I was enjoying some nitrous oxide, reclining in the dentist’s chair, awaiting an impending root canal. It was February, but it feels like forever ago. My dentist, and his tech were bantering about 2 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Maryland. I live in Pennsylvania, but said nothing, my mouth propped open by some torture device. That was the first time I sensed the swell of a tidal wave, inevitably heading in my direction. 'This is for real' I thought. It’s only one state away, and it’s coming. I felt something like fear, albeit muted, thanks to the nitrous.
Over the weeks that followed, I’ve volleyed between feelings of disbelief, and harsh acceptance. Back and forth. Back and forth. Today, fear and surrender are part of my regular emotional diet, and sometimes they occupy my brain at the same time. To say this is surreal, while also very real, makes me sound and feel like a crazy person. Like many of us have, I’ve cobbled together my own coping strategies, which boil down to this: control what you can and forget the rest. My daily mental pep talk? 'Let that shit go'.
Letting it go, the shit I mean, is sometimes easier said than done. But most days, I do a decent job of it. So here are my lessons learned from this crisis, as of this moment in time (subject to change):
- Netflix is everything. As are Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO GO, YouTube… you get the picture. If the alternative is CNN or NPR, to consume the harsh and tragic realities of the world right now? Sure, give me all the juicy, mind-numbing, brain-rotting, binge-worthy TV shows. Heck, I’ve even watched the Tiger King and have formulated my own opinions and suspicions about Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. Who the eff am I?
- Walmart employees are brave, but not always trained with the tools to select appropriate substitutes for out-of-stock grocery items. Let’s just say that when I ordered hamburger buns, for umm, hamburgers, hot dog buns were not an acceptable substitute. But thank you for trying. Sincerely.
- My husband is the perfect quarantine partner, sharing my appetite for juicy Netflix shows and the load for ongoing household chores. He vacuums, does all of the laundry, and he politely devours the meals I've cobbled together from whatever substitutions we get. Hey, cutting a burger in strips, so it fits on a hot dog bun, is evidently NOT the end of the world.
- When you hear rumors that the grocery store shelves are absent of toilet paper, believe it… it’s not a rumor. Still, curiosity got the best of me, and I had to go see it for myself. The toilet paper aisle was starkly empty, as in, not even one single roll of the crappiest (pun intended), flimsy, rolled paper. Void (sorry) of anything that could be a fair substitute for toilet paper, like cocktail napkins, paper towels or handi-wipes. That’s when the shit got even more real (again, pun intended).
- In 2-months, I have not set foot inside a grocery store, until today. Our favorite Starbucks Sumatra coffee was missing from last night's grocery delivery. And, I used the last 6-scoops this morning, meaning, tomorrow there would be no coffee. Did you hear me? This is a code-blue-dire-wtf-crisis situation of the highest level (only partially joking). The only thing important enough to set foot inside a grocery store? Evidently it's coffee. Go figure.
- Rationing toilet paper is a real thing, even with 8-freshly delivered rolls. In the spirit of conserving vital resources, 8-squares of toilet paper, versus the preferred baseball-mitt-sized wad, will do the job adequately, if you’re careful.
- My neighborhood is very walkable, as evidenced by the number of people I see on a daily basis. And my neighbors are well-mannered, taking turns shifting from sidewalk to street, and street back to sidewalk, when they see us coming. I hope one day we can all meet for a block party, on the same side of the street, sharing pot luck dishes, quarantine stories and a good laugh.
- Sticking to a familiar routine is important. I still wake up early to workout (most days), and get to work by 9am, (most days). But I also give in to the occasional lack of motivation. And sometimes I “sleep-in” until 6am, or don’t get to work until 10am, because somedays I just can’t. I’m learning that's okay too. I’m not failing at life, I’m human. I feel things, sometimes more deeply than I would like, with a view of humanity that ranges from selfish ignorance, to grace, humility and service.
- Whiskey, (2-fingers, 2-ice cubes) is a perfectly acceptable coping tool. Sometimes it's okay to smooth the edge and loosen my grip a little. No judging.
- I’m waaay more OCD than I ever thought. This pandemic has made me more compulsive about hand-washing, wiping down counter tops and packages, and holding my breath when I pass someone without a mask. Was I germ phobic before the pandemic? Am I forever destined to be that person who can’t shake the icky, infected feeling when someone coughs or sneezes within earshot? Probably.
With plenty of time to observe, obsess and overthink, these are some of the things I’ve learned during the pandemic. But, there’s one more thing, and it’s the most important of all. I’ve confirmed what I’ve always suspected but never tested; I’m a pretty simple girl, and the simplest things make me happy. Chillaxing on the couch with my hubby, Zoom calls for Taco Tuesday or game night with my kids, strong hot coffee in my favorite mug, silly feline shenanigans, time to imagine, plan and create, and an open mind and heart. Because for every one thing I have not been able to do, I can count at least two ways in which I'm blessed. Probably more. That’s beyond remarkable… it’s everything really.