I’m a huge fan of Stranger Things and can’t wait for the fourth season of the sci-fi thriller to release on Netflix. I’ll join millions of other rabid rans pulling an all-nighter to watch every episode back-to-back-to-back. While I’m Team Steve all the way, and Eleven is girl-power on steroids, I’m not a big fan of the Upside Down. When the eerie music plays, the white ash starts flying, and the typical American scene slowly flips upside down and turns dark and foreboding, goosebumps crawl up my arms.
Right now, I’m feeling upside down. On Thursday, our school system called an audible at o’dark hundred and notified teachers and students alike to stay home until further notice. The Coronavirus is stateside, and it’s spreading across the country. Testing is nearly non-existent, but, thankfully, our school system made the tough choice to shutter every school. It cancelled all school-related activities, even closing its doors to outside vendors who rent the facilities over weekends. Friday, I drove into school with two other teacher friends, and there was a nervous electricity in the air. We quickly packed up our must-haves, kept conversations with others to a minimum, and left the premises. As we climbed into the car, now packed with about 15 memory box book club projects, I verbalized my trepidation, “I don’t know why, but I feel sad right now.” In retrospect, I think it’s the uncertainty, the unknown. This is a beginning without an ending in sight.
Less than 24 hours after schools closed, the shelves and refrigerated and frozen cases in every local grocery and big box store were swarmed by fearful shoppers. Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes had long ago disappeared, leaving barren metal shelves tagged with “Limit to 2 per customer” signs. Now the frozen peas, family packs of chicken, soup, and pasta aisles were under attack. I found myself at Safeway, loading up my own cart with meats, frozen fruits and vegetables, bread and–yes, soup. Last night around 10pm, my husband and I entered Wal-Mart for a shower mat and chicken breasts but found completely empty refrigerated cases. There was one promising development: Wal-Mart workers were busy unpacking toilet paper, and the late-night shoppers were snatching up the 12-packs as if they were gold. Okay, I admit it; I grabbed one, too.
Life feels weird right now. I can feel the stress tangled up in my chest. I’m worried about my middle son, who’s currently in Iceland and hoping his flight home tomorrow takes off. I’m worried about my eldest daughter, who’s backpacking in Colorado’s wilds to steer clear of the virus. I’m worried about my family and friends. I’m worried about my students and colleagues. Do their families have what they need right now?
What can we do? Try to hold onto the normal. Go for walks and bike rides outside. Call friends. Check on neighbors. Order takeout from your local restaurants; they need our business now more than ever. Communicate with those who can’t leave where they are–like my Mom and Dad, who are in an assisted living and memory care facility, respectively, that will lock down tomorrow. We won’t be able to see them; and they won’t be able to see each other. It’s time for emails, text messages, and letters. It’s time for Skype and FaceTime. It’s time to remember that we need each other more than we need toilet paper or ground beef.
Worry a little less for a while. That’s my mission. Untangle that stress with exercise, meditation, or music. Read a book (Avoid dystopian, however, which I regrettably didn’t). Learn something new via a YouTube tutorial or deep-dive Google search. Test drive Sporkle to increase your trivia brain power. Challenge Google to a sketching duel with QuickDraw. Clean your room (something I’m in the midst of doing). Journal on paper or online. Doodle. Watch puppy or kitten videos. Listen to The Moth or Six Minutes podcasts. Follow @charliemackesy, @natgeo, @thetinychefshow, or #nationalparkservice on Instagram. Most importantly, take care of yourself.
I’m going to try to write often…because doing so makes life feel a little less upside down. Do something good for yourself today. Trust me, our minds and bodies need it.
Feeling upside down today,