You know when you see an outdoor space wrapped in yellow police tape it’s not a good sign. That’s what I discovered this week at all of the entrances to my beloved nearby park, Parque Juarez. (See last week’s WOW post for my paean to this park.)
Precaución is the watchword here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, these days. All public gathering places have been closed or cordoned off in some way, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which (gracias a dios) has yet to hit this old colonial city to any discernable degree. (Three confirmed cases here so far, I believe.)
I respect the authorities’ precautionary stance completely. But still. I’ve got to say (or whine?), I miss walking in my sweet park.
Am I under house arrest?
One by one, it seems, some of the things we once depended on for our centeredness, balance, and sanity are, at least temporarily, slipping away. We’re living in crazy times, to be sure. People all over the world are frightened, some lashing out, some at their wit’s end. In other cases, rationality is flying out the window.
Take, for example, a conversation I had this week with a Mexican friend, who scoffs at the local government’s new face-covering and sana distancia (healthy distance) rules. She told me she doesn’t need to follow these guidelines because she believes in God, and God will protect her from this pestilence. (Read Psalm 91, she told me.) She said that unlike the Catholic church and other churches here, her church is still meeting for services every Sunday, and the congregation is sitting close together. She then attempted to convert me to her beliefs.
“I believe in God, too,” I countered, “but I believe God wants us to use the brains we were given.”
“Your God is not the same as my God,” she shot back.
My head then began to spin even faster than it has been spinning lately.
Coincidentally, that night on the news I saw a woman in the U.S. being interviewed on her way into her evangelical church for a large, in-person Sunday service. She, too, ridiculed her state’s new health department rules and told the TV interviewer to read Psalm 91.
Poor King David will get the blame for misleading them if they – and their friends, families, church communities, doctors, nurses, and other caregivers — get sick or die from this astoundingly contagious and deadly virus, I thought.
So what can we do to maintain our balance and our sanity during these crazy days? Here are some of my suggestions — and I’m open to yours:
First, make a list of the four or five things you’ve always loved doing throughout your life when you’ve had to stay home alone. Then, strive to do at least one of those things every day for the duration of this lockdown.
For me, this list of Favorite Things To Do at Home has remained constant since about high school: reading, writing, cooking, and sewing.
- Reading. I’ve always especially enjoyed reading biographies of remarkable women. Right now I’m reading the award-winning biography, Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart, by John Guy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, NY, 2004), which was the basis for the movie “Mary Queen of Scots.” Every night now I’m transported to mid-16th century France and Scotland – two of my favorite countries – and caught up in the court intrigue. What will happen next?! I keep reading to find out.
- Writing. Writing in my journal every morning has been life-saving for me for many decades. I treat my journal like a therapist or a loving, caring, steadfast friend. Sharing my thoughts, memories, hopes, concerns, and (let’s face it) anguish on paper in this way has allowed me to proceed with each day feeling lighter, unburdened, and more centered. To learn more about doing such “morning pages,” I recommend Julia Cameron’s classic book, The Artist’s Way.
- Cooking. Rather than baking rich desserts (for no one to eat but me), I’ve been cooking soups nearly every day – fragrant, colorful, comforting, and full-of-goodness soups. Try going to www.epicurious.com for fresh ideas if your own soup repertoire has lost its appeal. If you don’t enjoy cooking, open a can of Campbell’s and add some chopped frozen vegetables to bump up the nutritive value.
- Sewing. Even if you don’t own a sewing machine, it’s possible to make no-sew face masks for yourself and others to wear during this pandemic. (Consult Google for the how-to’s.) But because I do have a sewing machine that I love, I’ve been spending quality time in recent weeks sewing face masks as gifts for friends, using leftover cotton quilting fabric:
Another thing I do for fun when I’m alone and nobody can hear me is sing show tunes, because they’re filled with wisdom and whimsy.
The songs that have been bubbling up for me lately are from Porgy and Bess — “I got plenty of nothin’, and nothin’s plenty for me! … ‘Cause the things that I prize, like the stars in the sky, are all FREE! …”
And from The Sound of Music — “… When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad!”
If my roommate Isidor were a real man and not a puppet, I’m sure he would squeeze his eyes shut, stick his fingers in his ears, and shake his head as I go about my housework — dancing with a broom or mop and singing show tunes aloud and off-key. Or, worse yet, he might claim I’m crazy.
~ ~ ~
Please, if you haven’t already done so, read this relevant New York Times Op-Ed piece (published April 7) by Emily Esfahani Smith, “On Coronavirus Lockdown? Look for Meaning, Not Happiness”: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/opinion/coronavirus-mental-health.html?smid=fb-share&fbclid=IwAR2uGWg66uRKdfgZq9IVIvGf729CYwDyScrqGF48tOdLZ3m3s7cXp_uVczM