Twenty Weeks in Isolation; 144 Days, or, a Gross of Days. When Will the Rats Return and Liberate Us?

Call it isolation, quarantine, or lockdown. It all feels like a leash or a probation department ankle bracelet. We do this of our own choice, not by order of Dr. Fauci, George Soros, the Chinese embassy, County Judge Lina Hidalgo (wrong county but I would do anything she asked of me), or, heaven forbid, Gov. Greg Abbott.

The latter, Gov. Abbot, was a late comer to the mask mandating business. Per his order of a month ago, you are only required to mask if there are 20+ active cases in your county. Presumably if you had twenty positives living and three hundred formerly positive, now dead, your county would be exempt.

Hermiting (gerund form of the verb, to hermit) has allowed me to dig in and enjoy my inner obsessive compulsive drive. I do not consider it a disorder if I can channel it into healthy addictions.

I have directed my OCD into treadmilling since no one can walk outdoors in Lake Jackson’s heat and humidity in July and August. We regularly experience “feels like” temperatures of 110 F. plus in the daylight hours. Even in early evening when the sun is setting, it will often feel like over 95 degrees with the humidity over 60 per cent. But the treadmill lives inside in air conditioned space under a ceiling fan. I can walk as long as my bones will bear it.

So, I have made it my goal to abandon the sedentary life by walking a minimum of 7,000 steps a day. That is a modest amount of exercise but, done regularly, it keeps me from feeling like one of those vegetables left too long in the bottom drawer of the fridge. My goal, pushed along by my OCD, now has me up to 42 consecutive days. (I have permitted myself two “recovery days” that are included in the count. So, call it 40 if you are beyond OCD, maybe anal retentive.)

The side benefit of treadmilling is that I can read on my iPad Kindle app. Walking enables deeper concentration on my reading, which is to say that I can’t fall asleep while walking. Should I fall asleep I can pick myself up and go back to walking and reading. It hasn’t happened but I know I could do it if necessary.

Using this method, I have finally finished Albert Camus’ The Plague, and Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini. My brief reviews of those two: 1.) The end of a pestilence is greeted by the return of rats to the streets and gutters, not doves bearing olive branches, and 2.) Pat Conroy delivers more locker room talk than I have heard since junior high school and Army basic training. Ugh. Almost as repulsive as the joyous return of the rats to our daily lives.

My other compulsion has been Duolingo Spanish lessons. After five years of daily exercises, I have finally decided to reward them with my $7/month so I can enjoy the site free of advertising. Their advertising is not as annoying as Pandora‘s. The woman who serves as Pandora’s shrill shill and whom they drop like a cold dagger without warning in between Brahms and Bach makes you either want to quit going to the site forever or cough up the $5/month to make her go away. I blinked and gave them my credit card. Life without her has been a joy.

Duolingo, on the other hand, is much less intrusive and annoying with their advertising. I could have tolerated it forever and gone on with free Spanish lessons. I finally gave in because of my nagging conscience.

What they do at Duolingo has made me consider nominating the organization for a Nobel Peace prize. Their lessons seem expertly organized and thought out. There are people on their staff who know languages and language pedagogy. And, even better, they know some of the tricks of game-style motivators for online learners. My OCD feeds right into their trap.

By their count I now have 1,837 consecutive days of meeting my self-defined practice and instruction goals. That is just over five years of 30 minutes or more every day. And, ever so slowly, it works. After five years I can hold brief conversations with a few of the native Spanish speakers in my world. Well, so long as they answer without asking a question. I’m not quite that fast.

So, if you must have a mental health disorder during a pandemic, I suggest the obsessive-compulsive. It beats clinical depression for many reasons, not the least is the survivability rate. So, if you have a computer and want to learn a language, there is no better time than the present. Duolingo offers ninety-five courses in thirty-eight languages with over 300 million registered users.

If you came of age in the sixties like me, you may even want to take Esperanto. It may be the language humanity’s far spread remnants can use to make peace and start the process of rebuilding the world. You could be among the first to say, Ho gojo, la ratoj revenis.” Oh joy, the rats are back.

Author: Lake Jackson Citizen

I volunteer as a photographer for our local community theater. I have opinions about politics and believe it should be every American's duty to become informed and participate in the discussion of issues. I began this blog to be able to stay in touch in ways I used to on Facebook. I deleted that account recently and hope to be able to share photographs and information relating to cultural and political events in our community. I am retired after a career in social work and post-secondary​ education.

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