wasn't allowed to stock up on toilet paper, eggs, frozen pizza, hand sanitizer and NC-95 masks, personal comfort items during a pandemic, as they were sold out. How did everyone else know to stock up on these items before I got to them?
I wasn't allowed to communicate with others face-to-face. Even my own family put up barriers to communication. My friends, my neighbors and my stores were also in on the shut out.
All I had left was Me, and My Self: my Higher Self, and my lower self. Luckily, I knew how to find my Higher Self. Throughout the lock down I connected to my Higher Self, and stayed there as often as I could, and as best as I could. It was, and continues to be, quite a challenge.
Oh yes, negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors bubbled up, furiously at first, as I felt vulnerable, at risk, abandoned, shunned. I rebelled and resisted as best I could. I wanted to stay powerful. But eventually, with effort and the passage of time, I accepted that 'whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger'. I was in for a prolonged bout of Higer Self calisthenics.
I can tell you that at this moment in the pandemic, I'm pretty buff. And so are most of my family, friends, and store-keepers (maybe not their stores, though).
If you like to think difficult things through, here's a helpful framework, based on Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of grief. It's what I did, and went through, for the past seven months. In the past I've had loved ones pass away and was very grateful for this framework. My comfortable, habitual and frantic life before covid also passed away. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way.
If you like to write/journal, do that. Years from now you can look back on your thoughts and your writings and see how you've changed, hopefully for the better.
1. Shock and denial.
How can the world be so changed, so hazardous, so suddenly? It's just a cold virus! I experienced multiple pandemics in my career and in my personal life. Never has one been so 'creepy', for lack of a better word.
2. Pain and guilt.
I hate not being around anyone I care deeply about. Luckily, my husband doesn't shun me. He still spends his enitre day on his computer, and talking to all his friends. Unluckily he won't change his routine to accommodate my neediness.
3. Anger and bargaining.
I still can't believe the craziness and abject fear this pandemic has caused worldwide. I truly feel, as a seasoned healthcare professional, that the dangers of this pandemic have been overblown. New studies coming out regularly reassure me that the virus activity, and its deadliness, have long peaked. Why don't the masses get it? I'll keep trying to reassure my friends and family that it's ok. Unfortunately, they won't, or can't listen. If only I had more credibility with my friends and family, Maybe I'll send them all the articles and studies I'm reading that confirm my confidence. Well, that didn't work either.
The strategy of the world is to make this cold virus into a monster plague, like the pandemic flu of 1918-19 that killed at least 50 million people worldwide, especially young healthy people. That's not the case with this pandemic. But no one will listen. It's armageddon, the end times. I think they really want to believe this. Wow.
5. The upward turn.
We're all looking forward to a vaccine. That will turn the entire world around. I know that because this is a cold virus, it mutates pretty significantly, so a vaccine won't be as effective as people want it to be. But at least they'll be less anxiety-ridden. Thanks to human ingenuity, multiple excellent and reliable pharmaceutical companies in competition, with government approval, an effective vaccine is around the corner. Halleluyah!!
6. Reconstruction and working through.
Boy was this ever a noxious year. Disease. Isolation. Toilet paper and egg shortages. Plus a heat wave (116 in my neighborhood). Plus record fires. Smoky days. Santa Ana winds. I think I'll just sit and meditate on the hike I took in Kings Canyon National Park in Northern California years and years ago. Oh, but that's when my partner and I got engulfed in black clouds of mosquitoes, and the river was so deep and fast that when we crossed it I almost lost my balance and fell in (I didn't). I'm empowered, because I survived that hike. What a beautiful feeling. I knew it, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. I'm buff.
7. Acceptance and hope.
Now that the world's economies are in shambles, people are still bubbled down, a few in 'pods', with hope for a new albeit very different future on the horizon. God help the next generation of youngsters, including my two grandchildren. At least they'll think this whole new world is just 'the way it is' and get on with their lives as if nothing bad happened. And guess what, they may be right!
A friend went through these stages, and developed an ulcer before turning upward. Before the pandemic, and the shut down, Larry was a teacher's aide in a chemistry lab, after graduating the year before with a degree in chemistry from UCLA. He was homeschooled in a high achieving home, with three equally high achieving siblings. His parents are upstanding members of their community, and the whole family is very smart, confident, and socially conscious. Larry had never had a real setback in his path forward. He was making an excellent salary, loved his students and they loved and respected him. While working he was also getting his PhD in Chemistry. All was well until it suddenly wasn't.
Larry was left without a class, without students, online-only studies, increasing bills, and two roommates that he wasn't particularly interested in or even able to communicate with much. He got depressed. He started getting migraines. He took pain meds, including Tylenol and ibuprofen. He got a pet rat for company. But the migraines continued, and then he got severe acid reflux. He went to a local doctor who told him it's 'just stress'. She didn't order any tests, and did most of her consulting over the phone. Larry got worse. At this point, his sister consulted with her good friend, a nurse. The friend suggested that Larry might be suffering from gastritis (stomach irritation) or even an ulcer. After a lengthy wait for an evaluation, it turned out to be an ulcer. Larry was put on the appropriate medication and improved physically. He went online and found numerous articles on 'stress can cause ulcers' and a few that said it didn't. He finally decided to meditate on this divergence. In his meditations he cleared his mind, let go of the voices that denied the obvious, including his initial family doctor, and unfortunately, his know-it-all mother, who insisted he had celiac diseae/gluten allergy. In connecting to his Higher Self, he saw his body as sad and lonely. In his mind's eye he embraced and hugged his body. He visualized his Higher Self, gently reminding him to be a kind and loving caregiver. He reached out to his family, especially his sister, who fussed over him, annoyingly, but actually helped a lot with her incessant affirmations.
He reached out to his roommates, who as it turned out were kind of sad and lonely too. He went out as often as possible to his favorite natural spots, parks and outdoor places, reminding him of his upbringing in natural settings.
Gradually, with continuous gently nudges from his Higher Self, his anti-acid medication, his low acid diet, and his loving sister, his symptoms abated. Hi pet rat got occasional treats, and got into the habit of snuggling on his neck. That helped, too.
Larry now accepts his imperfect body, and cares for it with greater insight. He hopes some day to get back to the lab with students who love and respect him. But for now, he's made friends with his roommates, and teaches chemistry lab creatively with digital students, who love and appreciate him.
He's on the mend now, with a new appreciation for his stressed body, mind and spirit.
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