Strange Days

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Are you like me? Do you wake from a nightmare, covered in sweat, heart racing, gasping for breath? Oh, wait. That’s just me awake these days.

For those of us with anxiety issues, this is not exactly the best time. Driving by the closed State Theater on Friday in the rain, I just wanted to retreat home and go back to bed. I haven’t even had a chance to use the new recliners and I had been looking forward to that. I saw all three of the original “Star Wars” movies and many other films at the State. Seeing it closed made my heart sink like a stone in Woods Creek.

I am hopeful that the theater will reopen, along with all the other businesses that have been shuttered due to the outbreak of COVID-19. I worry about the business owners. I worry about the wait staff at all the restaurants who rely on tips to pay for rent, groceries and utilities. I worry that all of this is going to result in something that might take us all down.

Whenever I find myself skipping ahead too many chapters in my disaster handbook, I try to remember the following things:

1. Ignore newspaper articles about what might happen. No one has a magic 8-Ball illuminating the future. Epidemiologists can only rely on data from previous pandemics to predict what’s going to happen. Numbers are scary. Just concentrate on what’s reported about today. The numbers of cases are going to increase, and so are the deaths. But today, you are alive.

2. If you are working from home, or laid off from work, have a routine. Get up every morning and shower. I’ve heard advice about wearing real work pants, but I’m going to be sporting my pajamas and sweats for the duration. I actually don’t eat as much at home as I do when I’m at work. That could change, though, should supplies run low. Should I go out now and buy some more groceries? Is anything open now?

3. Don’t go panic shopping! I did this a couple weekends ago and ended up with a cart full of stuff I really didn’t need, including a 15-foot extension cord and a pack of 24 AA batteries. Make a list and just buy what’s on that list. Period. If supplies at the supermarkets are short, wait a few days before you go back. And be nice to the cashiers. It’s not their fault that there’s no toilet paper.

5. Watch TV shows that make you happy. Avoid shows that are too dark in nature. I suggest reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and the first three seasons of “M*A*S*H.” Avoid shows like “Mad Men” and “Sex and the City” because the characters dine out so much and you will be jealous.

6. Cook at home. I have a few dinners in my weekly rotation that are pretty quick and easy to make. One involves sliced hot dogs, brown sugar and beans. Another requires bowtie pasta, kalamata olives, sliced grape tomatoes and feta cheese. Yet another requires the heating up of the oven and the cooking of a frozen pizza with extra cheese.

7. Look up old TV commercials on YouTube. Focus on the decade in which you grew up. They’re all there on YouTube. All the cereals included as part of a complete breakfast, all the Coca Cola campaigns, all the reasons why you watch the Super Bowl.

8. Take a nap. Rest is important. Don’t be guilty for shutting your eyes and taking some time for yourself, even if just 15 minutes.

9. Organize your stuff. I always say that I’m going to look through the cardboard boxes in my basement and see if there’s anything I need to toss or donate. I don’t have an excuse now. And I can clear more shelves for my nonperishables.

10, Absorb the sunshine. April is famous for its rain showers, but it’s also a time when the days are becoming exponentially longer and there’s more sunlight. Take a break, go out in the world, even if you’re just stepping out in your backyard. You don’t need to stand your distance from dandelions or daffodils.

11. Breathe. If you find yourself feeling especially stressed, breathe in through your mouth for 4 seconds, then let out that breath for 4 seconds through your nose.

We will get through this. It is just going to take some time and adjustments to our every day lives. Let’s hope the craziness dissipates soon and we’ll be on a course for a new normalcy soon.

The News-Gazette

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