Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33

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!

I posted this one in my post on March 18.


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.


The Peace Corps provided us with some helpful guidelines. This one continues to help.


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.”)


It’s become well recognized that grief does not flow in quite so orderly a fashion. We often swing back and forth, skip a stage or two altogether, or get stuck. We all have our own individual way of grieving, whatever the cause. 

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.



[learn_more caption=”Bob Dylan’s Lyrics”] Come gather ’round, people Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

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'[/learn_more]


How about you? How are you doing? What’s been changing in your world? What do you trust? 

27 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    A great post, Janet. I especially like the things you trust. Some things will change to be sure but some things will always be there, the sun, the moon, family, love. Thanks for these wonderful words. xo

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Darlene. If I were in a pessimistic mood, I’d remind you that the sun is expected to burn out in 5 billion years or so. (or is it million?) But I’m feeling optimistic today so I’ll just say thanks. And wasn’t it marvelous how we ALL could see that same full moon not so long ago?
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  2. susan scott
    | Reply

    I remember a piece about these 5 stages of grief in the time of corona; the author of that added a 6th – to find meaning. It may have been a Huffpost piece, it may have been NYT, I don’t remember. But this is what I’m grappling with – yes, Mother Nature is re-asserting herself and this is wonderful and there is meaning in that .. the heroes on the medical front line and all those from the sweepers, cleaners, delivery people and so on…

    I’m wondering whether to chance the shops for essential provisions. If i do, it will be the first time in about 4 weeks. Our son Mike (who lives about 10 mins away) has done the shopping for us and delivered. I’m trying to figure out whether my wish to get other stuff is because of itchy feet and get OUT (it’s such a gorgeous day) and aim for normalcy even if fully masked and gloved. Unsure –

    It’s a strange strange world we live in Master Jack – a song from a long ago, A South African group …

    Thanks Janet, stay well.
    susan scott recently posted…Pesach and EasterMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Finding meaning in our life is so important; I wonder if one needs acceptance in order to find meaning, or if one needs to find meaning in order to find acceptance? And finding meaning, finding that silver lining, that lesson to be learned, is the challenge currently. May be too soon. I takes me back to 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall. My International Politics professor at the time thought THAT would be the event that set the start of the new millennium. And then we had 9/11

      Good luck on your outing, Susan. I hope you fully enjoy yourself while out (in your mask and gloves). We’re waiting for our new hi-tech masks to arrive from Woody’s seamstress niece before we go back out again.

      Master Jack! I remember that one. I’d forgotten Four Jacks and a Jill was a So. African group. Was it about the UK’s rule or about the diamond mines? But the basic idea, “It’s a very strange world we live in, Master Jack” rings true. Thanks; always good to have you.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  3. Clive Pilcher
    | Reply

    An interesting take on things, Janet. I hadn’t see the five stages model before and I can see how appropriate it is to our current circumstances. For me, it’s been a case of ‘same old, same old’ as I’m pretty restricted at the best of times, but I can see how this has impacted much more on others, such as yourself. Keep the faith, I’m sure there’s a positive ending to all of this. Who knows, you may even come out of it with the government that your country needs, not the one you have!
    Clive Pilcher recently posted…Tuesday Tunes 4My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh wouldn’t that be a true silver lining. One can only hope! Thanks, Clive. And my best wishes for you staying healthy over there. The recovery of your PM bodes well for your health care system. Or does it say more about his constitution?
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  4. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    You are echoing the thoughts of many with your typical, fact-based research.

    Another blogger recently mentioned Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief regarding this crisis in her recent post. I remember March 13 as the date I was fully aware that this was a global event, no denial there. But by Sunday, the 15th, I had hit the anger stage. My husband wrote a story about my reaction, which you may see in a few weeks. :-/

    I trust that we’ll get through this, but we will be forever changed, just like those who survived the 1918 Spanish flu. I trust in the cycles of seasons: seedtime and harvest, summer and winter and in God’s protection, no matter what.

    As always, you put a lot of time and effort into this post, with thoughtful comments. Thanks, Janet!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Comment on Tips from Two Quaker Oats Boxes by Jill WeatherholtMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you for that “cycle of seasons” idea, Marian. Nature has often presented herself to me as a higher power I can relate to. The tides, particularly. So very powerful; so very much more powerful than any of us earthlings. As for my post, I actually wrote it yesterday. I’d had another one all ready to go, a week by week account of how we had been faring, complete with lots of photos of us with curb-side delivery, masks, our last Take-out stop, etc. It just seemed to plod along. So, I got into the moment. I’m glad I did. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  5. Merril D. Smith
    | Reply

    I was doing OK, as I’m used to being home and I’ve worked from home for a long time. There are a some things that I’ve enjoyed, like Zoom Friday night dinners with our daughters. But I’ve been getting more anxious–feeling like I can only take walks early in the morning, being anxious when my husband goes out for groceries or other essential errands. Then my mom tested positive, and one of our cats got sick and died. . .Monday night I just felt like the whole world was broken. Of course, I’m also terrified that the horror in the White House will just continue. . .
    Merril D. Smith recently posted…Mickey: NaPoWriMo2020, Day 14My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m sorry the anxiety is so very present for you, Merril. Do you know about belly breaths? I should write a post about them. Wonderful for activating that parasympathetic nervous system (the one that helps us feel calm). They’re easy, just slow breaths that fill you up like a jug of water — the bottom of the jug fills up first. I’m pushing a new acronym with some of my clients lately: GAB
      Stands for Gratitudes, Actions (we have to stay busy), and Belly Breaths. Try it; you can be my focus group. Yes, I do think I’ll write more about this. Two weeks from now. Next week, we must listen to a bit of music. There’s just so much of it out there.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  6. Arlene Smith
    | Reply

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. I can recognize some of the stages that you mentioned, for sure.
    This situation has the added twist of uncertainty, and that piece is very challenging for many. When there is a shock, like a death, that is a certain, fixed event that people must grapple with. This situation is not fixed and certain, and that makes the grappling all the more difficult.
    I trust in the practice of gratitude. It will help to navigate this kind of situation – wherever it goes.
    I hear your concern about your country. I’m in a different country looking on and trusting that lessons will come from this to make your country even better. The values at the root of your nation are a powerful foundation.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you for your soft, gentle voice here, Arlene. You are spot on with identifying uncertainty. Indeed, that can be so unnerving at any time. And now, with the stakes so very high, it seems doubly so. And thank you for recognizing the values that have helped this country grow — inclusion, progress, tolerance, diversity, equality of opportunity. They all seem so very far away these past few years. Of course we’ve also been known to value youth and prosperity and profit and success and freedom at all costs. I’m afraid I don’t share your trust that we will come out of this better. Not for the vast majority of citizens anyway. Certainly the elites that have been in charge . . . and there I go again. I hope I’m wrong. 🙂 There’s that uncertainly again. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  7. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    I figure if the sun comes out the next day I’ll keep on, keeping on. I trust myself to do my best in difficult times, having proven to myself in the past that I can. And I do believe in the idea that gratitude + good deeds come back to you, so I put my trust in that idea. As for our so-called president? I wouldn’t trust him as far as I can throw him, nor do I trust anyone who still supports him.
    Ally Bean recently posted…Which Three Personality Traits Are Helping You Deal With Today?My Profile

  8. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I resonate with Darlene’s response, Janet. I, too, like the things you trust.

    And I resonate strongly with your statement—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.

    What do I trust? I trust Len so much that yesterday I let him cut my hair with Willa’s Oster clippers. Yep, I was beginning to feel a bit like Rapunzel and asked for a haircut. And while I currently look somewhat like a dandelion, I’m a happy one!

  9. Cheryl
    | Reply

    Hi Janet, we’re a couple of days into week 4 of lock down, and I’ve hit a low point. I’m close to tears every second. I’m speaking harshly to my husband. I’m feeling lost and uncomfortable. I’m scared for the future and for our freedom.
    As you know, I’m also dealing with giving up sugar and chocolate, losing my job, and arriving in a foreign country just before lock down.
    I know I’ll get through this, I’ve lived through worse, but today I’m hurting.
    I trust that my husband will continue to be my rock when I wake up tomorrow, and every day after that.
    Thank you for his post, it’s helped me understand a bit better what I’m going through today.
    Take care. 🙂

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m glad you’ve found some relief here, Cheryl. You’ve reminded me of an affirmation I once created for myself, nearly 30 years sho now (so I can smile at it) “I’m right where I need to be, and it sucks.” Hang in there. The sun WILL come out tomorrow. Or next month anyway. Hugs to you
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

      • Cheryl
        | Reply

        Thank you Janet, I appreciate your very kind words. I’ll borrow your 30 year old affirmation, if you don’t mind! It’s very apt right now, isn’t it?!
        The good news is that my husband still loves me very much after yesterday’s mild meltdown, and I’m feeling a little bit better. Thanks for the hugs, they’re very much needed. Hope you’re well and keeping your spirits up. 🙂 x

  10. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    Thanks for a thoughtful post, Janet. It’s great to be reminded that we’re all in this together–that we’re not alone. That alone gives us hope!

  11. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hi Janet. Interesting that the stages of culture shock and the 5 stages of grief both end with “acceptance.” This has always been a bit of a bugaboo for me, i.e., accepting those things I cannot change. Like you, I can personally accept the day-to-day realities of pandemic life (albeit, not without some difficulty at times), but struggle with the larger picture. I suppose for me it’s not so much a matter of what I trust (I do have some of those, thankfully), but what I don’t. It’s a long list, and includes things like billionaires, politicians, the voting public, a supposedly higher power, markets, corporations, and on and on. Whether I trust humanity is pretty much the million dollar question. Regardless, I don’t know where or if we come out of this mess, and I can’t accept or trust that it will be a good place. So, it’s one day at a time for me, one foot in front of the other. Some days are better than others, and all have been better than they have been for many. Perspective, mores than trust, is my best hope for acceptance.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Tim. Always good to hear from you. Acceptance of the unacceptable is the means to plan your prison escape (I’ve always liked that analogy). For me, it’s where I find serenity. As for where I don’t put my trust, yeah, that’d be a long list for me as well. Perspective matters. As does permission to let yourself float along this roller coaster for awhile. Drink tea. 🙂
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

  12. Pamela
    | Reply

    As always, I enjoy your intelligent thoughtful posts, Janet. I feel weird because I’m not sure I’ve gone through any of these stages yet (and I know several of my friends have – and they are sitting in “anger” right now). I think we humans are arrogant to not think we’ll all be affected globally by disease and ignorance and keeping our eyes closed to reality. Just look at Global Warming. Humans want to just live ‘for the moment’ instead of thinking long-term for the human race, for all creatures, and for this planet. (I’m amazed as I write this all down, because I’m a moderate thinker politically and emotionally, but I think I’m most distressed by how humans react as if this crisis is unusual). History shows the world grows through crisis after crisis. The operative word here is -will we GROW after this? I certainly hope so. We need so many changes politically (I’m with Merril’s comment) and humanely. The uneven cycle of wealth and poverty needs to change. The ‘close our eyes to Nature’ needs to stop. If this crisis makes a change in humans’ response to our world, being kinder and more proactive, then I’ll be a happy woman. Personally, I’m an introvert. I stay home and write and practice yoga and walk in the wooded trails nearby. I miss visiting family big time; I miss going to my dance classes and teaching my writing classes and lunching with friends. But as you say, this will pass. The question is – will it all make a difference in our future? (Thanks for letting me think out loud here.) xo
    Pamela recently posted…Men in BlackMy Profile

  13. Frank Moore
    | Reply

    I’d been wondering why folks were freaking out about not being able to move about freely and go out and about. Then I realized that as Rose’s caregiver I’ve been sheltering in place for several years now. I’ve gone through the stages – – including anger and mild depression (both of which still occasionally raise their head) — and pretty much have accepted my personal culture. However, I’m still very much in the angry stage as far as what’s happening in our country. Perhaps some of that anger is transference. But only a bit of it.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      You know, Frank, we don’t have a socially acceptable way to show anger, except (maybe) by joining a social movement and marching. But as individuals, if we are angry in this culture, we’re generally shunned. I hereby call for a national Let’s Get Angry Day. Not sure one day is enough, but we must start somewhere. What would we do to express our anger? Can’t really hit someone; that wouldn’t work. For me, I’d want to yell and probably throw something. Something that made noise when it broke? Yeah, I’m getting there.

      What do you do with your anger? It does take movement of some sort. Some folks jog. Some use sports effectively. That’s how I learned the word “sublimation” in 6th grade — “the boys joined the baseball team so they could sublimate their excess energy for good” — something like that.

      You have good reason to be angry, frustrated, indignant even. And tired. I hope you have ways of taking care of yourself. You know the old “oxygen mask” analogy I’m sure.

      If you find a socially acceptable way of expressing your anger that doesn’t involve organized sports, do let me know. I’d be happy to join you.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Culture Shock and CoViD-19 — Day 33My Profile

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