Balance *

I realized this morning when my shorts were a bit tight that I’ve spent too much time on my butt. My exercise routine has fallen off the past few months, I’ve put on the pounds, and I’m not sleeping as well. My wife says she’s worried about me. Stupid me: I’m healthy, and I shouldn’t squander that.

So I’m going to try to do better.

I bet there are millions and millions of people out there who are struggling with the same issues. I don’t mean the people like Bill Maher, who’s never been overweight in his life and thinks it’s hilarious to make fat jokes. And I don’t mean the trolls who gleefully point out the contradiction in hyping mask wearing while putting on weight, or who cynically argue that we should end all lockdowns because depression is worse than COVID-19.

I mean the majority of Americans, who want to protect their fellow human beings by wearing masks and keeping their distance, who follow and respect science, but have a hard time keeping it all together during this pandemic. They’re the parents who have to work in essential jobs and can’t find childcare, who fret about their kids going to school in person, who don’t have safety nets, and don’t know how they’re going to make rent payments. They’re the young people who follow all the rules but feel like their lives are slipping by them in this weird period. They’re the old people who are lonely because they can’t see their family and friends in person.

I also am acutely aware we are not exactly “all in this together.” I’m retired, and my wife and I live off our fixed income. Our experience dealing with this catastrophe is a lot, lot easier than that of many or most people. However, we have gone through periods of extreme poverty and joblessness, so it’s not impossible for us to empathize with those of you who have it much harder than we do.

Balance, keeping it all together, is a battle of each one of us, and every day it’s a matter of putting one foot in front of the other to get through this thing.

I personally dealt with half the equation. I felt an extraordinary amount of rage at the incompetence during the first two months of the pandemic. Not wanting that to consume me, I started collecting data and writing every day about COVID. As strange as it might seem, it had a calming effect, and my rage dissipated into regular, simmering but controllable anger.

The other half was watching out for my own health, and that’s the part I have to deal with now. A little over two years ago, I road biked 120 miles a week. Then I broke my hip in a freak accident. The first surgery failed, and a year later, I had to have a complete replacement. For 18 months, I couldn’t walk more than 100 feet without extreme pain, because the pin in my femur was literally just wobbling around.

Then the pandemic came, and I let that be my excuse.

I bet the majority of us know what we should do. We know about exercise, we know about healthy eating, we know about “life balance.” We’ve read hundreds of articles, listened to podcasts, watched TV programs, studied self help books.

Then our brain kicks in with the excuse, the promise that we’ll get started on fixing it tomorrow.

So today, I worked out before writing. I resolved to work on this part of my life. Maybe that means writing every other day, or just posting straight data some days, with no commentary. But it’s time to rearrange my priorities.

I’d love to hear your story, too. All I can do is read, though. I can’t offer any advice, except to say that you’re not alone.

This pandemic is a bitch. I hate, hate, hate it. But we have to get through it, one day at a time.

I’m not showing all the charts for today, so remember, you can see up to date numbers on the COVID Interactive pages on

Comments from Readers & My Responses

The following are some of the comments from readers on Reddit and other social media platforms where I regularly post. Reader comments are in italics and color. My responses are in plain text. If there is more than one commenter without a response, they are separated by different colors.

I was very active before the pandemic. I trained BJJ 2-3x a week and lifted weights 3x a week as well. Since fitness centers are closed down, I can’t do any of that (wife won’t let me build my home gym).

I resorted to running outdoors which I only did sporadically before but I started doing it consistently since May. My pace and stamina have improved drastically but my mental state is wavering. On top of it all, my diet had been garbage with all the additional junk food.

On the bright side, my son was born about 3 weeks ago so he’s been keeping me on my toes and helping me stay distracted.

I fall in your “young person” category up there. My hardest days are when it feels like I am making so many personal sacrifices and I can’t reconcile why. Of course the numbers could have been worse but in the scope of things–we don’t have to be here at all.

Anyway, just thanks for your thoughts on balance. I wrote a couple more paragraphs but then deleted them all, which is mostly what quarantine has been like in general.

And thank you for writing. As a baby boomer, I hate it when people my age rant about young people. Our generation handed your generation a steaming pile of s**t, from income inequality to systemic racism to climate change. It really was a fantastic sight to see so many young people in the BLM protests. And it also makes me very optimistic when I talk with a lot of young people who are determined to vote.

I still remember when I was in my late teens and early 20’s, and I had the same difficulty you’re having now. All I can say is that your generation will be the ones who change our society, and that will make the sacrifice worth it.

I was jobless in 2018, and jobless/taking care of my wife in 2019 & 2020. I would love to bike ride again (about half your amount), but realizing I have no health insurance is a deal-breaker. Never realized how much ‘courage’ I had because of health insurance.

Totally understand where you’re coming from. When I see a peloton moving down the street, I start to ask myself why I’m not there. Then I remember how I was useless on my feet for almost 2 years and how that’s a larger and larger fraction of my remaining life. At my age, a tumble on the pavement is not like it is for those Tour riders, where they bandage up and resume the race. But I sure do miss it!

Just on your first real point, I’m intrigued if this is going to have a permanent, lasting effect on Americans’ health. How many Americans are doing a small percentage of their regular activity, and have been for months? How many Americans will never return to their pre-Covid levels of activity?

I’m worried about my husband. He’s used to a pretty physical job, and since being furloughed in March, he hasn’t walked more than ten miles altogether, minus a hiking trip we did.

Well, that’s kind of why I wrote this. A lot of us, me included, sort of got into a mindset where we thought, “we just need to get through this, and then we’ll resume life as it was.” Meanwhile, we let our life deteriorate. It will be a struggle for all of us to get back to “normal” and during the pandemic, we need to find new ways to get into healthy routines. Very hard, but doable.

Glad you are getting back into exercising! I started doing yoga again a few days ago and making an effort to go for longer walks once the sun goes down, def helps the mind feel a little at ease. I numbers our down again today in LA county but alas a big stuff up from one of the labs that didn’t report so who knows what the real numbers are.

Hey neighbor.. You bike crash sounds like a doozy…just bad luck M8. Glad to hear you’re getting back into the exercise. I’m a tennis freak who’s pushing fifty, sports injuries in both legs.. I work as lighting tech-crew here in Hollywood.. I haven’t worked in 5 months. The exercise is what’s been keeping me sane. Self-care is important these days. Good luck and stay up!

Thank you so much for this. I’ve been doing ok for the most part, I think because I’m naturally an introvert. But I’ve noticed, over the past month, this has even started getting to me, and my overall motivation to “live life” so-to-speak has fallen off dramatically. I would characterize my overall attitude right now as apathetic, which is not good. I think of things to do, and then I say to myself “meh…” and like you mentioned continue to sit on my butt. I am trying to snap myself out of it, but I am finding it very challenging. This week I started forcing myself to go for a walk before starting work, and I hope that this will eventually build up in my system somehow and get me out of this funk. So, thank you for sharing. It is comforting to know that others are struggling as well, and if we can share that with one another maybe we can help each other through this mess. Thanks.

And thank you for writing. As I mentioned in the post, we’re all in different places economically, but emotionally we’re all having to deal with an event that occurs once in a lifetime. And no matter if we’re young or old, it’s tough. Good for you for starting walking. When I started on the stationary bike, I was really upset at first how out of shape I was. But then I just focused on getting through the next 5 minutes, and made it to the end of the workout.

This hell will be over with one day, and we’ll be able to brag to our younger family members and friends how we survived the great pandemic, along with the worst president in US history.

Oh, Zorgi! You’ve been through a lot. How’s the hip nowadays? Did the pin get fixed?

I understand long recovery. I was a nursing student when this pandemic broke out, and I got sick very early. I’m young, (30), but months and months later I’m still healing. Currently dealing with an inflamed thyroid. Pretty terrible what it does to you. But I hope to get better and continue on to be a nurse eventually.

Thank you as always for these updates, I appreciate them and the effort you put into them.

Just wanted to add another voice to this conversation… I feel a lot of this.

As a student entering my final year of university, this fucking pandemic has been unkind to my mental health. What was supposed to be the most productive summer yet (in the context of my career and internships) has devolved into a solely deflated and unmotivated experience.

Almost all of us have retreated to social media outlets when quarantine started, and I’ve done the same. As a result— I’ve felt nothing but shock when I see people raise hell against masks and distancing, seemingly without a care for their health and the community’s. Anger at our government’s ineptitude, especially at top of the federal response; at the man who, at a time when the country most needed strong leadership, bragged about packing thousands into small arenas to hear him fan racist remarks and speak of how great he was at drinking water from one hand.

And most prevalent of all— exhaustion! Of missing the friends I shared lecture halls and road trips with, and of missing the simple, mundane things like commuting to school and feeling the hustle of campus. Of the fatigue that comes with every “bad” piece of data that shows how stubborn the virus is, and the helplessness over realizing just how long this quarantine may last. Then there’s the ramifications that COVID-19 will have on my search for a job in an industry that has been decimated, to put it lightly, in recent months.

I’m doing my best to stop myself from going insane. Video games and YouTube videos, daily runs and workouts, safely spending time outside with parents and calling friends. But when I set time aside to do something “productive,” like working on projects, I just sit, stare, and do nothing. It’s a terrible loop of “I should get to work”/“I don’t have the energy, maybe later,” and I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve being robbed of a year of my life.

I’m aware that some of you will see me as a random crybaby on the Internet who hasn’t got a clue of what “the real world” is like. Maybe I am. I know that some of you have faced worse consequences— people who’ve actually contracted the virus or lost their job, and people who’ve lost their loved ones to this thing. I hope you’re doing well and OK, and (don’t take this the wrong way, but) I’m incredibly grateful that I’m not in your shoes.

Perhaps the best advice I could give (and receive) during these times is on our city’s seal. Stay vigilant and aware, San Diego— of your health, physical and mental, and keep a keen eye on that of your family, friends, and community. ❤️

No, you’re not a “crybaby.” You’re dealing with real problems. It’s tough. I’m lucky — I have a very understanding wife to talk to, and she keeps me sane. I hope you have someone to talk to as well, and if you don’t, the only advice I could give is to find someone. Millions of us are frustrated as hell, mad, bored, disappointed, and a whole lot of other things. We can’t keep this stuff bottled up.

Good luck!

Thanks for the reply! I do talk to friends, from people I hung out with a lot pre-pandemic to some long-lost ones, and it’s so cathartic; the fact that this has been an opportunity to reconnect with them has been somewhat of a silver lining. They largely echo what I’m feeling, and I take solace in the fact that I know I’m not alone.

Thanks for devoting time to update and inform the California subreddit community. I yearn for the day you, and all of us, can finally rest in earnest.

My mental health is still good, but I feel more angry now. I feel angry that so many neighbors down the street are running parties every weekend. I am angry that even smart people on my social media are going to beaches and bachelorettes, posting pictures of themselves hugging others. I’m angry of seeing people in grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops with masks on, yet standing shoulder to shoulder with their friend (who I’m sure does not live with them because I can hear their “catching up conversations.”) I’m angry that my husband and I feel like we are the only ones who actually care about masking up or socially distancing at all.

It creates a sense of…why? What am I doing this for, if so many around me do not care as much as I care?

My husband and I are extremely lucky that we can work from home and do not have to choose between our livelihood or death. But I cannot say the same for my immediate family members who have to make that choice. It seems like, as a country, we are sacrificing the poor to capitalism.

Anyhow, thank you for letting me ramble and rant. And thank you again for all your updates and reports. I look forward to them every day!

Last night, I was listening to Michelle Obama’s speech, and it reminded me of what is possible in this country, even with all the crazies we have. In 2016, there were a lot of people who thought there vote didn’t matter. Today, while there are still some people like that, I think most people understand this is maybe the most important vote they will ever make in their lifetimes.

The selfish people who don’t care about public health feel either confused or confident what they’re doing is all right because that’s the message they get from the White House. I really do think we can change that in November, but only if everyone gets out there and does everything possible to make this an absolute landslide denunciation of Trump.

And thanks to you both for watching out for the health of others!

I’m just trying to get as fit as I can. That is my best advice for everybody. I’ve been working out quite hard for the past 2 months and my resting pulse is in the 50s now so I’m happy about that. Good luck with everything u/Zorgi23

I appreciate all you do and all you share with us. It’s incredibly important for people not to feel alone in this, “I should be taking better care of myself” mentality (yet another covid-related stressor). ❤️

Hey, new to the sub, just wanted to say that this post is everything I needed today, thank you! I’ve been looking for good stats centered around LA and I hadn’t found it, your work is awesome!

This morning happened to also be my wake up call. My mental health has been steadily declining for the past 3 weeks, and I really needed to come to terms with the causes and try to turn it around. My problem is I feel guilt for literally everything. I relate a lot to what you said: we’re not all in this together. I’m very privileged, I’ve got a stable job where I can work from home most days of the week. I feel I should do everything in my privilege to stay inside to ease the burden on others. I feel guilty for staying inside letting life pass by while other people seem to be out and about. But I also feel guilty for going outside: I’ve put my bike on the trainer so that others can use the paths for commuting, I’ve moved towards more canned foods (to the detriment of my diet) so that I could stretch my grocery trips farther, etc. etc. But I still feel guilty and helpless. I feel guilt for letting WFH creep into my personal space. I feel guilt for letting my personal space creep into WFH when I need a break during work. I feel guilt for running out of ways to be productive inside the apartment and booting up some video games. I feel guilt for being so mentally weak when I have it relatively easy.

As an introvert, I was doing great until 3 weeks ago. Then, I burned out on the bike trainer; I couldn’t bear the sound of free wheels buzzing outside while I trained staring at a wall, putting myself in mental and physical pain. I no longer exercise. WFH took over my mental space. COVID blew up in July, and it really feels like there’s no end in sight. Cycling is supposed to be very low risk, so I really have to get back outside… I just figured I needed to do my part and leave the local bike paths open for commuting rather than my lycra-clad ass. I also have to really work on WFH hygiene and get back into my groove. It’s exactly as you said, I know what the answer is, the pandemic is just such a potent excuse.

And that’s me venting into the void, if you read this far lol. Next week is a new week! Let’s turn it around!

Thanks so much for writing. Judging by the responses to this post, I’d say a whole bunch of us are having problems dealing with this stupid pandemic. It’s not easy, especially when you’re trying to do the right thing. I’m very familiar with everything you’re going through.

I think part of getting through this thing is not just keeping healthy physically and mentally, but if we have some relative privileges, using those privileges to change the situation. We have 76 days until the election. We all must do what we can to turn this country around. I truly believe that if Trump is reelected, that could very well be the end of our country as we know it.

So those of us who have some relative privilege must use it as a weapon. Use it to educate others, to help them vote, to support candidates at every level, from the dog catcher to the president, who will repudiate this travesty of a government. Now is not the time to give into cynicism. As Obama said tonight, the people who came before us had far more reason than we do to say that the system didn’t work for them. But they kept fighting to make it work. We must do that as well.

As someone (on the younger side) who has been indefinitely furloughed from two jobs (one of them being a fitness instructor), it really sucks feeling like I’m being gaslight by nearly everyone around me. I’ve been home long enough that my car battery has died, and it makes me want to punch a wall when I see “friends” posting pics with other people from different families all hanging out together as if COVID-19 is just a myth. Really nothing to add, but it’s getting tiresome, and lonely working out alone in my kitchen. I miss my participants (many being seniors, and a huge reason why I continue to do my part), and the normalcy of my old routine. I’m sad because I know it will never be what it was, even when gyms open back up. My class is not guaranteed to have a place on the schedule, and that fact alone makes me want to cry knowing I may never teach again. Thanks for letting me vent.

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