Doug Lewandowski column: Escape during a bleak time
There’s also only so much TV and politics a person can endure.
Sometimes I feel like a cartoon figure peering over the edge of a backyard fence scanning the fall season and seeing nothing but sleet and snow on the horizon. The prospect of five more months of isolation without a safe route toward social pursuits chills me. I need options, since taking a break with friends and escaping to the nearest bar for a burger, fries and beer is out of the question.
Rendezvousing with those you care about in the garage for drinks and a meal with the door partway up has its limits. Even with a couple of milk-house heaters burning up kilowatts warming the place up, it still requires flannel-lined jeans and Sorels for an extended conversation.
There’s also only so much TV and politics a person can endure. I’ve run through all the “Seinfeld” reruns I care to watch in the last six months, and how many British murder mysteries can one view on Acorn TV, trying to understand British accents? I am embarrassed at having to watch “Vera” with captions. For Pete’s sake, English is supposed to be my first language!
Even a detour to the “Mandalorian” on Disney, while the special effects are spectacular, has a story line that drags like an anchor through a swamp. And reruns of “Laugh-In” are now massively inappropriate for this era. Artie Johnson and his dirty old man skits lost their humor a long time ago, when I worked with sexual abuse victims. Retreating to “The Three Stooges” doesn’t work, either. They WERE funny however — when I was in junior high! So. How about reading as a diversion?
Books were a refuge and escape for me growing up and continue to be soothing and relaxing still. My natural inclination as a kid was to think rather than do. It was always easier to retreat to the nearest book on baseball instead of going out and playing it. Nothing to be ashamed of, then, when the choice was turning a page instead of dropping a fly ball.
Since I couldn’t get near a horse without an asthma attack, it was easier to read about riding one than gasping for air. When I chose to go further afield, I could always dive into sci-fi and marvel at the worlds created by Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Science fiction writing informed by science gave the stories credibility, and many of the predictions made there have come to pass.
It took stumbling around my freshman year in college with calculus and chemistry as a sign I’d better stick with reading. I decided to be an English teacher. The reading material required a long journey through the classics, a voyage, for the most part, I didn’t mind. I was encouraged even more by taking a 20th century literature class my sophomore year. There was Vonnegut, Orwell, Camus and Steinbeck to name a few; thoughtful writers for the times.
With the limitations placed on us by a rampaging virus that requires living the life of a hermit, a good book helps an active, stressed mind shift away for the moment from our anxieties. Let’s hope we get back to whatever will be “normal” soon. A book at a restaurant or café with a burger would sure taste good.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at email@example.com.