Life in the Shut-Down Lane


Going? Not going? A single day passed and no matter the destination whether Walgreen’s or Mexico, the decision was made for me. I’m not going. No one’s going. No one’s going anywhere. 

The questions alone open an empty space in my head that fills quickly with a laugh, a giant cosmic laugh that says, “You used to have a choice!” Now there’s no dilemma about where to go, who to see, what to do, what time to do it. 

Today, I am my existence. I maintain my essence built over a lifetime; fretful sleep, overeating, wasteful showers, obsessive reading, TV ’til two a.m. And, I build anew. I make tuna salad sandwiches, stir-fry zucchini with onions and go to meetings on Zoom. Henry the dog and I walk to new places like Michigan Avenue where we give six-foot hellos to neighbors we don’t know, will probably never know. In an unfamiliar park I break the law, unleashing him to run the crunchy March earth. We’re lulled into concluding some rules no longer apply. He trees squirrels. I hear a woodpecker

Henry Sheltering in Place

(tomorrow binoculars). T.S. Eliot wrote “Time past and time future what might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present.” I have time on my hands. It cannot be washed off, nor sanitized away.

Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim believed fairy tales help children cope with their existential anxieties and dilemmas. I’m grateful for my new-found fairy tales on Acorn and Netflix. They’re satisfying, even intoxicating. “Vera” quenches my thirst for relief from today’s threat of a mad virus loosed on an unprepared society. She always catches the killer, within one episode. And “West Wing”’s President Jed Bartlett reassures me, “There are times when we’re fifty states and there are times when we are one country and have national needs.” Fairly tales are indeed a good shield.

A friend yelled at me on the phone, “I just want to go to a restaurant!” 

Who doesn’t? I live in cafe society— exchanging gossip, ideas, medical records and laughs in half-public coffee shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies, church halls, run-ins at shops and malls. It’s part of my essence, my existential cover, a baby blanket of being. I need it. 

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone,” said Blaise Pascal whose health problems left him no choice but to sit alone in quiet for long periods. He tried to solve some of humanity’s problems. Perhaps if he’d lived longer he’d have given us more than pensées.

To preserve my sanity, I usually sit quietly in a room for thirty minutes every day consciously telling myslef I do not own all of humanity’s problems, nor do they own me. But now that I’ve been sitting in a room alone for days, I’m concocting brilliant and crazy solutions to humanity’s problems. Pascal would be pleased, but I’m afraid I’ll go from here to the psych ward. 

Or run for office.

15 thoughts on “Life in the Shut-Down Lane

  1. Thank you Regan, you perfectly captured days-in-the lives without destination as we adjust to the new normal that changes hourly. I sure hope hugs come back in style, Ive got one saved for you.
    Please run for a big office, I will work for free!

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  2. Delicious reading…from what you’re eating (zucchini) to what you’re hearing (crunchy March and woodpeckers) your writing takes me away. Thank you!

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  3. I have been waiting patiently to see what you would write about these times! Thank you for this! It was great! I look forward to more! Your words have a way of helping to make all this chaos a story that we can tell our children (hopefully). I love you, your dog, and your words.

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  4. This is good for letting me know how you’re doing- and a little of what-(stir frying zucchini?) After your reminder, I went back to Vera tonight. I still have one ,more episode in Series 9 before I get to 10.

    I loved seeing Henry sheltering….Regan, you write just wonderfully. First of all, I marvel always at your allusions and knowledge (Pascal, Bettendorf) and the wonderful way you go from those rather esoteric references to the everyday (West Wing). And just personally, I love to hear about your observations (woodpecker, crunchy March earth.) Really loved this whole piece.

    Speaking of birds- we have a lovely phenomenon on the Pond- a wild swan! Happily, a birder friend wrote me about seeing it several days ago, so I had the ID as “an immature mute swan.” But I haven’t been out- too cold, or windy or both- so didn’t have any hope of finding it along the shore where she said she’d seen it. But lo and behold, from my window today, caught a glimpse of something white out there, and grabbed the binocs. There it was in a cove on the west side of the pond, contentedly foraging among the ducks and geese. Then, a marvel, it sailed regally out to the middle of the pond for a fabulous view!  So amazed and grateful as always to have our window on the world. And of course it is glorious that the world is out there so magnificently, even when I must be in here. Really miss you. That’s why it’s a joy to have your thoughts and activities so nicely described in the memoir! Are you ready for tomorrow at 10? Love,The V

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  5. So proud of you for taking this on, Regan. I haven’t been able to bring myself to write *anything* about the novel virus…not yet, anyways. Eager to hear how your church is handling all this — offering services online? I, like so many of your other followers, miss being with you. Stay in good health, my friend.


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  6. I urge you to run for office!!!
    Thank goodness for Henry in your life, and thank goodness for you, sharing your reaction to this extraordinary moment in time.

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  7. Regan, you hit a lot of chords for me, as your writing usually does. However, in these times, we can linger longer over the words and let them sink in. Thanks

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  8. Amen! Nice piece. Today a stray cat came for food in our drive way and Carol ran upstairs to see whether or not it could carry the coronavirus!!

    The world is askew!

    Sent from my iPhone

    Liked by 2 people

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