetry that I thought would be good, but it wasn’t…at least, not for right now.
I searched for other poetry and found some that I might read later tonight and for audiobooks via Audible (two free credits as a Prime member with a 30-day trial). I found Simon Vance reading The Complete Sherlock Holmes and also his narration of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Since I already was reading the Holmes collection, I decided to start there instead of tackling Dickens right now.
During dinner, we’ll probably watch some Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and then after she leaves at about 7:30, I’ll return to either more reading or listening of Sherlock Holmes or poetry. Here are some photos from my walk via Instagram:
I finished my readathon last night by listening to and reading the last two short stories in The Return of Sherlock Holmes .
So how are you and reading getting along during all “this”? Are you able to concentrate? If so, what are you reading? If not, what would you like to read when you are able to concentrate? If joining the readathon, let me know your plans. If not, no worries, you don’t have to tell me why not. I get it, we’re all in different places, not only geographically but mentally and physically and also just with whatever we have planned for our weekends, even if not going out anywhere. Wherever you are, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere, hope you, your families, and friends are staying safe and well.