My husband was at the market today and unwittingly made a woman smile.
She was unsuccessfully trying to juggle SIX DOUBLE ROLLS OF PAPER TOWELS in her hands as she hurried towards the checker and, seeing the futility of her efforts, met his eyes, nodded and laughed.
Perhaps your story involves insane amounts of hand sanitizer, tissues, toilet paper, or aspirin – either falling out of people’s arms (or your own) or not on the shelves at all.
But THIS is a typical part of the day in the life of America today.
The calm before the storm, the panic before it could inevitably get really bad.
In order to stop myself from indulging in such behavior, I automatically think about what my mother used to say when Too Sensitive Me was getting overly upset by something going on in my world.
Just keep it up and I’ll really give you something to cry about!
Or, if my Mom’s brand of tough love isn’t working for you (Note: It certainly doesn’t for me), how about this admonition from the immortal Cher:
Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley wrote those words for her to deliver in the classic 1987 film Moonstruck but they are no less timely 30 years plus later.
Still, this does not mean they are not overly HARSH.
If we want to weather the storm (or tornado or typhoon) of COVID-19 we need to practice…. um….. Social …………………………………………… distancing.
What this means is not getting too close to others, keeping our hands clean, resisting the urge to touch our faces or mouths and, most importantly, and when possible –
Yes, this is an economic hardship, especially for those who will no longer get paid for their jobs or others who are either unable to work virtually or have children now home from school.
Still, it’s just been announced every worker affected by self-quarantine (nee staying home) is at least eligible for unemployment.
Not to mention, remember all that guilt you might have felt for not spending enough time with your kids? Well…..
Okay, who am I kidding? I don’t have kids and am fortunate enough to be able to do my job from my bed, I mean, um, home… office.
Nevertheless, as one out of the many fortunate millions who managed to live through the raging AIDS epidemic of the eighties (and beyond ) who is still around to tell the tale, I do know something about viral panic.
There was a time not so many decades ago that I remember washing and disinfecting my hands so religiously and profusely that I actually scrubbed the surface layer of skin off the top of one of my palms.
It was then, and only then, I began to understand the futility of hysteria and the hilarity of my own neurosis. No matter how appropriate I believed I was being that is how much my reactions weren’t helping. Certainly, they weren’t making me any cleaner.
So until they get more information and come up with a reliable, available test/treatment/cure for this virus en masse, here are some handy survival tips:
1- TAKE POSITIVE ACTIONS OF YOUR CHOICE – Demonstrate on the streets (alone, or with a few folks 6ft apart please), commiserate with friends and loved ones (more on this below), rant at the TV and politicians (Note: Well, THE politician, wink wink) , research and come up with position papers that will solve the entire thing but Do NOT FEEL GUILTY about NOT doing EVERY ONE OF THESE THINGS EACH DAY.
Seriously, no one is Mother Theresa, not even Mother Theresa. She might have done great unselfish things but even she is a construct, a gold standard of perfectionism and self-sacrifice that is non-human and can’t possibly provide you a true unvarnished 100% human X-ray of a real woman. Or man.
Therefore, do what you can but don’t beat yourself up for not doing enough. You’re not letting yourself off the hook for anything, you’re simply being yourself. And you get to wake up and try again the next day, and the next, and the day after that. Because you’re one of the lucky.
2- COMFORT FOOD TV – This does not mean binge watching The Wire or finding a streaming service offering all 14 episodes of Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz.
Instead it means marathons of The Simpsons, The Bachelor (or Bachelorette), Law and Order SVU/CSI/NCIS/Blue Bloods or WWE (Note: That’s Worldwide Wrestling for my fellow gays).
A few days ago someone told me that a really smart person they knew had taken to watching countless back-to-back Big Bang Theory episodes they’d already seen.
But I have that beat. This weekend I tuned in Logo and in one sitting tore through twelve straight episodes of The Nanny, a show I seldom if ever saw in first run.
Maybe it was Fran Drescher’s voice, or the fact that Renee Taylor, the comic actress who played her mother, reminded me of my mother, or just maybe it’s the fact that, like me, the title character is from Flushing, Queens AND Jewish and likes to wear loud clothes and is a scheming nag when she doesn’t get her way. But after all those decades, in this particular time of this decade, boy is she hilarious.
3- START A SILLY CREATIVE PROJECT DOOMED TO FAILURE –Maybe it’s the book, screenplay, poem , song or short story you always wanted to write.
Perhaps it’s rearranging the furniture in your living room.
Or even hanging the framed picture that’s been sitting in your closet for a year because you are sure you’ll f-k up your wall if you try to do it yourself.
When I was in my twenties I thought it was a great idea to use high gloss black paint on every wall in my bathroom and to this day I treasure the reaction of my landlady when she saw it.
The point is, why NOT? God knows you have the time and it will give you something to talk about instead of the virus.
4- “PHONE” A FRIEND – This might sound silly or obvious but there is a lot to unpack here. Living in a world where EVERYONE is being told to stay inside as much as possible means that for one of the first times in your life you are truly NOT alone. So use it as an excuse to reach out to…..ANYONE because, well, you actually have a reason.
This means someone from your past, present or perhaps…future? You don’t need to pretend anymore. We’re all a bit crazed. Some aberrant behavior is to be expected. So take advantage of the fact that there’s a wider berth of crazy for all of us.
The office acquaintance, the best friend who is no longer best, the former or future lover of your dreams. Even the individual you at one point wanted to tell off but now actually miss. Does it REALLY matter???
And know that in 2020 coronavirus parlance, “phone” clearly means, Skype, text, gchat, zoom or any virtual reality of your choice.
5- BE. OF. SERVICE. – Nothing takes you out of your own insanity or isolation more than helping someone else with his or her own stuff. This means ANYONE and ANYWHERE. Oh, and there is little noble about this. Most likely whomever you are helping has it FAR WORSE than you do and you will get to feel mighty good about YOUR life afterwards.
This is how many of us got through the eighties.
And how many of us will get through today.