The times they are a changin’ sang Bob Dylan way back when.
And, somehow, that feels like a fitting song for these days when so much is changing. For starters,
I’ve gone from sprint mode to marathon mode in the past two weeks.
Three weeks, tops, I had thought at the start. If we all just freeze in place for three weeks, we’ll get on top of this. Flatten that damn curve. We can do this!
I looked at it as an adventure. Look at all those cute coronavirus memes! Humor is a universal antidote!
On March 13, I began counting my self-imposed quarantine days.
Week One was practically fun and I wrote here about all my lovely coping mechanisms.
Week Two saw me out and about twice. I had two checks I had to get in the mail and then there was food, after all. That first venture out, I threw a scarf around my neck.
How serious could this really be? Vermont was far from Seattle, the epicenter then. We had only one confirmed case at the time but it was in an urban area, not here in the woods where I live.
Suffering on the Sofa failed to mention I was Bargaining.
By week three, I’d added a folded bandana mask to my repertoire. Here’s a video on a DIY “No Sew Face Mask” if you are interested.
It was during Week Four that IT HIT ME.
I’ve been living the first three standard culture shock stages: Honeymoon, Anxiety, and Bargaining.
How in the world can I call this CULTURE SHOCK? (I wondered).
This coronavirus has brought us together as never before. Within limited parameters and adjusting for time differences, I can imagine the vast majority of people around the world doing exactly what I’m doing. We’re in this together. We’re all the same after all. What’s the culture shock from then?
MY CULTURE has changed.
My routine, the parts of my life I take for granted — running to the store when we’re out of whatever, getting my eyeglasses adjusted the day I notice they are getting uncomfortable again, welcoming our AirBnB guests each weekend from spring through autumn — are certainly different.
But it’s more than this novel coronavirus. I’m resilient and I know this will pass.
What I don’t know is whether my belief in my country, an America that takes care of its own, will survive. Currently, that belief appears to be hooked up to life support and may yet suffer a fatal demise.
The story I’ve been telling myself about where I live, about the America I thought I knew, is turning into a fantasy I once imagined only in fiction. Fahrenheit 451, The Handmade’s Tale, Animal Farm . . .
That is a huge loss for me. I need to grieve and I’m not there yet.
Remember the Five Stages of Grief, popularized in the late 1960s by the physician Elizabeth Kubler-Ross? I see similarities to the Culture Shock model. (Btw, the “depression” listed here is often called “sadness.”)
I’ve not yet gotten to the Acceptance phases, such a large part of my Peace Corps experience and the motivation for writing my memoir, At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.
What is it, exactly, I am supposed to accept?
Which part of the unacceptable am I actually able to change? Where to put my energy? Where to focus?
What do I put my trust in these days?
I trust that the sun will come up tomorrow morning, that I will not go hungry tomorrow night, and that I’ll get some writing done in between.
I trust that those who love me today will still love me tomorrow.
I trust that my ability to adapt, to be resilient, to accept the unacceptable will not leave me. At least not tomorrow.
I trust that’ll I’ll continue to bitch from time to time. And that Woody will continue to nod his head in agreement.
I trust that the more I stay in today, this moment, the better off I am.
And I trust that music, laughter, dancing, and even cleaning out an occasional kitchen cabinet will continue to work wonders. I’d buy stock in Zoom if I had any money left in my portfolio.
Anxiety is to be expected. Anger and fear are natural ways we might respond.
When I recognize these feelings, I remind myself “feelings are not facts.” I accept the information they provide and remember that while I may not have a choice in how I feel in the moment, I always have a choice in how I respond to those feelings.
Identify, own, and honor Melody Beatty reminded us, in talking about feelings back in the ’80s. The response I’m talking about here has to do with the “honor” part.
Oh yeah, and gratitudes. I’m grateful you’ve read all the way through. Thank you.
I hope you’ll enjoy this classic, the same one I mentioned at the beginning.
Bob Dylan's Lyrics
Come writers and critics Who prophesize with your pen And keep your eyes wide The chance won’t come again And don’t speak too soon For the wheel’s still in spin And there’s no tellin’ who That it’s namin’ For the loser now Will be later to win For the times they are a-changin’
Come senators, congressmen Please heed the call Don’t stand in the doorway Don’t block up the hall For he that gets hurt Will be he who has stalled The battle outside ragin’ Will soon shake your windows And rattle your walls For the times they are a-changin’
Come mothers and fathers throughout the land And don’t criticize what you can’t understand Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command Your old road is rapidly agin’ Please get outta’ the new one if you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin’
The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast The slow one now will later be fast As the present now will later be past The order is rapidly fadin’ And the first one now will later be last For the times they are a-changin’
How about you? How are you doing? What’s been changing in your world? What do you trust?