I am sure most will agree that this unprecedented period of confinement to one’s room has been an absolute godsend. Granted, when College closed its doors and the country and the world gradually shut down, I was concerned that my low boredom threshold would make these last few months unbearable. Blaise Pascal once said something about how all of humanity’s problems stem from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone. I don’t really know what he meant by this, but one thing was for sure; the fear of having to deal with all of humanity’s problems was incentive enough to not sit on my arse for three entire months. Therefore, it was imperative that I cram as much into my daily routine as possible.
That started with getting up early. 7:00am is the ideal wake-up time for achieving optimal performance. Of course, I am human and therefore partial to the occasional lie-in, so sometimes I get up at 7:05am instead. From there, it’s straight into my shorts and runners for a quick 10k. There’s no time to waste so, almost unconsciously at this stage, I get as close to sprinting speed as I can in order to get the whole route done in around 15 minutes or less. After a quick cold shower, I head downstairs to grab breakfast — and by grab I mean literally sweep through the kitchen and throw food into my blender. Before the quarantine, it would take at least 20 minutes to have breakfast, between eating cereal, making tea, waiting for the tea to brew properly, making some toast and cleaning up. Now, I just throw everything into a food processor and turn it all into a smoothie. It’s grey in colour and tastes horrendous, but it has really sped up my morning routine, so I’m not complaining.
“First thing on my agenda is to check through my emails before writing a careful and considered reply to each one.”
With my disgusting, yet convenient, breakfast in hand, I head back up to my room for a couple of hours on the computer. First thing on my agenda is to check through my emails before writing a careful and considered reply to each one, thanking each and every correspondent for taking the time to reach out to me. Yes, I know some of these are automatically generated emails and therefore the program that sent it out won’t be able to fully appreciate my efforts, but my mother always told me that a thank you goes a long way. I find myself pondering whether “best wishes” or “warm regards” will better convey my sentiments when I look at the clock and realise I need to pick up the pace.
I’m usually an hour or so into working on my German translation of Ulysses — I taught myself German especially for this purpose — when I look up to see it’s nearly lunchtime. Sensing time is against me, I rush out to the tool shed and bust the door open to check my vegetable garden. I’m still waiting for a part for my homemade lateral move irrigation system to arrive from Amazon, so at the very least I’m stuck using the watering can for the next week. Then I snatch a handful of coriander and rush into the kitchen.
By this stage, Mum is well-drilled in my routine and knows not to waste valuable seconds, so she has prepared all the ingredients for my omelette, even buttering the pan so all I have to do is cook and eat because she will, of course, handle the cleaning up. Once again, she only prepared ham, cheese and chopped onions, completely overlooking the cherry tomatoes. I could make a snide comment about the notable absence of my favourite part of the dish for the second time in a row, but think better of it. I’ll leave a passive-aggressive sticky note on the fridge later. Instead, I enquire about whether the gutters need to be cleared out, but given I have done it three times this week already, Mum said that they will probably be fine. Deflated, I wolf down my substandard omelette and head back to work.
In between everything else, I’m helping my brother prepare for Leaving Cert French by having 30 minute conversations with him every day, even prescribing a few literary texts so he has something different to talk about in his oral exam. I like to discuss the text with him to help him become more competent and confident in speaking the language, but these most recent texts have proved something of a challenge. I don’t know whether he’s actually clueless or just pretending in order to annoy me, but he keeps claiming that Proust is far too difficult for him. Despite my repeated pleas that he at least give it a chance, it seems I can only lead this horse to water.
“It’s like signing an online petition; you sacrifice very little energy to do the bare minimum but at least you feel good about yourself.”
I head back to my room for a few hours of what people are calling upskilling. I still have no idea what the word actually means. From what I gather, it generally involves a webinar from someone who spends two hours throwing buzzwords and monosyllabic mantras at you in the hope that you will find new ways to motivate and energise yourself. Best of all, they don’t require you to do much outside reading or preparation work. In some cases, all you have to do is turn up, or rather log on. It’s like signing an online petition; you sacrifice very little energy to do the bare minimum but at least you feel good about yourself.
After updating my CV and sending congratulatory messages to my connections on LinkedIn, it’s nearly 6pm, so I think it’s time to call it a day. I head back downstairs, just in time for dinner. The family discusses the latest Covid-19 figures, while Mum and Dad complain about the medical experts holding the country at gunpoint. However, I am too caught up in my own thoughts, wondering if Mum would be mad if I started consuming my dinner in blended form as well. But I excuse myself from the table and ask Dad if the grass is long enough to need a trim. “No,” he replies bluntly, “you did it two days ago.” Nevertheless, I reverse the mower out of the garage and head down the neighbourhood to see if anyone else would like to avail of my landscaping services.
Once I return, it’s time for a jog with the dogs. As it gets dark I try to expend any remaining energy before bedtime. I then come home, change into my pyjama bottoms, lay out my clothes for tomorrow’s run, and brush my teeth. I find it hard going to bed at 8:30pm sometimes, so I take a few sleeping pills to send me on my way, ready to face another hectic day tomorrow. What was that Pascal fella on about anyway? I’ve no time for sitting around. Even in lockdown, the rat race never stops.