But I Am Not Amused
By Tobye S. Stein
For me, the coronavirus is a constant roller-coaster ride. I should mention that I’m not a fan of roller coasters. I’ve been on enough of them to make an informed decision and I don’t like them. It’s the going up and up and up and not knowing when I will fall. The thrill for me is always getting off the ride.
I have my good days and my less good days, and dare I say, a few bad days. I’m sheltering in place with my husband, Neal, and our dog Buddy. We have enough food to eat: although our furnace broke during the last cold spell and we had no heat for two days, we survived. Now we have heat for these remaining cold days, and there is plenty to do around the house. Those things make up good days. We walk Buddy and get to interact with neighbors at a distance on a regular basis. I’m doing my best to do those things the mental health experts keep telling us to do for stress: taking showers, not watching too much news (they never say stop reading the news), getting some exercise, and so on
I am introvert, so staying home isn’t an issue for me. As a licensed counselor, I’m certified to give and interpret the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), so I can confirm my status as an extreme introvert. Yes, extreme, the total opposite of the most common type of personality. By the way, there are no good or bad types and one can learn to behave as other types do to make communication more effective with loved ones and co-workers. It’s why I often hear, “No way, you’re not an introvert!” Yes, deep down I am.
I like my own company and can be left by myself quietly for hours or days. Unlike most people, these days I’m watching less TV unless music or comedy is involved. I’m not that interested in watching horror series or anything that requires deep thought. I usually enjoy reading, but until this past week, I’ve had trouble picking up a book for more than a few minutes because it’s hard to concentrate. I am reading, but much of it is about the coronavirus and the mishandling of the coronavirus.
So, the major downside of the roller coaster is knowing that we never had to be in this predicament. Donald Trump had information about the coronavirus months ago, but decided it didn’t fit his agenda. He’s still fighting and losing a trade war (“they’re so easy to win”) with China. He didn’t want to upset China’s president, so although he’s blaming the virus on China, he’s not blaming its president. It’s Trumpian logic.
Trump wanted everyone to believe this “virus thing” was a hoax perpetrated by the Democrats. He’s still saying his impeachment took his attention away from the virus. Moscow Mitch has said this as well. Trump’s impeachment by the House was guaranteed not to get a fair hearing in the Senate so I’m guessing that Trump had a few bad rounds of golf and that diverted his attention from the virus. His updates are aggravating at best and full of lies and intentional misinformation; at worst, he fails to provide helpful scientific evidence about the coronavirus or empathy for those who have lost family members. But enough about the Trumpster. Trust me, I could go on, but I suspect I’m preaching to the choir.
The hardest part about the coronavirus era is my lack of sleep, but I know I’m not alone. At times, I go days with no more than three or four hours of sleep. There are a number of things that keep me up at night in addition to Trump’s presidency, and the awful way he ignored and continues to ignore this pandemic and the lives of those lost.
Early on, the pandemic itself kept me up, knowing that there was no way to protect oneself. As people were dying in Washington State and New York City, I had a dream that I had the virus. I was in Beaumont Hospital here in Michigan. I was in semi-private room. My bed was close to the door rather than the window. The curtain between the beds was pulled forward so I could not see out of the window. I knew I was going to die but what was going to kill me in addition to the virus was loneliness. Knowing I would never see Neal or Buddy again was what was killing me. One would think that alone would keep me awake for hours. It did.
Later that night, I dreamed my mother was dying from coronavirus. Mom’s been dead nearly 35 years, and she died from another epidemic. She became infected with AIDS through a blood transfusion the day of her massive heart attack. She survived the heart attack but was doomed by the epidemic. I guess the epidemic and the pandemic have a lot in common: a lot of people end up dead unnecessarily because those in charge ignore the problem and delay finding solutions. For the next several days sleep was absent. Who wants to sleep with dreams like that?
Another thing was keeping me awake: For weeks, I obsessed about food. We have enough, and we do go grocery shopping, but I became worried about what to make next. I’m a decent cook and baker, nothing fancy but well beyond just edible. My concern was that with cooking so many meals at home, I would run out of ideas of what to make so we’d be eating the same things over and over again. It’s something under normal circumstances would never have crossed my mind; I often make dinner on the fly, so why worry? I’m over that now. Neal and I usually get takeout once per week to break up all the cooking, and we’re supporting local mom and pop places. We’ve come to know several of the moms and pops, and we’re hoping they’ll be around when we’re ready to go out to eat. I have no idea when that will be, but I now have one less thing to keep me up at night.
I also worry about what would I do if Neal caught the virus and.… He is my husband but also my best friend. To please me, he’s being careful about going out, but he has shpilkes (Yiddish for ants in your pants). Still, we’ve come to an agreement about keeping safe or as safe as possible. But I still worry. When the shelter-in-place order is lifted and restaurants and movie theaters open, we’ll have different points of view.
Worry is what therapists call a useless or unnecessary emotion. I learned that when I earned my MA in counseling. I’ve counseled other people about the uselessness of worry. Under normal circumstances, I suggest keeping a pad of paper next to your bed and writing down what’s keeping you up or any great ideas you have about solving the world’s problems. Until recently, I rarely kept a pad of paper on my nightstand, but I have one now. I use it sometimes. In case you’re wondering, I haven’t solved the world’s problems yet. But every once in a while, it helps the roller coaster come to a full and complete stop. It’s the best part of the ride.
Tobye S. Stein retired as Chief Human Resources Officer from a California-based financial services organization. She once landed a job by replying to the age old question, “Why should I hire you instead of the other two candidates” by simply stating “I’m funnier than most people.” It worked.