Donna Tavano: Abiding The Ides

In our sandy corner of the world, March is the most boring month. Constrained by bone chilling cold and emptied pockets, thanks to taxes and utility expenses, we are also held hostage by political blah, blah, blahs and the prospect of the influenza virus sneaking into our bodies via our unsuspecting nostrils. One of the few months with no long weekends, its only saving grace is St. Patrick’s Day, which momentarily distracts us with the prospects of good luck shamrocks and pots o’ gold, but quickly leaves us bereft, lingering green beer hangovers in its wake.

There is, of course, the Ides of March, the 15th day? Ides? The Romans did not count the days as we do, and used points in the month, the nones, ides and the kalends, counting three days back from those times…crazy system, glad it disappeared. Anyway, the day was goddess Anna Perenna’s festival, representing long life and renewal; her name meant annual and perennial. March was the first month of their year, and like our New Year, it was celebrated with much drinking and revelry. It was said you would live as long as cups of wine you could drink, so quite the fun and games then, eh? As it turned out, the distracting events allowed assassins to take out Caesar, who had been warned of such. The Ides became a bad luck day of caution. It was ironic, however, that his death signaled the end of the Roman Republic but heralded the beginning of the Roman Empire which provided a few centuries of peace and prosperity.

Our March is boring, a word which did not exist in English until 1776. Those poor souls spent so much of their time surviving plagues, persecution and war, they simply had no time to be bored. Boredom stems from a lack of stimulation. When we perform repetitive routines and tasks, less dopamine is released to the brain, so we crave more excitement, which, when we get it, leads to more brain activity and dopamine. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “Isn’t life a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?” True, but ya can’t argue with science, Freddie—at least most of us can’t.

So how do we pull ourselves out of this muck of a March funk? You know the drill; it’s the same advice for maintaining a youthful attitude and agelessness. Stay stimulated. Here is a free personal prescription with a few to no side effects. I am not a doctor, just a columnist playing one in print.

1. Get to the library and borrow a Playaway, a tiny audio book you can listen to while walking, requiring only ear buds and a battery. It can motivate you to exercise—if you want to hear the next chapter, you have to go for a walk.

2. One woman walks through her house during March with a bit of touch up paint and a brush and covers up all the dents and scratches that appeared over the year.

3. Pull a “Marie Kondo:”pick a distressed drawer, confused cabinet or a cluttered closet, and gather up those orphan screws and keys from unknown doors three houses ago. Examine your dishware, how many mugs do one or two people need? Take a cup and start smashing, literally. Pick a colorful one, put it in a box or dishpan, cover it with a towel and start hammering. Use the pieces as mosaics, glued with odd bits of old jewelry and beads on a wood shape, like a crab or fish cut by you, or bought at a craft store. Voila, you are more creative than you thought!

4. Hop a bus to Provincetown with a friend, or by yourself, explore what’s open, have lunch.

5. Visit a museum or exhibition you’ve never seen.

6. Search out a guided Audubon or conservation walk, and finally identify the birdsong you’ve heard for half your life and know not from whom it came.

7. Read the dictionary, just one page will show you tons of things you never knew that you never knew.

8. Hang around interesting people. It often rubs off.

9. Haunt thrift shops. Patronizing them supports a good cause, you’ll wax nostalgic when you find the Flintstone jelly glass you had as a kid, and you might find a pair of Pottery Barn pillows for $8, not $88.

10. Volunteer at the food pantry, Wildcare or church, you’ll meet goodhearted folk with a sense of purpose.

11. Take a hike to the woods or beach, and take some close ups of interesting natural patterns of shells, wood, etc. Print them on photo paper and buy a box of blank stationery and envelopes from the craft store. Affix your photos and you have some artsy, unique cards. I saved $40 on Valentine’s Day making cards for nine grandkids.

12. Label and document a bit of history on anything in your house you or someone in the family made, or bought, that is special to you. Someday, when you aren’t around anymore, your family will appreciate it more than you know.

If all else fails, you’re still bored, and a teensy bit anxious about that nasty coronavirus, start stitching up colorful quirky face masks (people actually are doing this.) You can sell or give them away, if needed. There may be some ironic superstitious insurance in this, like when you buy the snow blower and there is no snow that winter. Before you realize it, March will have marched itself into memory and we’ll be complaining about April showers.