How Are You Holding Up?

Strange times, eh? And such a quick, sudden shift for just about everything. Aside from whiplash, how are you holding up?

I find myself going back and forth between trying to continue some semblance of business as usual, and being in shock at how this is not business as usual at all.

In the business as usual category, we’re coming up on Spring and all that entails. The yard needs some clean-up, gardens need to be tended, and so on. The weather continues, and birds and animals are out and about as if nothing is different.

The shock comes from looking at the news. I’m not sure my brain is equipped to process everything that is going on.

On one hand, things seem bad. This virus is just getting going. We are in this for a long haul. Panic-buying is occurring at grocery stores. Financial markets are being wiped out. The entire country is increasingly closed.  Our healthcare system isn’t designed for this.

Knowing that many people live paycheck to paycheck means that within a week or so, enormous numbers of people are likely to become desperate.

If I start imagining the cascading effects, I can get depressed.

On the other hand, perhaps this is an event that ultimately cause changes for the better. It’s astounding to me how “socialist” centrist Democrats and Republicans have become in a matter of days. Mitt Romney proposed sending $1000 to every adult each month until this is over (but don’t elect Yang!). Others are proposing free healthcare and paid family leave (but don’t vote for crazy Sanders!) The optimist in me hopes that when this is all over, some of these crazy socialist ideas become standard, so that when this sort of thing happens again in a year or two, we’re better prepared.

So what to do? It seems like we should be making plans to stay inside and avoid people for quite a while, perhaps months.

Usually when we have a big crisis, we come together. We work together side by side to solve the problem. In this case, we have to solve this in semi-isolation, and virtually.  It’s weird.

It’s more than just weird, it is surreal. The world of a month ago is gone.

We’ll have to find ways to keep our spirits up. We’ll have to get creative about finding things to do with out time. We can clean our houses and apartments top to bottom. We can tackle projects we’ve put off until there is time. Write that novel! Read that epic tome! Compose that symphony! Learn that foreign language!

As it warms, we can get out into the sun and air a bit. Exercise helps.

Pets are good distractions if you have them. They are innocently unaware of global news, and are rock solid in their commitment to routine. Playtime will not and cannot be cancelled or postponed!

Specific to this site, we’re going to need some people to write up some book and movie reviews, or offer up suggestions for passing the time.  We’re also going to need people to remain calm and help others remain calm. If you have ideas or suggestions, add ’em.

And, hang in there. Hopefully the shutdowns and precautions will keep us all safe.

Comments | 20

  • Is it safe to buy seeds?

    I’ve been reading a lot of international news lately, and I watched this virus coming (as many others did) like a slow motion train wreck for a couple months before it finally got here. And then, something kind of exponential happened and what we had been discussing as unlikely contingency plans a week before became likely and present realities a week later. The scale of the shutdown is breathtaking. Never in the history of capitalism has anything like this happened, that I know of.

    We did our panic shopping early. Not a lot of it, but we made sure we had all our staples and bought one extra four pack of toilet paper before the shortages started. I know. We noticed that staples at the Co-op were thin almost a week before the shortages hit everywhere, which caused us to buy a few extra bags of rice and beans, because you never know. This week it turned into “buy what you can” which fortunately wasn’t much — I was able to get my morning oatmeal, which made me happy.

    I feel a bit wiggy, truth be told. Sometimes, I don’t think and I’m fine. Then I think, and I’m not fine. I think therefore I worry. If Descartes was right, then to be is to worry. Clearly, thinking is a problem.

    Also screens. I’m trying not to be too compulsive a screen watcher. It’s hard though, when everyone is writing to you from everywhere with coronavirus updates, not to get caught up in it.

    I’m thinking about starting seeds. That requires buying seeds. Is it safe to buy seeds? I think so, but these are the questions I find myself asking these days.

  • Yeah, this is weird

    Thanks, Chris, for starting the conversation, and for checking in.

    I think I might be in a state of diminishing denial. Last week, and this week, too, I have been doing the “business as usual” thing because so far, COVID-19 hasn’t affected me in ways it’s affected other people in other places. Also, because I’m moving out of my house into a much tinier living space this month, the stress of THAT, and my horrible financial situation, have occupied my brain. Those are things that affect me RIGHT NOW.

    But, when the WHO and the CDC amped up the alarms last week, I started paying more attention, and my denial started decreasing. I think I’m still kinda there, though. I’ve gone to the hardware store (packing tape!), the falafel place (falafel!), to get my taxes done, to the deli next to the tax place, etc… I visited some friends for dinner the other night. I don’t think I’m “supposed to” do those things. I think I’m supposed to stay home and avoid all human contact. Maybe I’m a horrible person. I don’t know. I just try to get through each day without totally losing my shit.

    When I do think about this pandemic, it’s hard for my mind to comprehend it. Do we fight it by quarantine, then it will just peter out? Is that how it works? No new infections, the sick people get better (or don’t…), then it’s over?

    Everything keeps changing, but that’s the way of the world anyway.

    Yes, Spring is here. The crocuses in the front yard were blooming on Saturday. The early ones, with the cute yellow faces, are very early this year. I usually don’t see them until about a month from now. A few weeks ago I started hearing birds I haven’t heard in many months. Last week I found myself in the middle of a lively conversation between a group of redwing blackbirds. Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.

    I, too, share your hope that by realizing the fragility of our inadequate systems, and the necessity of — oh my goodness — actually taking care of one another, formerly “impossible” policies such as guaranteed basic income, universal health care, etc, won’t just be possible, they’ll be standard. And anyone who denies they are crucial will be seen as a total barbaric jerk. Wouldn’t that be cool!

    I like your idea about using iBrattleboro to share things to keep oneself occupied. I might offer a book or movie review or two.

    For now, here’s an article about emergencies that I enjoyed reading.

    Happy reading!

  • Social responsibility during the pandemic

    Whilst looking up Vermont’s coronavirus cases this morning, I stumbled across a very good essay by a doctor up in Randolph who wanted to explain why following social restriction policies during the epidemic is important. I know a fair number of people think the government is overreacting to coronavirus, but he makes a good case for why “staying safe” really does matter. His forest fire analogy is a good one.

  • Still Wiggy

    It certainly is a nice day out, weather-wise.

    Hoping everyone is hanging in there. I know there is a high likelihood that people will be feeling a bit on edge, cranky, and irritable at times. I know I am. Getting outside and walking around bit, or avoiding screens for a while, seems like it helps.

    Another thing that has helped is silly animal video that are circulating. Thank you animals! I watched a pair of dogs jump into enormous leaf piles for a few minutes yesterday, and have been enjoying the Chicago aquarium’s videos of penguins. They’ve let the penguins out to wander the halls since no people are there and, well…. it is what you’d expect. Penguins wandering about the lobby, hopping down stairs, and looking at exhibits about fish.

    Having a pet is helpful. The cat is blissfully unaware and simply wants attention and playing.

    I’m doing my best to limit interactions out and about, but there are things that we’ll need from the store soon.

    Books – I’m reading a biography of Einstein – quite the young rebel! I also have cracked a book about growing up in southern Vermont by Paul Gardner’s brother.

    Movies – haven’t gone too deep into the library yet. I watched Altman’s MASH the other day. A movie about the insanity of war seemed appropriate. I’m guessing our library of depression-era feel-good comedies and musicals will be very handy. Busby Berkley, here we come.

    TV – Netflix has a Very Very Secret Service – it is a french comedy set in the early 60’s all about intelligence officers. They accidentally cause the Bay of Pigs, and other dark humor. Worth a watch if you are looking for something a bit different, and funny. Give it a few episodes. I’m also enjoying tracking down ancient game shows – To Tell The Truth, What’s My Line, Penny to Millions, It’s Academic, Do You Trust Your Wife? and so on.

    The one thing I really need to do is alter my plans for the projects I was going to do. I HAD planned on doing some priming, painting and repairs over the next few months, but now I’m starting to think about home projects that don’t require any trips to the hardware store. Maybe some new free-time animation is on the horizon.

    Work-wise, we can keep doing web work for people for the duration, as long as others keep going. We’ll be fine IF everyone else is fine. Kinda big IF, but for the immediate future, helping people get their web sites in order remains semi-essential. Everything may happen online for a while.

    I’m counting on everyone getting personal bailout checks, and soon. I think my biggest worry remains for all of the people suddenly out of work who live paycheck to paycheck.

  • Not the Same Old

    Since I’m home alone 90% of the time, the closures and changes aren’t affecting me the way they’re affecting others. I could somewhat easily slip into a lala denial of it all. But I do read news as usual, and hear the dramatic insanity from relatives watching Foxnews (who are blaming “those foreigners”, expecting a Chinese invasion, and are keeping their guns close by).

    I didn’t stock up on anything. I have enough food in the house for a couple of weeks as a normal thing. Someone else does my shopping, and if they can’t shop for a week or 2 I still have to eat, so I keep up. The TP thing puzzles me, but I hear they’re selling 4 packs on the street in NYC for $10 so that may be why the hoarding happened. Capitalism loves a crisis.

    One thing I was surprised at was a friend going to Sloan Kettering for breast reconstruction was sent home because of a mask shortage; no elective surgeries until this is over.

    The worry is there, squatting nearby and now and then throwing up a topic. What about people without incomes? What about all my friends with health issues who’re already not doing very well? What happens when people can’t pay rent? Who’s already carrying the virus, not knowing they have it? There are videos about the 1918 flu pandemic that are both informative and scary. 1/3 of the world had it, and it killed between 50-100 million people. Stories of people who were fine in the morning and dead that night. People turned blue. The virus mutated and became more deadly. The story of the Philly parade where hundreds were infected and passed it on to thousands more made me glad the St. Pat’s parades were cancelled. Currently the mortality rate is 1.4%, down from an initial 3.7%. There are good reasons for worry.

    Still, we know what to do now. Keep a distance, just in case. Wash your hands. A lot. Get good sleep and nutrition. Wear gloves and masks if you’re so inclined. And be kind. I know, I’m cranky and pissed off too. But you’ll be dealing with the same folks when this is over, and they’ll remember how you treated them when you came into their store and they had no toilet paper.

    I think this will change us. Not sure how in the short or long term, but it will. For now, I’m enjoying the neocons who are hoping for some cash from the government and rethinking universal healthcare.

    • I Will Shop 4 U

      (You can sing the subject line to the Prince song, which you’re probably doing anyway.)

      Let me know if you need me to get groceries for you, annikee. I’m still healthy, as far as I know. I can leave the bags at your door, or come in and keep my distance and put them on the table for you. You know where to find me! 🙂

      • Darlin' if you want me to...

        Thanks Wendy! For now, things are fine, but who knows what will happen. I think there’s a lot of Prince in my future. And I just ordered “Johnny Dangerously”. Time for comedies! Let me know what you want to borrow.

  • Virtual Socializing

    A few days in and I’m on track to talk to just about every family member out there via some sort of virtual meeting. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, and so on… I spent nearly three hours last night checking in with folks, and more family meetings are scheduled.

    We’re seeing more of each other now than ever. : )

    • Family gatherings

      Nothing like a crisis to bring families together. My immediate family have all managed to get on Zoom and we’re using that to hang out. It’s a lot of fun. I was amazed when I logged in last night and there was my mom sitting on her sofa. Something very reassuring about that. We had a lot of yucks about how much typing we’ve been doing lately on email. Everyone made frantic typing pantomimes from within their little boxes.

      Anyway, I agree with Chris. Social distancing has resulted in the most social activity I’ve personally participated in in decades. But no hugging! and I can’t just ask my brother to bring me a beer while he’s up….

  • Somewhere in week two

    Hoping everyone is hanging in there.

    I’ve noticed a slight increase in crankiness and irritability. Perhaps the novelty of sudden change is wearing off?

    We’re still working. The web is still open. (We definitely chose the wrong career for enjoying holidays and extended breaks… never happens!)(But the right career for a time when all physical locations are ordered closed.)

    Little enjoyments recently include watching some videos people have made of home-made Disney park attractions. Some die-hards are recreating things like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Tiki Room. Some even have ropes pulling lawn chairs or sleds through their apartments to mimic the cars and boats. I saw a pair of people slide down their stairs on a sled to recreate the first waterfall drop in Pirates… (they also included the pirate with the toe… you know the one.)

    I saw a story that comrade Brittney Spears posted something about a general strike and redistribution of wealth. Time they are a changing’, eh?

    I’m really enjoying seeing inside everyone’s houses. Everyone is video streaming from their home, so you get a glimpse into the lives of folks from Jimmy Fallon to AOC. What books do they have on the shelves? Why don’t they have any books? Where did they get that lamp? That person’s place looks rather ordinary. Wow, who does that person think they are?

    Of our three potential leaders come election time, I’m most enjoying President Sanders’ live streams. He and his message are tailor-made for this crisis. Trumps’s are hard to watch given the discrepancies between his hopeful talk and the reality of what doctors think. Biden seems lost. I’m really worried that Democrats have rallied around the wrong candidate. But maybe we won’t have an election this year! ; )

    Health-wise, I get nervous every time I have had to go out to the store. It’s like the timer gets reset… I was okay and safe until I went out, now I have to wait and see again. Tick, tick, tick…

    I’ve also noticed that any ache or pain or sneeze or cough leads the mind to coronavirus. All other possible ailments have escaped my mind. Sore from hauling firewood? Nah, must be coronavirus…. : )

    I am glad to hear from people here. iBrattleboro was designed to be nimble in case of emergency. Lise did some updates (the online user count is back! and spam blocking has been increased….), too, which is nice.

  • Stir Crazy

    Not so much an issue for me, but friends are losing it already. There’s a lot of extra eating going on, and melting into couches. The boredom and stress from work has become boredom and stress from not working. And since most everyone I know lives paycheck to paycheck, the worry is amped. Some sort of relief better materialize…

    • Stir Crazy

      It does seem that the people not used to being at home for extended periods are having the roughest time.

      My dad, who generally lives on the couch and watches TV except to go to the store, is doing what he always does. Almost no change of lifestyle at all – except groceries are getting delivered.

      People are rapidly running out of money. Some have been without it for a while… paycheck to paycheck, or tip to mouth, is not a good system for us to return to when this is over.

      • Maybe Something Better

        You’re right: it’s not a good system for us to return to. Maybe this will inspire something better for all of us. Even before this pandemic, many, many people (especially the young’uns) were getting mobilized and organized to demand and work for a more equitable way. Could this pandemic kill capitalism? Stay tuned!

  • My New Life, For Now

    Aside from a few bouts of loneliness and anxiety, which always pass, I’m holding up well. I just keep reminding myself, “We have no idea what will happen.” I find strange comfort in that.

    I am working on art projects, doing laundry, cooking SO MUCH food, washing SO MANY dishes, writing letters to friends, calling people (not random people. I haven’t pranked anyone since… I think 8th grade), listening to the radio, resting, reading “Why Comics?” by Hillary Chute, doing Sunday NYTimes crossword puzzles, taking the occasional car trip to get outta the house.

    I kinda have a routine. It varies slightly. But, having some semblance of a routine does help.

    I’m also packing, because I’m supposed to be moving soon. That’s up in the air. So, I’m slowing down with the packing. I’m almost done except for essentials, and I need those! Sadly, I’ve already packed most of my decor, so my famous clown bathroom is almost completely without clowns. Except for the one who is writing this post. Har har.

  • An observation

    The previous “roaring twenties” lasted an entire decade.

    Our roaring twenties lasted a few months.

  • Easy Listening

    I continue to ask… how are you holding up?

    I’m doing pretty well except when going out for supplies. Makes me nervous, especially seeing so many NY and CT plates in store parking lots. We overheard one woman at a store talking about how she drives up from CT all the time, and is just buying food for her friends back home. No big deal! she claimed.

    I’m reminded of the summer I spent working at an easy listening radio station. 40 hours a week, from midnight to 8 am. I slept all day and didn’t see many humans for three months. At first there is the novelty of it all, but that wears off and is replaced by trying to remain sane.

    I could get most of the necessary work done in about an hour. I had to program the day’s commercials and load up tape machines. After that, my only responsibility was to make sure the music and ads continued to play over the air. That meant I had to listen to the easy listening music continually. (One exception – once a week I’d make a recording of the American Country Countdown to combine what they sent on record albums with local commercials to create a local show for a sister station)

    One thing I learned was that volume helps easy listening. Turning it way up helped. If you are ever stuck listening to something akin to muzak, turn it up.

    Another thing I learned was that easy listening was a vague term, and lots of music was piled into the category. I’d hear 101 Strings, Frank Sinatra (Summer Wind – yea! When I was 17 – oh , no! Not again!), and even some Simon and Garfunkel.

    But mostly, it was boring. Dull as dull can be. No human contact. No internet. Can’t turn off the music. What does one do?

    The answer – slowly go a bit insane. It became common to talk to myself out loud. I’d walk around announcing what I was doing. “Time to go into the other room!”

    I’d play with tape decks and audio equipment, and experiment with multitrack, multi-speed recordings. I’d record snippets off the air and loop them and play with sounds. The water cooler made a good conga drum. Glasses in the kitchen made okay cowbells.

    One real joy was around 5 or 6 am when the newspapers were delivered. First, it was the one time when I could go outside for a moment and get fresh air. We got three papers delivered at the station, and I’d read them cover to cover. Every comic. Every story. Every classified ad. Every night.

    As days turned into weeks and weeks into months, the only way I was keeping time was watching my beard grow out for the very first time. I figured it was a good experiment, so I could see what it was like, but no one else would.

    I started to do exercises. I’d go for a jog around the station, which had a an oval configuration of hallways. Counting laps.

    I got very good at estimating time. Everything at a radio station is timed, and watching clocks for three months meant getting very good at knowing how long 10 seconds was, and how much could be packed into that amount of time. To this day, I can often use a stopwatch to start and stop and land exactly on 1 second. (Yes, I was tracking the three months in tiny intervals.)

    I started to know the playlists. Recording the country countdown each week meant that I started to learn the top 40 country hits of that summer. Country wasn’t my genre at all, but when forced, some of the songs started to sound better than others. I started rooting for certain songs to climb to the top. I think my favorites that summer were “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot” and “Old Hippie” which I can still sing… “he was an old hippie, and he’s not sure what to do, should he hang on to the old, or grab on to the new…”

    By the end of three months, I was pale and bearded, full of country and easy listening music, had learned some recording tricks, and was feeling rather out of place and nutty. The first thing I did to celebrate the job ending was shave my beard. Ahh, I’m done!

    No. The person I trained to replace me had flaked-out after a couple of days and they wanted me to go back for another week. Imagine being asked to return to solitary. Out of duty and a desire for more money, I went back in and did another week. I felt terrible. My mind was mad at me. But it ended.

    I imagine that many people are now going through their first attempt at amusing themselves for months while being alone. It isn’t easy, and you do need to find ways to occupy yourself. Even so, you might feel a bit crazy at times. Get creative and do what you need to do to maintain yourself.

    Anyhow… stay safe. The models and graphs of COVID-19 spread clearly show that reducing contact with others will reduce the dangers. Total lockdown is the safest, but we aren’t there.

    • Safety Dance

      I’m playing more music than usual, and singing and sit-dancing to it. This is beginning to feel like a Phillip K. Dick story. “I saw my neighbor in person today, she was pale and listless, but it was a change to see a human in real life.”

      Working the Lobster/Graveyard/Living Dead shift is something you’re born to do, or not. I made it 10 months before becoming a Poe character. At the start I loved it, alone in an office, good money, good stereo system. Near the end I was throwing xeroxes of body parts out the office window onto E. 45th St for the 9-5 office workers to ponder.

      This is all strange; the outdoor silence, the getting-rare sight of people walking around (often wearing masks and gloves), the death toll in NYC alone is shocking. And this free-floating anxiety is coming out in people’s bad habits returning with a vengeance. I haven’t craved cigarettes in years as I do now. By the time this is over I expect I’ll have regained all the weight I fought off over the last year and a half. It reminds me very much of the mid-’80s and the AIDS epidemic. Though I do think that was much worse.

      When and where this ends is unknown. But for right now, I have lots of things to keep me occupied and not thinking too much. Stay home, stay safe. Look for the laughs.

      • PKD and Science Fiction Generally

        Funny you should mention PKD — we just watched Blade Runner a couple nights ago. I love that film. It’s so glamorously dystopian. But yeah, lately, everything is about the unreality of every day life.

        Another book I need to revisit is DeLillo’s White Noise, which is similarly unsettling.

        Currently reading The Decameron, featuring 10 young noblepeople sitting around someone’s estate after fleeing the plague. To pass time, they tell stories. The stories are pretty good! The intro about the Plague of 1348 makes you think people haven’t changed that much in their response to epidemics (or pestilence as they called it then).

        For the most part, my life isn’t that much different now except instead of getting out once I week, I don’t get out at all. Still busy with work, very busy in fact, because it’s web-based. I have lots of social content if you count video chat and email.

        The biggest problem is groceries, which my brother summed up as follows: “I could make dinner if I could get a pepper. Now where can I get a pepper?” It’s not that bad, really, but for a while it felt like it was. Now it’s just — how can we avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store? Which amounts to the same thing.

        Is it time for Life of Brian yet?

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