Closed schools. Empty restaurants. Newspaper stories sprinkled with charts of how many are predicted to die. Lots of references to the killer 1918 Spanish Flu. Rumors of border closings. Sound familiar?
This is what happened on the last pandemic I lived through, which makes me sound like a wizened crone (and maybe I am). But I’d rather think of myself as an (unofficial) old hand at the special kind of hysteria and confusion that accompanies pandemics.
Does anyone remember Swine Flu, a.k.a. H1N1 virus, which exploded in 2009 and was, like coronavirus, named a pandemic by the World Health Organization? I was living in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico at the time, and our southern neighbor got hit much worse than the States.
I stayed calm through most of the upheaval. But when my husband announced he had to go to the States for business meetings, I lost it. I imagined myself alone with two school-aged children who weren’t in school anymore as the social order broke down. I was sure people desperate for drugs, or M&Ms, or WIFI, or, I don’t know, dog food (if I knew then what I know now, I would have worried about a mob of toilet-paper-snatchers) would climb over our front wall. In full Zombie apocalypse mode, I told my husband that the kids and I had to go to the U.S. with him. There were tears and hyperventilating and my specialty as a Catholic: guilt trips. My husband was sure everything would blow over, but I couldn’t be reasoned with.
We all went to the States together, and I was prepared to sit out the storm in a friend’s guest house for as long as it took. Then, two days after we arrived, the Mexican government said the danger had passed. Schools and businesses were opened again. I felt foolish. Like I’d gone to a Halloween party in an elaborate Lady Gaga costume only to find out no one else had dressed up.
How to Persist, Nevertheless
OK, so the coronavirus of 2020 is a bit more serious than the swine flu of 2009. Already I’ve seen my retirement savings plummet, NextTribe has had to cancel two events out of an abundance of caution, plus this coronavirus, like so much in life, is friggin’ ageist. People 60 years and older are most vulnerable, and I’m flying close to the danger zone.
Still, I’m trying to be sensible. Besides washing my hands as obsessively as Lady MacBeth and trying not to touch my face (why does your nose itch more when you’re telling your hands to keep to themselves), here are some other steps I believe that will help me, and maybe you, get through the coming weeks and/or months.
This is the number one thing I learned from last time: We are not in a sci-fi fantasy movie. The asteroid is not about to hit the Earth. Sauron does not have the ring. Winter is not coming. We can be cautious, without letting our minds spin out to the worst-case scenario, which for me always looks like something out of World War Z, minus Brad Pitt.
Don’t Read TOO Much News
About every ten minutes, I fight my natural rubbernecking inclination to update the New York Times to check if the stock market has gotten a dose of Viagra yet, to look at pictures of people in Hazmat suits cleaning grocery stores in China , to see if someone, anyone, can tell me how Forrest Gump got in the middle of yet another major national event. I need all systems in my body to be in top working order, not tied up like pretzels.
Be Careful Where You Get Your Information
The rumor mill is in high gear. The FDA has already fined modern-day snake-oil salesmen for peddling fake coronavirus treatments. I heard recently that I should turn the temperature up in my house because the virus doesn’t like heat. But before turning my living room into a sauna, I checked on line and the World Health Organization says little is known about the stability of the virus. On the other end of the spectrum, some news organizations still claim that this whole thing is a hoax. At this point, if you believe that, you’ve checked your brain at the door. Oh and don’t let anyone tell you no one could have predicted this. I wrote this story four years ago that laid out just what’s happening now.
Even if you have a wild hair, this is not the time to go to do a mosh pit dive at a rock concert with all those grubby hands that have been God knows where running all over your body. Actually I don’t think there’s ever a time for that. Ewwww. And all concerts have been cancelled anyhow. In fact, a big crowd would be harder to find right now than a flight out of China.
But Don’t Go All Howard-Hughs Reclusive
On the other hand, cowering in your bedroom is not good for you either. Social connection is so important for women our age in any circumstances, and right now, it’s especially vital because studies show it can keep us well physically. When all sense of normalcy has dropped away, we need to touch base (but maybe not anything else) with friends. To feel like your old self again, consider gathering in small groups for a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, or a doobie, depending on your freak-out level. Temperature scanners optional.
Thank God for Digital
The bright side is that there’s so much you can do from the safety of your own armchair now that you can construct an almost-all-digital bubble if you have to. Jimmie Kimmel joked that coronavirus was started by Netflix to increase their viewership. But really, when else will you feel permission to binge watch every series your friends have been cooing about (or that we talk about on our NextTribe Film & TV Facebook group)? When we’ve written about Peloton, people have made snarky comments about why anyone would spend such stupid money, but avoiding sweaty people in the gym sounds pretty smart right now. Skype, Uber Eats, Hello Fresh, telemedicine…wow, I think there’s got to be a morning after. (What disaster movie is that song from?)
More specifically get into nature, where you can keep your distance from other souls looking for reassurance that everything is continuing as usual for some forms of life, and breezes can actually whisk any offending molecules far from your face.
I mean this. Put on some headphones and just let yourself go. It will do wonders for your soul and it’s something liberating you can alone. I even have some suggested tunes: “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. “Dancing Queen” by Abba. “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone. “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Light. “We are Family,” by Sister Sledge. “These Are the Days,” by 10,000 Maniacs, even though these really aren’t the days and the band name will conjure up the government’s coronavirus response team.
Find Some Humor
As I’ve said 100 times, my mother has always believed that if you get old without a sense of humor there’s no hope for you. Same goes here. Watch the late night comics, most of whom will now be performing without a studio audience, so they’ll need the psychic encouragement of a virtual audience. And here’s one of my favorite jokes found on the Internet. There’s more. So much more.
Be Careful Who You Vote For
It turns out that having mature, responsible people heading our government can make a big difference. I’m sorry if that’s a surprise to you. I got an email today from my U.S. representative who has formerly dismissed climate change as a hoax. His email was filled with all kinds of statistics and quotes from scientists and the CDC. I wrote him back, starting my missive with, “Now, you like science.” I ended it with, “Deny science, celebrate ignorance at your peril.”
Get Answers to Your Questions
Take our survey below or click here, if you don’t see a survey below, so we can learn how you’re weathering the coronavirus pandemic. We’ll take your questions to experts for solid answers; look for that story soon.
And please STAY WELL.