I Wanna Go On A Picnic!

Reinventing Your Life

(For reading in Chinese, please scroll down to the end of the English text.)

(For international readers, allow me to explain: I am an American but I have lived in China since 2004. My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River.)

(From the 18th-Floor Homestead).

Regular readers of my drivel will know I have frequently written of the simple lifestyle I wish to incorporate into the more stressful world in 2020. Especially due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, preserving a pre-pandemic lifestyle is a very alluring dream.

Well… sorry to burst your bubble, but it ain’t gonna happen. If you were planning a picnic when the weather forecast suddenly broadcast an alert about a hurricane – called a typhoon, in the Eastern Hemisphere – striking your area imminently, would you insist on going on the picnic anyway? Most reasonable people would change their plans and stay home. Denying a hurricane’s existence is a special form of stupid, a choice that is not likely to be repeated.

Likewise, refusing to accept the reality of our current Covid-19 pandemic is a particularly deadly form of denial. You have a statistically higher chance of waking up dead some morning if you persist in high-risk behaviors. Even more unfortunate, you are also a threat to the innocent people around you by becoming the person who spreads the virus to other, more vulnerable groups.

the picture by silviarita

These days, many people are waxing lyrical about the “good old days”… before the pandemic changed everything. These recall great memories and great visions, seasoned equally with nostalgia and escapism. When James Beard, the American culinary authority, was writing about an equivalent situation in his book Delights and Prejudices, he said “Many people think of Mom’s apple pie or Grandmother’s dumplings as delicacies that cannot be equaled today. These memories are associated with happy times, and to the untrained palate the pie or the dumplings seemed delicious. If the same dishes were recreated and presented to a sophisticated palate, they would probably belie their reputations. Most of the home cooking one enjoyed in his youth was not as good as one remembers it.”

James Beard was talking about food nostalgia but the same reasoning could be applied to idealizing any other facet of pre-pandemic lifestyles. Indeed, I believe that many people today are bumbling through the various stages of denial because they simply don’t want to accept the reality of our current situation. This reaction is understandable but not realistic. If there is a hurricane blasting through your area, you should cancel the picnic rather than insist the hurricane doesn’t exist and go out anyway.

Many people are currently romanticizing the past as a much simpler, more innocent time. However, as James Beard said, this is simply not true. Take a moment to honestly recall your lifestyle from just one year ago. At that time, for large numbers of people, the universal lament was, “I’m so tired. I never get enough sleep. I’m always under pressure. I spend all my time working.” In those days – and I am certainly guilty – we complained incessantly that life was too stressful, too busy, and too filled with demands upon our time. (Like Calvin said when confronted with his failure to recognize his altered memories, “Guess I was just delirious from having too much fun.”) It is only when we look back that the past seems quiet and simple. Just as Beard observed, the things that we remember are often highly subjective and, in addition, heavily influenced by our desires to escape the present problems that we have

One of the most regrettable consequences generated by this pandemic is the tidal wave of fear and uncertainty, accompanied by a blast furnace atmosphere of vicious accusations, baseless claims, and wild rumors, all hiding behind the convenient remoteness of popular social media. Like the food nostalgia James Beard wrote of, many people today are extolling the virtues of pre-pandemic lifestyles. However, these recollections are largely rooted in escapism and, often, pure wishful thinking. (How many of you actually went to a health club four nights a week? Really?) The desire to go back to the “good old days” of previous years is understandable – but, in most cases, they were not that great.

In no way do I wish to minimize or trivialize the problems that we face today. The dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic devastation are undeniable to all but the most fervent deniers. Indeed, one of my greatest fears is that both the illness and the subsequent economic consequences are only beginning. I’m just saying that head-in-the-sand denial or daydreaming escapism are not realistic responses.

the picture by Jill Wellington

Now for the good news: I believe that we can find wonderful opportunities hidden in the dark, dark clouds of the pandemic. The greatest opportunity is that we now have an obvious moment in time to evaluate and consider carefully what is most important to us. Being in the eye of the hurricane is an apt analogy. It’s not about status symbols, paper certificates, and bank account balances. All those things are meaningless without our health and without special people to share those things with.

This time is a window of opportunity to form new habits, choices of activities, and, indeed, new expectations. I am emphatically an advocate of simplifying our lives. I idealize and, truthfully, romanticize the past. I use James Beard, Gordon McQuarrie, Ernest Hemingway, and other writers as role models because of the lifestyles that they carved out for themselves, and for the period in which they lived. Although these men had vastly different lifestyles, they epitomized the enjoyment possible within their choices.

And, this genuine, sustainable sense of enjoyment is something that we can all begin to develop today. In his book Walden, Hank Thoreau said, “simplify, simplify”. In reinventing our life, the objective is to simplify, and a good beginning is to carefully and objectively review the opportunities in our current situation. Then, as Dr. Lin Yutang said, “The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

Yes, this pandemic shall pass. Probably the process will not be as quick and easy as we would like it to be – and probably the recovery from the economic devastation will take much longer than anyone would wish. But this period can also be a time of new economic growth and the development of needed new products and services. Likewise, there is no reason why it cannot also be a time of great personal development; truly, it can be a time to reinvent yourself. 

There are many things that we can do today to make our new life better – even substantially better – than our pre-pandemic lifestyle. And, wonderfully, we can begin today to take baby steps to establish those new habits of behavior, routines, and expectations. We can do more than merely survive: we have the power to make the future better than the past.

What are you waiting for? This proactive choice is far better than doggedly refusing to accept the current reality. Sorry, folks, the picnic is canceled; there’s a hurricane out there!




嗯… 很抱歉打破你的幻想,但这是不可能的。如果你正在计划野餐,而天气预报突然播报了飓风的警报–在东半球叫台风–即将袭击你的地区,你会坚持去野餐吗?大多数理智的人都会改变计划,呆在家里。否认飓风的存在是一种特殊形式的愚蠢,这种选择不可能重演。


这些天,很多人都在抒发 “美好的过去”……在大流行病改变一切之前。这让人想起了美好的回忆和美好的愿景,同样充满了怀旧和逃避的味道。美国烹饪权威詹姆斯-比尔德(James Beard)在他的《美味与偏见》一书中写到类似的情况时,他说:”很多人认为妈妈做的苹果派或奶奶做的饺子是今天无法比拟的美食。这些记忆与快乐的时光有关,在未经训练的味觉中,馅饼或饺子似乎很美味。如果将同样的菜品重新制作出来,并呈现在一个成熟的味觉面前,它们可能就会名不副实了。一个人年轻时享受的家常菜,大多没有记忆中的那么好吃。”


目前,很多人都在浪漫地把过去想象成一个更简单、更单纯的时代。然而,正如詹姆斯-比尔德所说,这根本不是事实。花点时间老老实实地回忆一下自己一年前的生活方式。那时,对于大量的人来说,普遍的感叹是:”我太累了。我永远睡不够。我总是承受着压力。我把所有的时间都花在工作上。” 在那些日子里–我当然也是有罪的–我们不停地抱怨生活压力太大,太忙,对我们的时间要求太多。(就像卡尔文面对自己未能认识到自己被改变的记忆时说的那样,”我猜我只是因为玩得太开心而神志不清了”)。只有当我们回首往事时,过去才显得安静而简单。正如比尔德所观察到的那样,我们记忆中的事情往往具有很强的主观性,此外,还深受我们逃避当前问题的欲望的影响,我们的

这场大流行产生的最令人遗憾的后果之一是恐惧和不确定性的浪潮,伴随着高炉气氛的恶意指责,毫无根据的说法和疯狂的谣言,所有这些都隐藏在流行的社交媒体的方便遥远的背后。就像詹姆斯-比尔德(James Beard)笔下的食物怀旧一样,今天很多人都在颂扬大流行前生活方式的优点。然而,这些回忆在很大程度上源于逃避主义,而且往往是纯粹的一厢情愿。(有多少人真的每周四晚去健身俱乐部?真的吗?)想回到前几年的 “好日子 “的愿望是可以理解的–但是,在大多数情况下,这些日子并没有那么美好。








2 thoughts on “I Wanna Go On A Picnic!

  1. Hi Randy,
    Happy to see your new blog. The Covid-19 took away many people’s life, but on the other hand, we enjoyed a really long rest during the pandemic. Most of people had to stay at home and spent their time freely. I read many books at that time and practiced my oral English. The long long holiday makes me feel that sometimes busy work is good for our life, or we will be very anxious and boring. The suitable work times is good for life.
    My life is becoming better and better, my mom is ok and I will have a new boyfriend soon, we are just in contact right now. Life is happy, hope you happy everyday.

  2. This time is a window of opportunity to form new habits, choices of activities, and, indeed, new expectations, new outlook. 👍👍👍

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