Ironically, as we come out of lockdown and into a semblance of normal life, people seem to be experiencing more stress than ever. The formerly cheerful checker at the grocery store scowls and tells you to wait while she santitizes her station. The server who was glad to get his job back, is grumpy about wearing a mask. And all those self-appointed behaviour police who rant and rail and ramp up the fear quotient about perceived health code violations don’t help. The attitude of “we’re all in this together” seems to be crumbling at the edges.
Perhaps people are just tired. Tired of uncertainty, tired of zoom, tired of trying. But I think there is more at work here. I think we have a case of thwarted expectations. Even while health officials warned us that we were in for months and maybe years of doing things differently, we subconsciously thought when the lockdown ended we’d go back to “normal.” Now the reality of “not-normal” is setting in and we’re finding it hard to take. Kind of like we were promised a puppy and we got a goldfish. Nothing wrong with the goldfish, but it’s not what we wanted. Some would just like to flush the fish.
So, how do we go about coping for the long run? Here are a few suggestions.
Especially read fiction. Fiction is story and story is filled with characters and characters take us out of ourselves. For a little while we can be someone else, live in a different world and experience family and friends and (maybe) happy endings. We could all use happy endings these days, so pick up a romance — or a mystery, where justice prevails. That’s a kind of happy ending too. While we are keeping distant from our real life friends, we can get up close and personal with these fictional characters. We can laugh and sing and hold hands.
- Look for the Upside
Amid all the civil unrest, the tragedy of racism, the pain of death, there is still good news in the world. There are people performing good deeds, making music, telling jokes, volunteering, making the world better. When you’ve seen enough of the bad news, go for some good news. Our local television station, CHEK, has made lemonade out of lemons by turning the sports segment — there are no sports at the moment — into The Upside. Here the sports caster and the weatherman collect quirky stories from around our Island and broadcast them on the nightly news. It’s silly and kooky and a lot of fun. It brings people together and it generates lots of smiles. When you’re feeling down, go for the Upside.
Or run or bicycle or turn handstands. The point is to move, thereby releasing endorphins, our own little happy hormone. If possible exercise outdoors. Don’t wear earplugs. Shut down the artificial world and tune in to the natural one. Birdsong, crickets, rustling grass, soughing boughs, barking dogs — all these things help to restore our mental balance. In Canada, our national broadcaster, has created “Hello Spring” to lift people’s spirits. If you can’t hike into the back country yourself, they’ve brought the back country to you with clips of bear cubs emerging from their den, a hummingbird feeding her young, fox kits discovering the world, and many more moments to remind us that the natural world is bountiful and open to all.
In her post in Writer Unboxed,Sandra Callender about the importance of writers in a time of social turmoil. Violence, she posits, comes from a lack of human connection. When our physical human connections are severed, our fictional connections become even more important. Writers create an antidote to violence.
If you are a writer, write. If you are a musician, make music. If you are an artist, paint. If you are a knitter, knit, if you’re a doodler, create the most elaborate doodle of your life. In the comments section of that same post Vaughn Roycroft shares a bit of folksy wisdom about work. Nothing good comes of worry, he says. At least if you’re working, you are getting something done.
I subscribe to that belief myself and even used it in my first book of the Prospect Series, The Man for Her. Whenever Lottie felt overcome by her problems, she worked. She got something done. She got through it.
So, I was “working” in the garden the other day, removing diseased leaves, down on my knees with my face mere inches from the thorns when I spied this beauty hiding behind a branch. Working not only got something done and released my endorphins, it surprised me with unexpected beauty–the upside to a tedious chore.
Hang in everyone. We are all in this together and we’re in it for the long haul.
Please share your upside stories in the comments below.