Life

Jake O'Kane: Before all this I’d have said I was easygoing – in the past 100 days I've found I’m anything but

Neurotic by nature, I definitely lost it at the beginning. My problem was, having read a fair bit about pandemics, I knew the worst possible outcome; this put panic into the pandemic for me when it began

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

I stopped when I found myself filling in a hole I’d dug, having forgotten why I’d dug it in the first place... Picture by Getty Images
I stopped when I found myself filling in a hole I’d dug, having forgotten why I’d dug it in the first place... Picture by Getty Images I stopped when I found myself filling in a hole I’d dug, having forgotten why I’d dug it in the first place... Picture by Getty Images

SO, HAVING passed 100 days since the start of this pandemic, I thought I’d ask how you’ve all been coping? I hope you’ve been, as we say, “managing rightly” through these very strange times.

As for myself, I’ve noticed a very clear pattern over the hundred days. Neurotic by nature, I definitely lost it at the beginning. My problem was, having read a fair bit about pandemics, I knew the worst possible outcome; this put panic into the pandemic for me when it began.

Always the pessimist, I was convinced I’d not only catch the virus but would die, so I started putting my house in order in anticipation of my inevitable demise. I started by making a comprehensive list of all the people my wife would have to deal with once I was gone. It contained phone numbers of my bank along with the solicitors and accountants she’d need to talk to. It then came time to sit her down for ‘the conversation’.

I was stunned when she stared blankly at me, her head cocked to one side, a bit like a dog looking at a cat juggling bottles of milk. Thankfully, I’ve only seen this look a couple of times and knew it meant only one thing: I’d gone bonkers.

Swallowing my indignation, I stomped off, infuriated at her refusal to accept the end of the world was upon us. It wasn’t until I found myself writing goodbye letters to my two children that sanity finally returned.

I’d decided to write them with an ink pen on nice paper; well, they’d be treasuring them forever, so I wanted to make them as special as possible. But having finished the first, I frustratingly discovered not one, but two, spelling mistakes. I then had the brainwave of typing them up within Grammarly, an online writing, spelling and grammar tool, and then I’d copy the results in my own hand.

When starting a Grammarly document, you’re asked to set goals, defining the type of ‘audience’ you are writing for. Is it a formal or informal document? Do you want your ‘tone’ to be confident, joyful, optimistic…? It suddenly struck me there was no setting for ‘neurotic father over-reacting to a crisis’. I ‘caught a grip’ and began, as best I could, to relax into my new, abnormal life.

I’ve learnt quite a bit about myself over the past few months. For instance, not being able to work was a massive adjustment. Before all this, I’d have argued I was easygoing but, in reality, I’m anything but. I discovered I couldn’t sit still – I had to fill every day doing something, spending much of my time in the garden.

I cut grass which didn’t need cut, painted fences which didn’t need painted and dug up and replanted so many plants I doubt any will survive. I stopped when I found myself filling in a hole I’d dug, having forgotten why I’d dug it in the first place.

As for all those things I promised I’d do when I’d some free time, none were completed. I continue to not write the book I hadn’t been writing and I still haven’t learnt to play the mouthorgan, although my family may have dodged a bullet with that one.

The other activity which helped me cope was walking. I’m blessed to live beside Cave Hill so every few days I’d take my hour’s exercise by walking my dog over the hill. Yet even while doing this I couldn’t relax; I began setting time targets, and what began as pleasant walks morphed into forced marches. The inevitable happened – I’ve injured my knee and now have a dog who hides if it even suspects I’m looking for its lead.

And so, I sit writing this with an elastic contraption on my knee into which is strapped a frozen gel-pack. Whether it’s doing any good is anybody’s guess. Sadly, I can’t avail of the services of my favourite physio, Noel Rice from Belfast Physiotherapy.

Yet I’m well aware that if this is all I have to complain about during this pandemic, I’ve gotten off lightly. Like most of you, I’ve adapted, if not as gracefully or as bravely as I’d have wished.

Final proof of my pessimistic temperament was a visit this week to my solicitor – while adhering to strict social distancing – to sign off on a new last will and testament. Well, you can’t be too careful.