I’m detecting a sense of relief among friends and family now that there has been a change of administration. Many of them feel like a dark cloud has lifted and the future looks much brighter. I don’t recall feeling relief after the 2016 election. I just felt the urgent need to disconnect from politics. I switched from talk radio to a strict diet of classical music. After a few years, though, I OD’d on opera and got sucked back in by politics.

This past year, I spent too much time and emotion watching political shows. I endlessly scrolled the news on my phone, reading about the latest outrages. I devoured the morning papers, despite the indigestion they caused. Now that the election is over, I’m once again taking a break from the news.

Besides feeling relieved by the election, people are seeing signs that the dark cloud of COVID is lifting. Vaccines will again allow us to socialize in public. Our restaurants have resumed allowing indoor dining on a limited basis. This couldn’t happen soon enough for businesses and diners alike. The last time I ate out, it required a parka, gloves and a blanket. I realize that restaurants and bars need more than 25% capacity to survive but it’s a baby step in the right direction.

I’m also encouraged by the partial reopening of museums and movie theaters. It’s inspiring that our park district is hiring lifeguards and will be re-opening the pool. I’m personally grateful that District 91 teachers and staff are returning to our schools.

This brought about a minor miracle on Monday morning. For the first time in months, my wife left to go to work. This was a common occurrence for the past 20 years but hadn’t happened since March. I finally woke up to have the place to myself. Going to work was also good for my wife. It’s easier to get work done at an office, rather than a kitchen table. She also gets a chance to socialize with co-workers.

I’m sure they appreciate my wife’s presence like I do. She has somehow kept a positive attitude throughout the pandemic. She is not only positive but productive, tackling household projects and keeping up with her school duties. I don’t know how she does it because I’m defeated by the slightest setback.

Women seem to handle stress better than men. When men face adversity, we are limited to the “fight or flight” strategy, whereas women can be more resilient and see the big picture. I’m reminded of Ma Joad’s view of life in The Grapes of Wrath: “With a woman, it’s all in one flow, like a stream.” Meanwhile, her defeated husband, Pa, feels like he just struck another dam.

As much as I value my wife’s positivity, it was nice to wake up to solitude. It had been my routine for decades. I could sip coffee and watch TV if I wanted, or blast music. There was something about having the space to myself again that was refreshing. On Monday morning, it also helped that I had gotten a good night’s sleep. The pandemic has disrupted my sleep patterns and I hear the same complaint from friends.

The human body was not designed to take three naps a day and fall into restful slumber at night. A friend told me he falls asleep easily during the day but only manages a few hours at night. Sleep disruption and problems with diet are among the minor difficulties I love to complain about. If my wife stops home for lunch, I’ll tell her all about it.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.