Category Archives: sociology
I’m not going to candycoat it. We’ve had it with this virus. It’s maddening, with no end in sight — a marathon with an invisible finish line. If you randomly approached strangers and asked, “What are you talking about?”, 85% of the time they’d reply, “COVID.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m a planner. These days we can’t plan a thing more than two weeks out…never know what’s around the corner! Reports come in, rules change, doors open and close. I’m kicking myself for not taking a river cruise, going to Scotland, Nova Scotia or Scandinavia, or trying Cuba before it was shut off (again) or surf camp, tennis camp, renting a lake house with friends. Yeah, it’s hard to schedule trips with people, everyone’s so busy, but I could have gone alone! It’s fun to travel alone. All that observing.
When will church start? The Olympics! Choir? Chorus? Contradancing? Canoodling? When will live concerts and sports and Broadway return? Hotels, movie theaters and the next Westworld? Will I lose my job? Will I get a job? Will I get a job requiring hazmat gear or cooties-soaked mass transit? It’s just painful.
On one hand the virus is not a face-melting pox…but then we’d know who has it, which is the problem. To bright-side it isn’t impossible, but it’s a stretch. “At least…” we’re not in a nuclear war; it’s not the Holocaust; it’s not 9/11; it’s not a global Katrina. Yet any way you slice it, COVID-19 sucks. Because we can control little beyond following protocols around masks, distancing, OCD-caliber handwashing, and donating money or time, we just have to suck it up.
We’re increasingly vigilant towards our mental well-being. Resilient human nature has us generally bouncing back, but striving to be upbeat is now more of a repeating calendar task (“no end date”). We have to work at it. A New Hampshire friend quit watching the news. Unapologetic, she says, “I find that going inside is the answer.” Meditating, sending love, enjoying your sheets, picturing a freer future, and resting—knowing that there are many people worldwide without such luxuries. I’ve never slept so much in my life. Dreams are like a free vacation. Occasionally a peculiar or disturbing dream, true, but well it didn’t actually happen, now did it? Didn’t cost a dime or expose you to microvarmints.
For meditation, I highly recommend the (free!) Insight Timer app. Thousands of guided meditations. Choose a topic, or just nature sounds/music and set the timer with various gongs and bells. Great good fun. It displays how many people are currently meditating; numbers have gone way up. Some gems are Canadian Jennifer Piercy (try Yoga Nidra for Sleep), or the young Jonny John Liu, whose name enchants and whose accent lulls in Self-Transformation Through Self-Acceptance. Just download Insight Timer and click on the Search magnifier at bottom. Off you go! I fall asleep before they’re over. Shh.
When spiraling downwards, I try self-talk, summoning pleasant thoughts. Like: this mess involves the entire planet. So the top medical smarties worldwide are working on solutions ‘round the clock. Vaccines! Treatments! Virus-killing UVC light-spraying robots on subways! Maybe this horror will end sooner than we think. Just maybe we are in fact, as one scientific predictor put it, halfway there. Envision what you’ll do when it’s over!
To make handwashing less of a bore: the virus’s fatty membrane holding it together is destroyed by soap. You’re not just rinsing virus down the drain; it literally falls apart. Don’t fret, I missed one! Just lather up, remember your nails and rings. You’re making it impossible for it to replicate. For the (required!) 20 seconds, you know to sing Happy Birthday twice. I sing it
to different people, dead or alive, real or fictional, as I launder my paws. To amuse self. Mental well-being.
I feel your pain, Dear Reader. Keep steady on your mount on this long and crazy journey. If you fall off, just get back on your pony and keep slashing through. I’ll water you both when you pass my station, so you can keep going. The way you act and process thoughts will determine our collective outcome. Think of solutions and wish hard. I miss you. Good day.
. . . must have used this slot for processing transactions, like payments for commissioned cave paintings and wooly mammoth chops.
As a generally can-do person, it rather stuns me when I freeze up, motionless. One example: years ago, I was house-sitting in L.A., where friends had relocated. Before they left, the wife said, “Use the car in the parking garage, my grandmother in New York gave it to us—it’s really big!”
I froze up. There was no way I could drive on freeways in some giant jalopy, a lone Beverly Hillbilly. I couldn’t even picture piloting the ship (a 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic) out of the building’s garage, heaving its enormous steering wheel. I explained this to a carless comedian friend from New York, then living in Santa Monica, whom I badly wanted to visit. But: I couldn’t drive the boat. I walked 4.8 miles to Santa Monica.
Another: I was living in a scary part of Chicago, losing it after 9/11 and taking psychology classes (of all things). One day I just couldn’t get into the subway to go home. I crouched into a ball in an alley, phoning a friend to talk me onto the subway (“Lift right knee…”). Prior, I had considered anxiety disorders total hooey. Yet there I was: frozen solid.
Back to L.A. When there was a 6.7 earthquake there, my friend quickly ran for their dog and earthquake kit. His wife, frozen, put on lipstick. How we react to panic is largely animal. It’s what happens a bit after the initial shock, perhaps, that makes us human.
When the potential enormity of COVID-19 first became apparent, all I could do was cook. Others did similar or hid under blankets, fretting and texting. A sage in Bethel noted that when we’re in Survival Mode, our love center shuts down. How terrible. Hence one guy stealing milk out of a woman’s shopping cart at Market Basket.
We’re now over the initial shock. We’ve gotten used to circumstances changing weekly or daily, sometimes hourly. It is time to exit Survival Mode, calm down, unfreeze, and somehow trust that we will transcend this—economically, psychologically, and physically. For some, calming comes from YouTubed church meetings or pagan Zooms. Friends and I hold Facebook Messenger “Wait Watchers” meetings wherein we share perspectives and tips that keep us sane during this crazy-making wait. Mostly we laugh and cuss and that is the real draw. If you’re lapsing into frozen, reach out for help or, possibly, to help. Either works.
I saw high school girls in a parking lot, each seated solo in the way back of an SUV with the hatchback open, each facing the middle (like a flower). They played music and laughed, socially distant. Next a group of women on lawn chairs around a fire pit. They drank and laughed, socially distant. I do “live FaceTiming,” wherein I visit people and we talk to each other thru a closed window or glass door, on our phones. It doesn’t all have to be virtual, right?
Despite the horrors, which are legion, benefits exist. People are slowing down. Reprioritizing. Paying attention. Walking. Feeling. Calling elders. Cleaning closets. Napping. There can be no mass shootings (no masses), minimal war (sick, unwilling, or napping soldiers), little pollution. The planet is healing. Some speculate that the virus was sent by Mother Nature. “I see, you’re gonna keep trashing my forests, creatures, and waters? Ho-ho, take that!” Who knows…the planet is a living thing. Maybe it went into Survival Mode.
So: what do you want to do with your time? When this thing is over, and it will be over, it’s entirely possible we’ll lament, “Where’d all my free time go, man?” Choose wisely. Share laffs. Help. Learn something new. Meditate. Stretch, lit. and fig. Send pleasant thots. Panic not.
Report in as able. Good luck to you and yours, Dear Reader, and good day.
Parts of this made me bawl, as likely they will you. Worth pondering for 5 minutes. At the least, it will take you places you can’t go right now.
Home delivery of The New York Times...to the manger. (The Times is in blue plastic on the bed of pine.) All the news that’s fit for the coming of the Lord?
A friend snapped this on her early morning walk. I can’t tell if the topmost angel is strolling down the sidewalk or suspended in mid-air. Either is good.*
*Inside tidbit: As I was entering germane “tags” for this post into WordPress, one mysteriously autofilled when I entered the tag, “Jesus learns to read”: Advice to youth in the workplace. Snort.
Life-sized creche, Pleasantville, NY, USA
Thank you, Jesus!
I don’t know why I was thanking God, but Siri overheard me. So I Googled “Questions to Ask Siri.” — a truly awful way to waste time. And wicked old hat. Everyone has asked her by now if she’s hot. Or rich. Kinky. Etc.
Surely Siri has gotten people into trouble. Philandering people. People messaging bosses by mistake. The possibilities are endless in Modern Tymes. Not that we need Siri to screw up; she just makes it more asinine when we do.
At work, it seems the kitchen is always a battleground. Not only do people steal each other’s creamer or entire lunches – even groceries – cleanliness is an issue. People leave befouled utensils and dishes in the sink as if they will magically cleanse themselves. I asked a male colleague why this occurs. He said, “Because we work with children.” He didn’t mean their physical age.
God love the women who install workplace signs like, “Your Mother Doesn’t Work Here.Do Your Dishes.” Otherwise-likeable people in offices everywhere “soak” their dishes in the only sink big enough for lactating employees to rinse their breast pumps. Once I taped up a laminated medical photo of multiplying bacteria in a wordless volley on behalf of the breast-feeders. Someone removed it (as another sign in my condo recently warned, “We don’t know who…YET!”) because, apparently, the sign-remover thought it gross. Look in the sink, pally. There’s your gross.
It’s just another terrible example of how mankind has made little progress. We’ve killed each other differently over time, from spears to boiling oil to nerve gas to WMD, but we are still murdering each other and taking each other’s stuff and many, many of us won’t pull our own weight. Not to mention the littering.
I realize there are brain health issues. Some people are just barmy. And for most of my adult life I had neither a dishwasher nor washing machine and I promise you those items make a BIG difference, and it’s one reason why many peoples of the lands hate Americans. We don’t have dysentery every Thursday or have to beat our clothes with rocks, riverside.
They resent our easy lives, if in part only because they don’t know how crazy we are. I understand because I have struggled in my life on many occasions and I resent handsome, moneyed, model-marrying quarterbacks, golfers, and rock stars, and the models themselves who had to work even less hard. Some say, “Oh, the life of a pro golfer is extremely difficult.” Try custodial work, my good man.
My point being some people are bonkers, and some are resentful and devoid of hope; this discourages them from making an effort. I get that. But there’s a big difference between quietly begrudging the people with charmed lives, and making a disastrous mess out of the corner of the world you share with others because you’re deranged or angry.
Mercifully, there are many good people. A stranger once said to me, “Most people are good. The bad people are noisy and obvious in their destruction so it seems there is a lot of them. Really, there are only a few bad people doing all the bad things.” Repeat offenders, I guess. So I take solace in that good people are quietly stoking their woodstoves and paying their rent and raising gentle citizens and shoveling their neighbors’ driveways. There are countless individuals doing decent things you’ll never hear about. If you are feeling bad about humanity, think on that. I’ll ponder the kindly employee at my gym who washed dozens of water bottles in Lost & Found and put them out for their owners to claim. She didn’t have to wash them. She did.
And when you hear some great piece of music, the second you hear it your soul soars and you are in absolute awe with, “This must be some kind of genius!” and you know for certain there is a God of some sort, inherent in us, and that despite the madness and laggardly sloppiness in this cruel world there is brilliance and kindness and a dancing bird and art of all kinds. And you also know there is no possible way this is random. For every crazy or selfish maniac ruining everyone’s good time there are millions more making a good time, improving things, usually unheralded, unthanked, and unassuming.
I’m not one to candy-coat things in the present, but the past is another matter entirely. The Nostalgia Monster lives inside me, handed down from my father, I think. I’m a nostalgic, to the point of missing people, residences, jobs and situations that I didn’t actually enjoy at the time. It’s one of those species-perpetrating neurological tricks, like women forgetting the pain of childbirth – if we remember our past fondly, we’ll want to keep going! The good news is if you were ever unkind to me, I’ve probably forgotten. I remember only the sparkly thing you said while ice skating, and I miss you for it, and there are others out there like me who bear you no grudge.
If you’re pinching lunches or littering or hurting people or assuming the world owes you something, like a big, petulant baby, for God’s sake, knock it off. In the future, we’ll like you either way. But in the present, we’ll like you a whole lot more if you’d tighten it up. It’s nice to be responsible; it’s fun to be liked. Give it a go. You’ll see. Good day.
Facebook: ann.aikens.7 … Twitter: @uvgvt.
When you hate change as much as I do, things that remain constant are a necessary comfort. Holiday traditions that recur year after year, such as Randolph’s caroling with Santa’s arrival on the green, Woodstock’s horsey Wassail Parade, the Holly Jolly project, and mitten trees provide the longboard I need to surf life’s erratic vicissitudes.
Wrapping presents while watching treacly movies on Lifetime (theme: buff, middle-aged guy new to town chooses charmingly disorganized single mother over outfit-wearing sports-car/golfing lady) or the Hallmark Channel (title: A Bride for Christmas) soothes my holiday prep time no matter what’s going in real life. Which might not be all that good. I’m not mocking these shows. Christmas in Conway enchants, and The Christmas Hope is a bawler. I’m a sap. Akin to treacle.
Another lifesaver is the expressionless decorative light-up pilgrim I bought years ago at Rite-Aid. About three feet high, he gets dusty after a year in storage and I have a good hoot washing him off every November when I get to his little plastic fanny. Should have purchased the whole expressionless family (stalwart group!). And when Grandma Al and her granddaughter make magic cookies (not the Grateful Dead kind) in their aprons, or I look up Alex Hanson’s gravy recipe online yet again, all is right in the world.
Everything changes so fast now we can’t keep up. My fairly new TV is apparently already a “dino” (cable installer guy didn’t think I’d understand this high-tech lexicon on phone call to his mother ship in front of me—get a less obvious code word, pally!), and suddenly we don’t need to connect our computers to a cable for internet connectivity at home, even without a router (what?). My shiny, year-old TV remote is archaic, outmoded, useless; my router obsolete. Cableboy won’t take any of it away with him.
What do I do with these antiquated accoutrements? The remote, the cables, the router…are others pouring same into landfill? Je refuse! I’ll find a home for them if it kills me. When I said to the Comcast guy and the TV wall-mounter guy in my living room, “Wow, I didn’t know you could tilt the TV like that on its brackets, there should be a remote for that,” they looked at me like I was some kind of sci-fi future-predicting genius. “I’ve never seen that!” one said. But I don’t want another damn remote. All I need is a sled, snow pants, hot cocoa with marshmallows, gift wrap, Jingle Bell Rock, and some people. That stuff doesn’t need upgrading. It never gets old.
Change: no! I like when people do their lights the exact same way every year. There is a little blue-lit tree outside somewhere (Tunbridge?) that, unlike nieces, never seems to grow up. That’s good. It’s distressing when houses change hands and the usual trimmings change or disappear. Driving by my parents’ empty house is saddening. It’s been empty in winter in recent years, but this time it’s permanent – and no change is worse than permanent change. When the Barnard General store quit selling penny candy 30 years ago, I never recovered. It’s all still there, right where it belongs, the little wax bottles filled with colored ick, the caramels and the Smarties®, in my mind.
Some change is not so awful. That I moved from my beloved Bethel — not great. But I stay over a friend’s house (whom I used to live so close to that staying over never occurred to us) and we have spiked nog by the Christmas tree after her cat punches me repeatedly while I write (love the Siamese—naugh-ty) and, well, maybe a new tradition is in the making. When the old traditions fall off, due to death or dismemberment or some horrible new technology, they need replacing or we’re left with nothing.
I’ll start one now. Something you can see and think, “Oh good, there’s that thing again. A constant!”
You may enjoy what autofills in Google’s search box before you finish typing … endlessly amusing. Monthly, I might post the winners. For December:
“Does a…” autofills with
-root canal hurt
-duck’s quack echo
-photon have mass?
Et voila. Your inaugural autofill of the month. Little gift fer ya there, as you jingle around the clock. Good day.
Bumper Sticker Suggested by Harry One Year Ago when I Wrote we Were Told as Children (by the Catholics?) That Writing “Xmas” Instead of Christmas was Literally a Sin:
Let’s keep the X in Xmas!
By way of passive resistance, I placed this humble dahlia on my front porch facing the symbolically violent road work going on just yards away (loud, chaotic, foul-smelling, with big machines). Dahlia shines her pink face at the mess, “Mornin’, perpetrators. Sniff awn this.”
A little Kent State-y, maybe, but sometimes a posy is the best you can do.