Quarantine Diary 5: Guilt, grandmothers, and gratitude

snap out of it

We’re still fine here in Reno. Still sheltering in place. Still limiting our consumption of news–wanting to hear what Dr. Fauci has to say–but trying to ignore the rest.

No one I know is ill. Thankfully, my daughters and their spouses are all considered “essential” and are still employed. Granddaughter likes the Zoom meetings with her fourth-grade teacher. And while she misses her classmates, she enjoys video-chatting and texting. Like I said, we are fine.

Essentially, we have been inconvenienced by the quarantine, but our existence has not been threatened. Perhaps being old and retired has made this crisis easier. Perhaps I’ve been practicing for this. Reading, writing, crafts, gardening, and walking are my regular day-to-day activities. I can even do yoga with my regular teacher on Youtube. My world has shrunk but has not turned upside down. And I’m very grateful.

It appears I’m not alone. According to this story in the NYTimes: ‘I Like It, Actually’: Why So Many Older People Thrive in Lockdown

“If you haven’t lived as long as I have you might think this was the worst thing that ever happened. But people who know history know the difference.” ~Janet Wasserman

However, while reading friends’ Facebook posts lately, I see that many are stressed, anxious, sad, lonely, frustrated, frightened, even angry. And I’m sorry. Certainly, I empathize with those whose income has shrunk or disappeared. Or those having to quarantine with a toxic family member. Or fret over a vulnerable loved one. But I feel guilty about being okay. It’s the exact opposite of schadenfreude.

Nevertheless, somewhere in my long life, someone inoculated me against melancholy. I’ve mentioned before that I come from a long line of positive thinkers. Optimism, resourcefulness, and resilience run deep in my family. I also know that for better or worse, my attitude is contagious. Anxiety begets anxiety. Hope begets hope.

My widowed Irish grandmother (a big believer in “The Power of Positive Thinking) once told me that when she was having a bad day, she stayed away from others so she wouldn’t infect them with her bad mood. Her advice? Have yourself a good cry, make a cup of tea, and then snap out of it. And yes, I recognize that for people subject to clinical depression, PTSD, or anxiety disorder this is not helpful advice. But the rest of us might do well to consider it.

Or this advice:

My grandmother once gave me a tip:
In difficult times, you move forward in small steps.
Do what you have to do, but little by little.
Don’t think about the future, or what may happen tomorrow.
Wash the dishes.
Remove the dust.
Write a letter.
Make a soup.
You see?
You are advancing step by step.
Take a step and stop.
Rest a little.
Praise yourself.
Take another step.
Then another.
You won’t notice, but your steps will grow more and more.
And the time will come when you can think about the future without crying.

~Elena Mikhalkova

With that in mind, I consider it my responsibility as a spouse, as a member of a family, as a friend, to spread the sunniest, most hopeful version of myself I can muster, especially now. I’ll try to keep my anxiety or anger to myself. I will give what I can to the local food bank. I’ll keep crocheting tiny hats for the NICU. I will plant flowers and vegetables.  I will be kind. And I will continue to count my blessings.

Tiny hats for the NICU Knits Project

What are you grateful for? What silver linings have you found during this crisis? Please share. We can all use a little sunshine.

And like Monty Python says, “Always look on the bright side of life.”

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