Let’s Not Pretend

During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, different people handle it in different ways. Some people prefer to focus on nature and flowers. Others do yoga and meditate. Still others crochet and create. The really ambitious might do a combination of all these thing. What I do is read and write and try to make sense of what’s going on. It’s how I run. But any of these approaches are good.

However, what none of us should do is pretend that everything is all right, because it’s not. We are dealing with a world-wide pandemic that is swamping the medical community in many countries, and it’s my guess it will soon swamp the U.S.’s. In addition, soon there will most probably be a world-wide recession/depression as the economy comes to a halt.

Recently, a new term has popped up: Toxic positivity, the ridiculous notion that no matter how bad things are—your dog just died, then your best friend died, then your husband lost his job, then your mother-in-law died—you should smile, look on the bright side of life, and count your blessings.

Fifteen years ago, all those terrible things really did happen to me in the span of six months. And, yes, I was grief-stricken, depressed even. It eventually passed, as most grief does, and the time even came when I was happy again. But I had to go through my grief. I couldn’t go around it, or worse yet, pretend it didn’t exist.

I have a group of friends I have known for over twenty years. One friend’s mother is dying, and my friend can’t be with her mom because of the nursing home’s quarantine in response to the coronavirus. That same friend’s daughter is home from college, taking all her classes online. Another friend has a granddaughter who will be graduating from high school with no prom, no graduation party or ceremony, no last play, no last concert.

My friend with the dying mother wrote: “Emotions are hard for folks to keep in check with so many unknowns, but this is the world we have today. ”

Here was my response: “As for emotions…don’t deny them. They will have their way no matter what you do. Acknowledge the fear, grief, and panic you are feeling. Then, of course, do what you must do to keep things going.”

After having written the above, I want to emphasize that people should indulge in whatever simple pleasures they find soothing: flowers, nature, books, chocolate, comforting series, or movies. Or, in my husband Clif’s case, a bowl of potato chips at night. Whatever. When the world is in chaos, the spirit needs to be bolstered.

But let’s not ignore or minimize our fear, grief, or panic.

No good will come of it.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 56

From the Portland Press Herald

Faced with a potential critical shortage of pandemic supplies – such as masks, shoe coverings, gloves and gowns – Maine hospitals are scrambling to conserve what they have, add supplies and keep workers healthy to treat COVID-19 patients.

From the Kennebec Journal

Wastewater treatment plant operators warn that flushing toilet paper substitutes is likely to clog sewer lines and could lead to costly repairs.

50 thoughts on “Let’s Not Pretend”

  1. I remember the exact moment and place I was when the word came that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I can remember all the historic events since then, and I know I well never forget this experience because it is surreal. I make myself do a minimum of one constructive thing each day so that I feel like I accomplished something as we wade through this. I’m with you – whatever floats your boat while staying safe and contributing to the safety of your neighbor is a good thing. Now, if I could have one wish it would be to enlighten all the spring breakers to get back home before they extend this into months and not weeks. Stay safe and keep buying chips if you can. πŸ™‚

    1. So true. This is one of the defining events of our lives, for everyone around the world. I know just what you meant about making yourself do one constructive thing a day. I do the same thing. So very hard to focus when there’s a pandemic striking the planet. Yes. Stay safe, be well. And eat chips and chocolate. πŸ˜‰

  2. I now have your blog saved to my home screen so I can read it with my tip top favourites. Thank you for this. I am so sorry about the time in your life when tragedies piled up.

    There is an excellent book by Barbara Ehrenreich on this topic, Bright-Sided.

    It just stabbed me in the heart to walk through Long Beach (Washington), the tiny beach town where I garden (and I was working, or I would have been hunkered at home) and see all the closed shops and know each closed door represents a person who is financially devastated and scared….and yet it must be done. I know a lot of the people and a lot of them don’t have the savings to keep going like this. If this does go on for a year or 18 months or….the world will look very different for awhile when it is over.

    1. Oh, many thanks! And I have subscribed to your blog. East and West. We will record our experiences. Yes, heartbreaking to see everything closed. And you’re right…the world will look very different if this continues for 18 months.

  3. Well, I hope you’ve read Kate’s post from earlier about alternatives to toilet paper!
    I have to say that I’m feeling very disconnected from reality at the moment and not sure that I have entirely come to terms with what’s going on. My life is little different – I always work from home, and much of my social contact in a day is on my regular dog-walks. Admittedly, I’m seeing lots more people out walking, and Jon is home rather than being away, but that’s all really. I’m a hoarder, so we have plenty of supplies and I carry on with my sewing and crochet. But nevertheless, I am feeling stressed and it’s good to acknowledge that. I’m worried about my mum, but I know her neighbours are taking care of her, so all I can do is wait and accept what’s happening.

    1. I know what you mean. Same here at our home in the woods. Clif and I work from home, and our day-to-day routine hasn’t changed much. Nevertheless, we keep up with what’s going on, and that certainly brings on stress. Best to your mother. Important to acknowledge our feelings. Then we can deal with them.

  4. Toxic positivity. Wow. I think that’s likely when you tell someone something difficult and heartfelt and they respond with some sunny Pollyanna thing that makes you feel they didn’t (or don’t want to) hear you. It’s awful. And you’re right–we all need to recognize the difficulty of this time and the feelings that arise. We need to help each other through this. It’s going to change us all in some way.

    1. Sure is! As I’ve aged and have acquired at least a modicum of wisdom, I have learned to be present when people express their pain. It’s not easy, and I wasn’t always this way. Yes, let’s acknowledge how afraid we are and then carry on. As we must.

  5. Good point, Laurie. Bottling emotions is never good. This is rapidly becoming one of the most defining point in our lives, and in recent history. The fact that we’ve never faced such obstacles, makes it all the harder. I find myself wishing I had elders to consult, to ask how they weathered the Depression and WWII, but sadly, they have passed on. I imagine that they would have said that they took it one day at a time and kept faith that they would get through it.

    1. Bottling emotions is never good. They tend to come out in destructive ways. You are so right that this is becoming one of the most defining points in our lives and in recent history. I was much struck by your comment about wishing for elders to consult and to help us deal with this difficult situation. But they are all gone, and now we are the elders.

  6. well said indeed. You have to experience those emotions or they become like toxins. And there is enough of that in the world already.

    Be safe and well

  7. What a wonderful post. I am still grieving for my brother, but ‘the virus’ is making me focus elsewhere too, as well as concern of my other brother and his wife who both have bad health. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves it is OK to cry.

  8. Well said/written, Laurie. Thank you. I’ve been eating a lot of potato chips, too (potatoes in any form, really). “Toxic positivity” is so appropriate, especially for some of the initial reactions to this.

    I also like what Eliza wrote in her comment — about having elders to consult who have been through times like this.

  9. Excellent!! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve mentioned to my mother this week that I’m tired of receiving countless notifications about how to fill the days with new hobbies, shows to watch and toxic positivity (I did not know we already had a new term for it!). As we go about our days and lives, right now any extra time has been spent trying to understand what I’m watching/reading about what’s happening across the world and trying to cope with the worry of how to help make sure our family stays safe (we now have almost 800 cases in our state). I absolutely agree that everyone has their own way of handling things and how important it’s to surround ourselves with things that bring us happiness, but we should absolutely not ignore or minimize what we are experiencing or watching occur across the world.

  10. I agree with you Laurie. We are in difficult times, which I feel are about to get a lot more difficult. I don’t listen to the news much anymore, and I just ask Rick about what was most important to know at the end of the day, as he is glued to the radio.

  11. Beautifully put Laurie. I think we are only beginning to realize just how drastically this will change our world. I usually wake up full of energy and plans for the day. Now, it’s hard to get up and face the barrage of increasingly desperate news. It’s difficult to even contemplate what will happen to countries with less-developed health care facilities when we see how overwhelmed ours are becoming. And Trump and his minions–heaven help us all. Like Clif, I enjoy my nightly bowl of chips (no toilet paper hoarding here, but I made sure to have plenty of Cape Cod chips and wine!) and am reading books about the plague to try to put things in historical perspective. Stay well.

    1. Thanks, Brenda. I told Clif about your Cape Cod chips. They are his favorite. I know just what you mean about waking up with a sense of dread and a lack of energy. Very interesting to see what will happen next. Heaven help us is right! But spring is here, and as the weather gets better, maybe your spirit will be refreshed by the sun. Take care, be well.

  12. Wise words. I especially despise the religious version of toxic positivity, as in “God wouldn’t let anything terrible happen to me.” The fact that terrible things have happened to millions of people throughout history doesn’t seem to register with some. Thanks for the local news items, I find that sort of thing interesting. And here’s a bit of the same from my part of the world, which you can take as evidence that people can be a lot worse than the ones around you. https://capitolfax.com/2020/03/20/indicted-pol-blocks-emergency-covid-19-spending/

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