Disclosure: the title was co-opted from the novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I haven’t read it, so I don’t know if there is any other similarity to this post, but I doubt it. So, here we are in the time of COVID19, the epidemic du jour, trying to love ourselves by staying healthy and unexposed to the virus, or at least not be carriers if we have some strain of it without knowing, trying to be kind to ourselves even when stressed, to love our friends despite self-isolation, to love our communities despite social distancing requirements, and to love our families by staying at home. It’s a tall order. Very tall. As a widow of now five+ years, I might be better able to deal with the isolation and distancing aspects than some others. I am used to being alone, comfortable with the quietness, and some time on my hands. I’ve even saved a few dollars mostly because I am not buying gas to go somewhere and I am cooking at home instead of eating out. That’s not to say I am immune from meltdowns. I had one just yesterday. I find that writing helps me air out my negative thoughts and stirs my creativity, so I decided I’d share with you how I am getting through this rough patch we are all having to deal with. 1. Staying home, or self-isolating does not mean you have to stop all contact with everyone. I am thankful for unlimited minutes and no long-distance charges on my cell phone. (Remember when you had to call after 11 pm on the weekend in order to afford a call with your sister in a different time zone?) I wish I had unlimited data, but that’s another story. Anyway, I talk on the phone A LOT. The other day my friend Rosanne (in Minnesota) and I (in Virginia) had a 3-hour conversation over our individual coffee. I call my kids, some more than once. I text one of my sisters every single day to let her know I am fine. I have reached out to my niece Vanessa, my friend Josie, my neighbor Betty, and even former colleagues from those Good Ol’ Days. I have face-timed and Zoomed and waved from the window. If you’ve got Cabin Fever already, get in touch. It’s not the same as being with them, but it’s not bad. 2. The ripple effect of this virus extends to the economy and outward to the stock market. Where your (and my) retirement funds are waiting. Don’t look at your portfolio right now. No good can come of it. It will only depress you and speed up the meltdown. Ask me how I know! As my friend Marla said, something only has value when you sell it, so if you’re not selling right now, don’t borrow trouble. Of course, if you are “selling,” or in my case, drawing on those funds now, then it’s a bit of a different impact. My friend Phyllis reminded me of things I can’t control. So today I am working on finding other things to think about besides the possibility I won’t be able to eat out as much in 10 years as I do now. The things I can control are things like the level of exercise I give the dogs and myself, the cleanliness of my home, the information diet I consume, the rest I get. That’s good enough. 3. The stay-at-home orders mean a bit of bonus time on our hands. For me, that’s time I’m not shopping, for example. I have decided it is a good time to tap into higher creativity. Aside from glamping up my camper, I am reading new authors (Chinua Achebe) with new characters (a strong African man whose life is dominated by fear and anger) interspersed with my usual fare (a Kathleen Woodiwiss bodice ripper and aching loins saga). I am experimenting in the kitchen, baking quiche with pie crusts I made from scratch the other day; today I am going to try pistachio and chocolate biscotti). 4. Playing games with myself (not THOSE kinds!). I mean when you are running low on chocolate, which may be a necessity but by itself is not enough of a call to venture out to the grocery store, look around in that cupboard. I discovered I have cocoa powder, chocolate-flavored almond bark, and chocolate protein drinks on hand. By the time my Andes’ Mints run out (I only allow myself 2 per day, and I have 2 days’ worth left), I will have made my chocolate-dipped chocolate and pistachio biscotti! I’m trying to see how long I can go in-between visits to the grocery store. Today is day 6. My goal is two weeks because I have a pretty well-stocked pantry and freezer, but I’m lazy sometimes, so I’m going to call it good if I make it 10 days. So far I just haven’t felt like a tater-tot hot dish or tuna casserole. I have taken a turkey out of the freezer, and I’ll probably be able to roast that tomorrow. Then I’ll have leftovers for a LONG time…at least long enough to get me to the 10-day mark, if not all 14. 5. Being thankful and mindful. As dismal as things seem, there is much to appreciate. I am so fortunate that my self-imposed quarantine site is a big house in a great neighborhood where Spring has arrived. I have a 401K to worry about and am paying my bills with a little cash left over each month. I have friends who check in on me and who I can call on just to catch up with whenever I want. I have 3 snuggle pups with amazing antics that keep me smiling. I get to practice building patience and compassion every day, so I can become a better version of myself. As hard as it is, I remind myself that This Too Shall Pass. I am actually looking forward to the world pushing the Reset Button on priorities and values. I wish the cost wasn’t so high, but I suppose that it’s gotten this way because we let it. I’ve let go of so many things in my life, a marriage that turned sour, a career that ended, a husband who died, a dream here or there that didn’t work out, among others. I know that life goes on. We change because we want to, even when it seems like life is doing things to us. We are all doing our best with what we know, or at least I am, and I think most of us are. I am happening to life; life is not happening to me. So I am going to keep on keeping on, just following my heart, loving myself as much as I can. I hope you do, too.
by Patricia Duggan