I must be living under a rock because I had no idea that a South Korean movie won Best Picture at the Academy Awards for 2019. The film, Parasite, was the first non-English language film ever to win that award and was directed by Bong Joon-ho (which has got to be one of the coolest names of all time). I finally got around to watching it and I really can’t tell yet if I liked it or not—it’s a quirky one—but I am still thinking about it.
Basically, the plot concerns a family of four who fraudulently obtain jobs in a rich family’s home. The father of the poor family tells his son at one point, “You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned.”
Although the movie is about social parasites and not a virus, this quote seemed eerily appropriate to the current pandemic. I, an almost compulsive planner and list maker, have found that the only thing I am pretty certain I have to do over the next weeks is weed and water the garden. Also, I know from experience that in a few months there will be a lot of raking to do. I view the bounty of leaves with a mixture of gratitude and dread. So, I plan to weed and I plan to rake and that’s about the extent of my planning these days.
Not planning much makes me feel very lacking in ambition but extremely peaceful. One of my friends wrote and sold two books while sheltering in place and is designing a line of products to support the launch of one of them. I’m proud to be filling my green bin every week but she makes me feel like a slacker.
To make my planning paralysis easier to accept, I’ve been meditating every morning. I love the Headspace app for meditation. It offers a daily guided meditation that you can set for five to 20 minutes as well as a bunch of other meditations. I’ve found a daily practice of 15 to 30 minutes helps me to manage the uncertainty and has greatly increased my ability to stay in the present moment and focus.
It’s especially difficult right now to know how to plan financially, but obviously it is so necessary to a “house in order.” I’ve finally gotten around to asking two experts (a financial advisor and a CPA) what I should be doing and for help creating a new budget during these crazy times.
Most of my clients who had planned fantastic vacations for spring or summer have had to pivot and stay-cation. I’m suggesting they keep a list of all the loose ends from cancelled events and travel and create a folder in e-mail to drag over correspondence and receipts to make it easier to track everything. It’s taking a lot longer than normal to see refunds for these things, so a mix of patience and vigilance is key.
Since for most of us even a road trip is too difficult to plan for right now, movies and books can fill the adventure void nicely. If you want to be suddenly very grateful for your American bathroom, watch Parasite, mentioned above.
A book I recently reread about a character forced to shelter in place, being under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, was A Gentleman in Moscow. The book illustrates that, as we are finding during this pandemic, good manners can make life so much more pleasant and even lead to unexpected opportunities.
Also excellent food for thought was the FX mini-series, Mrs. America, about Phyllis Schlafley, Shirley Chisholm, Gloria Steinem and other significant women involved in the Equal Rights Amendment issue in the 1970s. It was extremely interesting to observe the characters portraying the more traditional wife and mother roles. There was a lot of politicking, but there was also a lot of stellar home keeping going on. At one point someone notes that if a woman was paid for homemaking and child care she would make $40,000 a year, and that was in 1970s dollars.
I’ve paid more attention to homemaking skills during the shelter in place. Instead of planning work projects and trips I planned healthy rainbow-colored meals and exciting visits to Whole Foods, which for me is the new Nordstrom. I look forward to going back to work this summer, but I’ll certainly miss having such an abundance of time to try new recipes and keep my home and garden as carefully as I’ve been able during the Covid spring. I’m planning to reduce the time I spend in my car and work less outside of the valley so that I can keep up some of the home habits I’ve been enjoying, but as John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.”