Morris: Cabin Fever Redoubled

February 8, 2021

by Leo Morris

May I just say that I hate my friend Sofia today. She’s in Phoenix, where the expected high is 74.

I’m not too crazy about my brother Larry, either. He’s in Hill Country, Texas, sunny and 71.

Remember the pre-COVID days, when “cabin fever” meant being stuck in the house by weather for a week or two, not trapped in a floating-virus, keep-your-distance nightmare without end?

It was called “winter,” and the nice thing about it was that it came and went on a somewhat predictable basis. The snow would melt. The temperature would slowly rise. The flowers would bloom and the birds would sing.

Now the temperature has dropped into single digits, with several days of sub-zero weather in the offing, and it feels like double secret probation. Really? We finally have a vaccine that might let us get out and mingle again, and they tell us to stay in because it’s too dangerously cold? Go ahead, kick us while we’re down.

I knew it was dangerously cold without being told. When the temperature dips to a certain point, the draft in my downstairs bathroom, which is on an outside wall, is too much to bear, so I have to, um, go upstairs. It might not be as scientific as the Fahrenheit scale, but it is remarkably accurate.

At least I am finally following the advice of some in the medical community and double masking when I leave the house, one mask to keep anything I might have caught from escaping and the other to keep my nose from falling off.

Otherwise, I’m just hunkering down and coming to the realization that being called a “couch potato” wouldn’t make me feel nearly as guilty as those who hurl that insult might hope. I will try, Zen-like, to accept my misery.

I went online to look up “ways to beat cabin fever” and was amazed at the superficial advice so casually offered for what was assumed to be a temporary affliction.

Focus on self-improvement. Been doing that for a year. If I become any more perfect, no one will be able to stand me.

Take on a home project, like remodeling, deep cleaning or rearranging the furniture. That was for when my home was my castle, not my prison.

Entertain yourself. Read a good book, try a new recipe, binge on Netflix, start scrapbooking, do a jigsaw puzzle. Of limited benefit for brief periods. Pastimes are meant as a means of temporary escape from reality, They cannot replace reality.

Write a letter to an old friend: Dear Sofia, I hate you.

Reach out to others. Something just social, such as starting a club, or altruistic, like volunteering for a non-profit agency. Yeah, but social distancing would take the fun of the social and add risk to the altruistic.

Plan your summer vacation. This one actually appeals to me. As we can look ahead from the dead of winter to the warmth of vacation time, we can imagine how life might be post-pandemic. As in: When the masks come off, the distancing is over and everything is fully opened back to public participation, what’s the first thing I want to do?

No walks on the beach or sojourns in the forest, no reading a good book in a quiet corner of the library. Somewhere loud and noisy and smelly and elbow-scraping-elbow crowded. In the middle of the beer tent at the county fair while the suds flow freely and a bad band blares out worse music. Come get me, disease-carrying barbarians, give it your best shot.

I notice that the experts, who have been so obstinately assertive in everything they got wrong about the coronavirus, are now being asked what the world will be like after it has left us.

Many of them foresee a version of a worry that I have written about: We will become a fearful society, distrustful of each other and giving up even more control to the government. Some envision a Roaring 20s-like eruption of wild excess and libertine debauchery. Others expect calamity, some sort of economic collapse or populist uprising.

I predict we will ease back into normality, as we always have, with one exception. We will start treating experts with the skepticism they have always deserved. Before we fully trust them again, it will be, well, a cold day in hell.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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