If you are a little bored of Netflix, I encourage you to seek out a YouTube version of Beckett's play Happy Days, written and first staged in New York in 1961. (I watched the film version with Rosaleen Linehan as Winnie, directed by Patricia Rozema.)
On the surface, the play is absurd. A middle-aged, well-preserved (Beckett's words, not mine!) woman wearing a low cut bodice and a pearl necklace is buried up to her waist in a mound amidst a desolate landscape. Beside her there is a large black bag which contains a bunch of items such as a toothbrush, a hairbrush, a mirror, a parasol and - I'll be candid with you - a revolver. There is a hole nearby, where her monosyllabic husband Willie dwells.
In Act I, Winnie wakes up and goes about her daily routine: brushing her teeth, making up her face, all the while chatting merrily, obviously putting an effort to stay cheerful and oblivious to her predicament. In Act II, we find Winnie buried up to her chin, a revolver still nearby but out of reach. Husband Willie is predictably useless, and the last scene ends with a song (the playwright is Irish, remember).
I have no idea what Beckett was originally alluding to with his clever play but you won't be short of ideas of how to interpret his allegory. Winnie might be stuck in a hopeless marriage or she might have lived all her life in a small town, never daring to explore the world beyond her milieu. Winnie could have stayed in a job she hated all her life, but she wasn't brave enough or believed she didn't have the means to move on. Winnie could be stuck at home self-isolating with her good-for-nothing husband, lonely and desperate for help and genuine human contact. She could even represent the entire humankind buried alive amidst the climate crisis, while her husband represents useless governments and policy-makers.
My fascination with the play stems from its very vivid representation of the British "grin and bear" culture. The woman is unhappy, she is in some difficulty, yet she puts of a brave face day in, day out, talking to herself: "No, no... mustn't complain... so much to be thankful for..." Winnie keeps herself sane with her daily routine and her positive mental attitude: "What I find wonderful that not a day goes by without some blessing in disguise." Personally, I'm a big fan of practising gratitude, finding a silver lining in every cloud and keeping to a routine in uncertain times, but Winnie takes "glass half full" attitude to a whole new level.
What's clearly helping Winnie is her bag. It's a sense of security, something solid to hold on to. It helps to understand why people are stockpiling non-perishable items during the Covid-19 outbreak: it's not about the fear of staying hungry - it's about doing something to restore one's peace of mind.
There is a scene where Winnie takes out a parasol from her bag and opens it up. Winnie is struggling to hold it up, she is very uncomfortable, and yet - she finds it impossible to put it down. That's another ingenious metaphor representing all sorts of burdens people are determined to keep carrying instead of resolutely dropping them and taking off both physical and mental loads. So often we feel "grinning and bearing" is the right approach, the righteous path even, but sometimes turning back down the mountain when struck with altitude sickness; closing down an underperforming business or walking away from an unhealthy relationship is the wiser thing to do. I found myself shouting at the screen: "Drop it down, you silly woman!" I can't say she heard me.
What struck me about Happy Days is that it shows how reluctant we are to call for help. They say that the three most difficult things to say are "I'm sorry", "I love you" and "Help". I think "Help" is by far the hardest. Whether you are British and have been brought up with the "stiff upper lip" attitude or whether you are simply a modern independent human being used to relying on yourself, reaching out for help may seem like admitting a weakness or defeat. Now especially one is tempted to think that we are all in the same boat struggling to make sense with what's happening in the world. Asking for a favour may seem like an unreasonable indulgence.
It is not. Asking for help is not a weakness - it's a brave thing to do. You might get ignored, but you might get a lifeline. Most people - who are well, who are safe financially, who are simply fortunate to have their spirits up - are looking for ways to be useful. They want to help and it would make them feel good to do so. History and anthropology tell us that humans survive hardship through cooperation. We wouldn't be here today if our ancestors didn't get together to hunt, fight and look after the weak, i.e. the elderly, pregnant women and children. We wouldn't love our family and friends so fiercely had they not been kind to us when we needed their support.
In times like this, don't be a Winnie. Be brave and ask for help.