I don’t know the exact moment that I became fully aware of the seriousness of COVID-19, or the impact that it would have on my daily life, but I’m pretty sure it was the day that I was standing in line at the bank to deposit money from a Girl Scout cookie booth into our troop account. The man next to me was on his phone and it was impossible not to listen.
He was noting for his listener how they would manage for food if things got bad. There were chickens, and a pig that could be eaten. I thought it was a bit of an over-reaction until I went to the grocery store. A lone cream of celery soup sat in a sea of empty shelves. It goes without saying there was no toilet paper.
This was the beginning, in Houston at least. The rodeo shut down. People were in full panic mode. And it was pretty hard not to join in. There were articles with aerial photos of mass graves in Iran. New York’s hospitals were filling up and friends there had scary stories. I sat in the parking lot of the grocery store and listened to a guest on NPR – who was also a psychologist, I think, explain how to try to get in the right headspace for what was to come. I wish I could find the relevant article on NPR, but here’s another good one with some tips.
The therapist talked about a middle ground in your mind between anticipating the worst case scenario and the best case. Knowing what could happen can help you to prepare, while hoping for a vaccine or a plummeting infection rate keeps you from losing your ever-loving mind.
It’s hard to consistently hit that sweet spot, but too much news coverage definitely sends me into a gloom spiral. I’m looking at you Facebook feed. Sticking my head in the sand isn’t the right move either. Because it’s important for our own humanity to recognize the suffering of others. And so I’ll keep the hunt on for the perfect mask. A friend recently shared a link to a news site which covers issues from multiple perspectives – All Sides – which I’ve found helpful.
Other things that have calmed or cheered me. Reading about people who are maintaining their creative flow, poetry from Billy Collins and Kay Ryan, writing my own bad poetry, Jim and Pam on The Office, Tahani Al-Jamil on The Good Place (what’s the deal with her shade for Elon Musk?) and getting out for bike rides with my 80s jams on full blast. Yes Blondie, Dreaming is free.
Now that Houston’s COVID numbers are higher than ever I remind myself that – at some point maybe much later than any of us might have imagined – this too shall pass – and the gratitude for the other side will be immense.