“Stop being afraid of what could go wrong, and start being excited of what could go right.”
“Get on the train to see your friends.
Buy tickets for more Met games.
Make the dinner plans.
Don’t be so afraid of dying that you become afraid to live.
As Snoopy so eloquently said, We only die once: but we live every day. Make it so.”
-LA, “For when I have so few words“
My parents came by yesterday. I don’t talk about them much because they have the right to decide whether they want their information online.
Still, over they came. They walked forward and deposited my and my son’s birthday presents on our porch. They stepped back. I unwrapped them: a framed pencil illustration my mother drew of our son, and a beautiful Schwibbögen. My children crowded around me in the doorway and excitedly waved and yelled about schoolwork and the new computer game we’ve been playing as a family, Stardew Valley.
My parents put up a good face. I held my new baby in the doorway as they drove away, waving his little hand for them. I doubt they saw; they probably barely saw well enough to drive if they were crying as much as I was.
I think IT -as Mike calls the Coronavirus crisis- has finally hit most of us. One of my sons came in last night around 9. He sat on our bed. “I’m scared,” he said.
“Oh? Did you have a bad dream? What are you scared about?”
“I don’t know. Just scared.”
Trying to uncover the fear did nothing, so I quickly switched tactics to enumerating everything safe about his situation. We have family, a safe area, a warm house, brothers to take care of him. He calmed enough to sleep in his own bed.
As I was drifting off to sleep later*, I heard and felt the slight change in air pressure that meant our bedroom door had opened. One of my older sons stood in the doorway.
“Son? What’s wrong?”
Bearing his about-to-cry face, he came to my bedside. “I’m scared.”
I hugged him and held him. “It’s okay, Son. It’s okay.”
“Thank you, Mom.”
We walked back to his bed together. I gave him a Melatonin and tucked him in.
…Which might explain why several of us slept in this morning. I awoke to feed Baby at 8ish; finished and got ‘ready’ to pick up a prescription by 10 a.m. Everyone but we parents and my early-riser was still asleep. Costco’s automated phone message played its usual bit, then had a slightly louder recording tell how they have new hours for the warehouse, including a special time for seniors to shop. People picking up prescriptions do not have to wait in line at the door -just tell the
guards associates at the exit doors that you’re picking up a prescription and they’ll let you in.
I haven’t written about Costco yet. Usually, it’s my home away from home. I like to go there when we travel, and Utah boasts the world’s largest Costco. Friends have even teased that I ought to travel to all of them and chronicle my adventures.
When I went there to stockpile toilet paper and water three weeks ago (okay -kidding), people were a tad tense. A few, like me, knew what was coming and were purchasing a few extras. A week later, the store had imposed limits on supplies. A few days after that, signs dotted the columns and tape lines dotted the cash registers and waiting areas so that we might stay 6 feet away from each other. Lines formed to get in, separated by cones and pallets; lines formed to check out, enforced by Costco employees.
Today, plexiglass barriers are screwed to the front of all the cash registers. Some workers wear face masks. The receipt-checkers at the exits have clipboards and gloves. No one touches your membership card. Everyone furiously wipes down counters and computer equipment. They spray shopping carts (trolleys) with a pink solution out in the parking lot.
I saw a pregnant woman of Indian features and dress wearing gloves and a dentist-style face mask. They’re probably not doing much for her, but I’d be doing the same in her shoes.
Next on my errands was the post office. They had tape on the floor as well, plus a sign outside about keeping 10 or fewer people in the waiting area. The woman at the desk wore a face mask and she also sat behind newly-installed plexiglass.
Perhaps we ought to start living in personal plexiglass houses.
The oddest part of my experiences is something Pete pointed out in his comments on my last update: people are avoiding any interaction. Told to be wary and stay six feet away, we are also avoiding nonverbal cues that indicate safety. We are not smiling, laughing, reassuring, or talking. I guess we need to learn to be friends …from a distance.
Which is why I find comfort in the snippets of sunshine. A woman asked another woman at Costco where she’d gotten her package of Charmin toilet paper** from; I heard them laughing at whatever the response was, and I smiled at their smiles. The secretary for my sons’ school asked how we were all doing when I called about a registration issue. My friend and I talked on the phone.
I felt like giving up that day we had the earthquake. I’ve mostly stopped obsessively checking the United States Geological Society’s latest earthquakes page since, and was handling each day too busy to dwell on the larger implications of what we were doing. Today, however, I’ve returned to some of that anxiety. The novelty’s worn off, I suppose. We’ve purchased all the extra food we can eat. We’ve got a rough schedule for schoolwork at home. We’ve even finally started a nap routine for the baby. Now, though, comes the most difficult part: facing the long dark of Moria.
But wishing IT away hasn’t worked for most of us. Assuming IT wouldn’t come didn’t work very well, either. My son’s speech and behavior aide last year told me they were working on his Sphere of Influence; what he could control. Me, I can’t control IT. I can’t control the world’s response. What I can control is me. I can still control much of what my family does and is exposed to as well.
So, you may find me writing from within a circle of salt. Still, at least I’m still alive. And writing.
©2020 Chelsea Owens, including photos of the Schwibbögen and Costco
GIFS © GIPHY
*Okay, I was really playing Candy Crush. They’re offering infinite lives all week, which is brilliant for keeping people in.
**Charmin Ultra Soft toilet tissue is worth more than gold right now…
“It’s not our pain we fear but the reminder of our own vulnerability.“
-Charli Mills, January 23 Flash Fiction Challenge.
Last night my Other Me reappeared, the one of shadows. For, truly, that is where she always stands, lurking: the shadows of thoughts, the shadows of feelings, the shadows of anything I see or do.
It is she who colors a happy idea with doubt.
She deepens the uncertain edges of a frown in every smile.
The fear of possible failure to proposed activities? Also her.
I hadn’t seen her in a while; thought her to be gone. How little I knew. How I forgot. She does not ever go away, especially when I choose to ignore her instead of keep working to repel her. Especially, when I want her.
Last night I felt her; nearer and nearer. And, like a fool, I let her come. I asked her to grow, expand, envelop, then smother. Anything, I thought, is better than what I feel.
Because the Shadow of Me does not feel.
As I settled beneath the apathy and self-pity that I invited in, I twitched a bit in discomfort. Some part of me recognized the old, unhealthy patterns. Something deep within, in a timid voice, whispered, “I don’t think we want this.”
Yet, not until this morning did I notice the source of the rain. Standing –no- languishing morosely in depthless puddles I blamed anyone but her; anyone but me for bringing her. Like a fool; I cursed the weatherman, the water, the sky, the mud. I failed to name the shadowed storm. It is Depression. And it is not what I needed.
Because, as familiar as Depression is, it is not a good solution.
As easy a solution as Depression appears, its fallout is more difficult to clean up than actual resolution.
But who wants to stand and face her troubles when Depression promises otherwise? I can tell you: not me. No, I chose fear. I chose to see My Shadow’s effects: small rocks on the trail ahead made to look like looming boulders; a few grumpy observations from my companion augmented to devastating predictions against success.
So I turned back.
Rappelled to our base camp of years ago.
And sat outside the tent, in the rain.
I’m still there, you see, but have shifted a bit. My seat felt somewhat wet so I moved to a less-muddy patch. Still depressed. It’s a new day, though; I can see the pervasive grayness is a lighter shade.
And, no, I’m not ready to climb again. ‘Tis a daunting thought.
I think I’ll start with an umbrella. From there, I just might gain the perspective I need to change into dry clothes and eat some rations. We’ll see.
We watched Inside Out for our family movie night last week. Since then, my husband and I have had a lot to think about. He relates to Joy.
“I’m like Joy. I draw a circle and tell Sadness to stay inside it….” -Him
Me? I relate to Sadness, then Anger, then Fear. Sadness runs my little control panel, and tells Joy to keep it contained. We wouldn’t want things to get too happy, you know?
“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” -Sadness
I know it sounds depressing. You don’t really need to tell a depressing person that she’s depressing. The funny thing is that, when other people express similar sentiments, I put on a little mask and cheerleader demeanor (though not ever the outfit). “I’m sure that problem would be helped by _________” I say. “You’re not worthless,” I add. “Every human being has worth and I have seen you do amazing things.”
Inside, however, my coagulation of Sadangryscared says rotten things.
“There is no point to life and no one really likes you.” -Me
I’ve expressed the feeling that others are driving, that life is ho-hum, that I don’t know what to do and that I feel badly for feeling this way on top of it all. At rarer times; I have been a little happier and explained how to move on, get over oneself, and improve.
The problem is Depression and its insidious friend, Despair. When both of those are too lazy to try very hard, they kick Apathy over to sit on me. I can’t care about much with her sitting there.
See? She can’t even be bothered to construct a sentence, let alone give me the idea that I ought to try to try.
Why are things that way? Why can’t I try a little joy? It’s because when Joy is loose inside my mind, she’s a tad crazy. We’re talking toga party crazy. We’re talking repressed emotion crazy. She bounces off walls, says embarrassing things, and doesn’t really know how to respond to others’ comments. As Fear slowly gets a good grip on her arm to put her back over in her circle, she turns into Anxiety.
“Oh, no. What did I say? I should never have allowed myself to feel happy.” -Me again, or Joy as Anxiety
Like in the film, I believe my emotions need to get along better if I hope for more stability. My mind islands need a fusion; a cohesive Pangaea where all may play and get along.
After all, Riley’s mother’s dominant emotion is Sadness. She and the other eyeglass-wearing, ponytail-toting gals get along fine and don’t seem to be collapsing in crying heaps all over the place. I can aim for that, can’t I?
Until then, here’s a final message from Sadness:
“I’m too sad to walk. Just give me a few …hours.”
“I want to believe in the points of light we can all be when we spread kindness. It doesn’t remove the pain or gloss over the fear; it accepts that we have a choice in what we do next.”
Charli Mills, Carrot Ranch Literary Community
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around us in awareness.”
“Man cannot possess anything as long as he fears death. But to him who does not fear it, everything belongs. If there was no suffering, man would not know his limits, would not know himself. ”
-Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
“Fear cannot kill you but it can stop you from living. It can stifle and stymie potential and ambition, preventing you from becoming the person you were created to be. But do you want to know a secret? Fear has a weakness, an Achilles heel, that when exposed and exploited will bring it crashing to its knees. That weakness is YOU. Which is why it hates you so much and devotes so much energy towards destroying you.
“You can conquer fear, overcome it and send it scurrying back to where it first crawled from. Fear is a bully. It hates to be confronted and exposed for the despicable coward it truly is. Stop running from it. Turn and face it. Raise your sword and strike it down dead in its tracks. Your sword is your story, your weapon the words within you that fear so wants you not to write….
You are the superhero you’ve been waiting for all this time.
“We are a tribe that fear cannot breach. Today I encourage you to embrace the freedom that is fearlessness. Throw off the shackles and stride out of your cell. Live your life and not a life sentence. Expose your fears for what they are. Write about them. For you are not alone anymore. Fear can be conquered. The resistance starts today.”