How are you doing?
This is the most serious pandemic since the Spanish influenza and information, we know, is critical in keeping anxiety down. People, in general, feel anxious in the unknown.
I thought a post that pulled together the various ways people are coping would be helpful. Please feel free to add your own in the Comments section below.
I’ve found four areas that have helped me: humor, exercise (easier in a rural area than urban, granted), music, and trust in your information sources. The exercise section is somewhat hidden, I will admit.
At the heart of each of these, though, is connection. We are social animals, after all, and it can be painful to be, to feel, isolated. I’ve found as I looked at each of my coping mechanisms (to reiterate: humor, exercise, music, and trust in our sources of information) that each one, in its own way, helps me stay connected to others.
Erma Bombeck once said, “When humor goes, there goes civilization.” And it must be true, for Google had an image for it.
Stephen Colbert summed up this crisis and got a laugh at the end as well (from me):
“This coronavirus … it’s making people nervous,” he said last Wednesday. “It’s making people anxious. But I think at a time like this we all need to laugh, to be together,” and then backing away, “from a distance of about 20 feet.”
In the early weeks of this pandemic, I was confused about what to believe.
You heard all the advice:
Be sure to wear a mask. Don’t bother; masks keep germs in, not out.
Stay six feet away. Stay home.
Sing Happy Birthday for 20 seconds. No; sing it for 40 seconds. That last was advice for washing your hands.
The wide-ranging advice was flying fast and furious even a week ago. Everyone, it seemed, had an opinion, presented as fact.
Granted, I began this post sitting in Vermont, not Seattle or Tehran or Wuhan. Still, not knowing what to believe was causing me more concern than the virus itself. I found that jokes, humor, anchored me. There is no ambiguity for me in what I find funny; it either is or it isn’t (to me).
Here’s the first Coronavirus related image that made me chuckle. It showed up in my Facebook feed one morning last week, unexpectedly:
Turns out, Helen was just wandering past this ill-timed display and snapped her photo. It wasn’t planned, and it was that absurdity that made it amusing (to me).
The toilet paper hoarding got lots of air time.
“Coronavirus Jokes are spreading (almost) as fast as the actual COVID-19,” read the March 10 headline from the The Gazette, and with it came this image of someone hiding in a bunker built of rolls of toilet paper in the middle of their living room:
Humor is universal. And the use of humor universally is a good reminder that not only is this a true pandemic (affecting people around the world), the use of humor as an antidote is something we human beings share, around the world. I like that reminder. It feels like one more way we connect.
Music is another way we connect. Who hasn’t been moved by the many images of quarantined Italians singing out their balconies? The link is via Laurie Buchanan’s FB page on March 12, 2020 (thanks, Laurie).
The LA Times reports that in the hardest hit country outside of China,
I love the fourth video, the one of the two doctors dancing, finding joy even while masked from head to toe. But the others are also of interest. I hope you’ll check it out.
Music comes in many forms, thankfully.
On March 12th, the Berlin Philharmonic gave their scheduled concert, in a vacant hall, streaming the event over the Internet at no charge. And for the next month they are offering free access to their entire archive of concerts and films.
You’re welcome. Thanks goes to the director of the hospice choir we sing in, Suzanne Rhodes, who found it and passed it along to all of us, digitally of course. Now, I pass it along to you.
Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I think about how tedious it has become to sing Happy Birthday as timekeeper for hand washing (remember, it’s the friction that’s important; use that nail brush). Here is my ever-growing list in no particular order of other choices you have.
Jolene, Dolly Pardon
Staying Alive, BeeGees
Livin’ On a Prayer, Bon Jovi
Cecelia, Simon & Garfunkel
What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye
Over the Rainbow, Judy Garland
Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Cyndi Lauper
But the best news of all is this new website called Wash Your Lyrics. Open it, enter the song you want to sing while washing your hands and it’ll …. oh bother. Just go take a look. It’s really fun. Here’s what I Will Survive, by Gloria Gaynor looks like via Wash Your Lyrics.
How are WE coping on our 30 isolated acres? Exercise
My 90-year-old mother lives nearby, alone, and eager to stack our wood again this spring. She hates that this virus has kept her from her volunteer work at the local hospital, the community dinners she enjoys so much, her new job with the US Census, and the Democratic Party she’s been treasurer of since moving up here 12 years ago. She and I get out for a brief walk up our hill a few times a week.
Woody, 81, has been teaching online the past seven or eight years, so, that won’t change. He’s in the early draft of a new book and is in the PT phase of his recent rotator cuff surgery, so his activities keep him at home anyway, especially now that our hospice chorus is on hiatus; that had been the only outing he’d had since his shoulder surgery in January. He’s content to continue his life pretty much as it’s been. But he also occasionally drops noises that sound much like, “I’m in the severely impacted demographic.” Or, “When I catch this…” I just let him be. And try to get him out to hike up our hill once a day.
As for me, 71, I’m mystified by some of my actions. On one of my earlier food shopping treks, with future corona-induced quarantines in mind, I thought only of having enough — ready for this? — dishwasher detergent! I kept thinking, if we get sick the LAST thing I want to be doing is washing dishes by hand. As of this writing, I can do 38 loads of dishes before we run out. But I will run out of the walnuts we use each morning in about two weeks. I’ll also run out of hair goop, but who cares! (though maybe I will once I run out).
I’m not worried about this virus, though I wonder sometimes if I should be. Worry for me has always been a waste of energy, engaged in by those who don’t know what else to do.
I do fear its power to overwhelm our health care system, though, maybe “respect its power to overwhelm” would be more accurate. In either event, I keep in mind the most important lesson I learned from the many holocaust memoirs I’ve read over the years: we are able to survive so much more than we ever would have believed.
If you’d like to read what the experts are saying on social distancing, here’s a primer from the folks at SAMHSA
What to believe, to whom to listen
Finally, I trust my news sources to give me the facts I need when I need them. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t bother to read them. Vermont Digger, for example, my local newspaper, brings me local and state-wide news each morning, including updates on what’s happening COVID related here in my own backyard.
Checking just now, I learned that we’ve gone from 6 cases yesterday, the 15th, to 12 cases today. Doubled in 24 hours.That helps me feel even better about staying at home. Not everyone can do that. But I can, and I’m willing to because I know, I believe, it will make a difference.
There’s this article from the American Psychological Association on what to pay attention to while keep social distance. It was written in 2014, back when we were first getting warned about this very possibility. (Now there’s a digression I’m eager to pursue).
I believe I have a part to play in helping to contain the spread — flatten that curve, as they call it. And, as much as I’m able, I will do that.
I don’t need to go to the post office everyday. I won’t need to go food shopping for three weeks, maybe more. (though I will run out of walnuts before then!) I don’t need to see my clients face to face necessarily; most will just postpone; one I will see via Zoom. And we’ve blocked our AirBnB listing through April. This is all doable.
We won’t eat out, not even take-out. I will, however, buy gift certificates via phone to support the restaurants I want to keep alive. Hopefully, those restaurants will still be around to take them from me, slowly, once life gets back to normal.
To me, this is like recycling. I’d not make much of a difference doing this by myself, alone. But when I’m one of many, together we make a huge difference. Together, we may make all the difference, and that feels quite social, in its own way.
How about you? How are you coping during this strange, new chapter of our lives?
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