Under cover of early morning darkness today, masked and gloved, I sneaked into Von's Market, accepting a freshly sanitized shopping cart from a worker at the door. As I passed the colorful Easter candy display, I felt a sharp pain, like a kick, grip my stomach as tears sprang to my eyes. No Easter gathering this year. I pushed the cart forward and worked to shed the jab of the emotional toll this lockdown is having on us.
The day before, on the walking trail with my dogs, a man approached from about thirty feet away, and seeing me, lifted a mask to his face. I quickly veered out into the empty street. He lowered his mask and gave me a brief wave from a great distance.
Something like four billion of us on the planet are under mandatory lockdown. In the 200,000 years of anatomically modern humans, there has never been such an isolation occurrence. Firstly, across human history the populations have been much smaller, and certainly no opportunity for mass communication. You and I, right now, are living history.
We Baby Boomers grew up learning about the agonies of the Great Depression, hoping no such thing would befall us. The recent strong economy and low unemployment rates have lulled us into a sense of safety and comfort. That view has suddenly been shattered.
Ken and I have been deeply respectful of the CDC guidelines.Staying in, spraying down grocery bags, sanitizing the groceries, and leaving packages on the porch for several days. Our schedules are pretty open. For the most part we are doing okay. Across our long marriage my chief complaint has been that I wished my husband were home more. Well he's home now and I have plenty of time with him. Guess what? I like it! The other day, when I returned from a walk, he was so proud because he had been sewing!! (I know, Ken sewing is pretty wild!). He proceeded to demonstrate his creation. Using a clean white dusting cloth and a paper coffee filter, he had manufactured a serviceable mask. He was so proud!
Anyway, we've completed a few projects around the house, read some books, and of course done a lot of cooking, but what surprises me is how exhausting it is not doing that much. Do you, too, feel a strain of exhaustion?
It occurs to me that many of us are in a type of grief mode. If it is not grief, certainly it is anxiety. The economists agree that we are headed for a deep recession. The financial unknown out there alone is plenty to scare us, and certainly the daily CORONA VIRUS DEATH REPORT is enough to do in the strongest of us.
Our losses are lurking under many different layers: not seeing our loved ones, having our freedom of movement curtailed, losing our daily schedule and its familiar comforts of coworkers, the mental challenges of work, and feeling the sting of missing our friends. Others of us are beginning to experience the agony of actually losing loved ones to this virus.
As a survivor of child abuse I have had a default "setting" for "hyper-vigilance." What this means is that I am unconsciously preparing for the next assault. It's possible that you also may be unconsciously gearing up for the next blow. This is a hard way for us to live. Our reaction to the world pandemic may be the only aspect over which we have some control. Perhaps this is a good time to work on training our brains. For me, I now recognize that I feel exhausted because my world has upended. Going forward I am going to respect that fact and give myself a break, maybe even a nap!
So recognizing how stressed we actually feel is a good first step. Deciding to control it is another positive move. This is a good time to calm our minds through meditation, walking, yoga and relaxation techniques. Maybe we should limit the time we watch the news. Every time the economists discuss the next most dire prediction, I feel my anxiety climbing.
I downloaded Zoom and am having "meetings" with my family. I am also getting better at remembering to use Facetime, and being grateful. Brain science has proven that when we live in gratitude our happiness levels elevate. In addition, when we help others, we tend toward feeling better. The local food banks desperately need our help, as do elders who need grocery deliveries. Our friends need phone calls and texts. My beautiful daughter-in-law texted me this sign: INTROVERTS PUT DOWN YOUR BOOK AND CALL YOUR EXTROVERT FRIENDS. THEY ARE NOT OKAY!! Yes, we can help our friends and neighbors.
Certainly there is no silver bullet that is going to rescue us anytime soon. The laboratories around the world are working as fast as they can on a vaccine. For now we are keeping our distance and wearing masks. It seems to me that it is our job to respect how truly stressful this is and give ourselves permission to understand that: this is a really big deal! In the meantime my family and friends continue to share outrageously hilarious videos and photos. I love the Chris Mann Youtube parody on the right margin. The other night my friend sent this question to me: DOES ANYONE KNOW IF WE CAN TAKE SHOWERS YET OR SHOULD WE JUST KEEP WASHING OUR HANDS?