Corona Chronicles: “New Normal”?

Someone asked me the other day what I thought a “new normal” would look like. In summary, I told her I didn’t know.

Prior to COVID-19, I ate out a lot at restaurants: fancy, new, local, whatever. I have no idea what a new normal will look like for someone who eats out as a form of socialization, with social distancing rules…and a mask. Will I wear my mask to the restaurant but then pull it down towards my neck when it’s time to eat, a mask-wearing no-no? Will the waiter wear a mask while describing the catch of the day?

I…have…no…idea.

covid-19-4939288_1280My daughter’s graduation has been moved to July. Will we sit in a university setting as years’ past? Or, will we have to sit six feet apart, even from the people with whom we came? I don’t know. And there is no space in my brain for the new rules. None make sense for a situation like this.

Recently, I’d seen reports of how K-12 schools might interact for the new year. Desks six feet apart. Lunch in the room, instead of a cafeteria. Teachers change rooms, instead of students. None of this seems reasonable because, logically, if Kid A has corona virus and Kid B does not, but they’re both in the same room, just six feet apart, but maybe sharing a pencil sharpener, computer, book (because Kid A forgot his), then Kid B may be in trouble anyway. Unless, they wear masks and gloves. Will they wear masks and gloves?

I’m writing this the first day that Florida’s shelter-at-home has been lifted. My husband is supposed to return to work May 15th. He says he won’t, unless his job has a plan for testing for reasons similar to the ones I’ve stated above with Kid A and B, just replace them with Coworker A and B and replace books, with stapler, copy machine, and open office concept, which was such a great idea at the turn of the century. Not so much now.

New normal? I have no idea what this refers to because, remember, it was just two months ago that this “normal” was thrust upon us; this is still new. We’re still shifting.

medical-4934010_1280Will we no longer hug and kiss people, even those we love and trust hope to not be sick? That doesn’t seem normal to me. Come to think of it, in the midst of this pandemic, people are probably sneaking around hugging and kissing, if you know what I mean, because, yeah…we’re human beings who need physical interaction of all kinds. Don’t we? Or will that be a part of our new normal? Not touching one another.

So anyway, I don’t pretend to make baseless predictions of what the future will look like. Hell, I didn’t even know this would be a thing. What would make me believe I’d know what tomorrow will bring? I’m very comfortable saying, I don’t know.

But maybe you’ll play along. What do you think our “new normal” will be?

05/01/20

kg

Corona Chronicles: You’re Stupid!

My grandmother’s go-to question when she believes you’re doing something she doesn’t agree with or something she doesn’t understand is, “Are you stupid?” I’ve heard this question a million times in my life. It’s the reason I haven’t played checkers with her (or anyone else) since I was a teenager. When I used to put my little red piece in danger of being jumped, or worse, double jumped, I’d face the dreaded question, are you stupid? Or, if she didn’t want to be implicit, like when I helped my illiterate cousin write a letter that was later used in court, she announced, that was stupid, with extra emphasis on the first syllable, so that it  sounded like SSSTOOOpid.

Although I knew otherwise, I always felt like the dumbest person in the world when she said it, as if she had top-secret information for not doing “stupid” things in life. As if she, alone, held the keys to making intelligent, sound decisions. As if she’d never done anything someone else could call, stupid.

And so, I’m hypersensitive to the phrase.

But I’ve never heard it used so much and so flippantly as I have in the past two months. I wish I would’ve started a counter for how many times I’ve seen or heard, They’re so stupid! You know who they are? I’ll tell you what I think, similar to Grannie, it’s anyone who isn’t doing what the accuser thinks someone else should be doing.

First, it was Spring Breakers in Florida and Mardi Gras partiers in New Orleans. A bunch of teenagers and college students were called stupid for doing what some teenagers and college students do: be self-centered and party. What would you have done during a pandemic if you were 18, 19, or 21? Maybe you were more responsible than these young people; maybe you would’ve taken yourself right home and self-quarantined.

img_3580The phrase then filtered to people’s parents who were 60 years or older. For some reason, my friends and family couldn’t understand why their parents wouldn’t listen to them and just stay home. There was even this clever meme circulating about caging said “stupid” parents. I reminded a friend that I’m sure his mama was thinking the same thing about him in the early 90s. She probably wished she could’ve caged him so that he wouldn’t harm society or himself.

Next, it trickled down to anyone who wouldn’t stay home, even though CDC guidelines stated people could “walk, hike, or cycle.” I think it prompted the #StayTheFuckHome mantra. Listen, cuss words are a part of my vocabulary, but I’d venture to say that no one wants to be the target of a global cuss out; however, that’s what we’re doing now.

Eventually, they’re stupid included people who didn’t wear masks, even though the CDC and the surgeon general said it was recommended. I noticed two things when I went to the grocery store: when I didn’t yet have a mask to wear, mask wearers peered over their material as if I was a crazy person; when I wore my mask, then non-mask wearers looked at me like I was a crazy person, leading me to a conclusion. No matter what, people have a judgment when you don’t do what they think you should do.

I don’t even want to get into the church Easter goers. The masses hadn’t developed a word suitable enough to describe just how stupid they thought these parishioners were. So, I’ll return to Florida.

img_3675At the time I’m writing this, Jacksonville Beach has re-opened access, with restrictions: there is no sitting and you can only venture out during specific hours. Just like that, an old photo of Palm Beach, 285 miles away in South Florida, along with a Jacksonville headline was posted. And a new crop of judgments has re-surfaced. Yep. You guessed it. They’re stupid. This time “they” includes Jax Beach residents, the mayor, and anyone who chooses to walk on the beach, even though the photo depicted a false image.

Just to be clear, I’ve been following the CDC guidelines and the rules of my state. I wear masks. I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer. If you follow me on Instagram, then you know how much I love the beach; however, I won’t be walking alongside the Atlantic ocean anytime soon.

And you know what else I won’t be doing? I won’t be calling others stupid if they make a different choice.

~kg

4/17/20

Corona Chronicles: Creativity

Sooo, I was scrolling along on Facebook and ran across a friend from grad school, Amanda. She and her husband, Josh have created a PODCAST to hash out how they’ve been handling the pandemic with their teenage daughter and three-year-old son.

I thought it was a creative and authentic way to show that we’re all figuring things out in our own way, and I understand the constant need to create during pandemic times, so I’m passing it along. It’s about 30 minutes. I hope you enjoy The Wilsons Do A Podcast During a Pandemic.

What have you been doing? Have you been more or less creative during these past weeks?

~kg

4/14/20

Here’s the FB link.

Corona Chronicles: Privilege

Usually when I think of privilege, I think of other people and their social freedoms. You know…white, male, etc. But this pandemic has forced me to consider my and my family’s own privilege.

photo of woman looking on computer
Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

When Desi’s school district first announced classes would be online and when Dwight found out he’d be working from home, he immediately went to Office Depot and purchased two things: a lap desk for our daughter and a range extender for the home because neither of us can afford to have slow internet.

When I received a parent survey asking about access, I had to take a good look at ourselves.

  • cell phones (3)
  • MacBooks (2)
  • tablets (2)
  • work laptop (1)

We have more than enough access.

When my job asked how quickly I could begin teaching online, the answer was simple…immediately. Eighty percent of my classes were already online and the one that wasn’t was previously set up for online learning because it’s hybrid.

woman in gray sweater using laptop beside glass window
Photo by bongkarn thanyakij on Pexels.com

As I listened to friends who live in New York and bloggers from the same area, I realize space is a privilege. Our home isn’t large, but we have separate rooms from which to work. Our spare bedroom is set up for me to grade or virtually meet privately with students. My teenage daughter is comfy logging on to Google Classroom from her bed. And Dwight has joked that the entire downstairs is his office. Even when I want to “get out,” I don’t have to leave the house. I can sit on our screened-in patio and eat meals and write.

That leads me to another privilege: location. We live in Florida. Unlike family members, who are in Illinois, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, I’ve been able to work out in my driveway, take bike rides, and practice yoga (on the patio). The weather’s been between the 70s and 90s. I don’t have cabin fever.

Though circumstances are sad, I’m grateful our daughter is a senior. I won’t have to worry about what the school district is doing in the fall. Stay online or don’t stay online, both of our daughters’ K-12 education is complete. I only halfway feel this way; online education for the nation is not a great idea for a host of reasons. But see how easy it is to slip into a self-centered perspective?

I’m thankful my husband and I have occupations we can still do from home and that I have a thriving business that’s kept me occupied with editing dissertations and independent novels throughout this pandemic. *We’re not worried about finances.

Initially, people were asking what’s changed or what have I learned from these times. And for a minute, my answer was nothing because I’d already adjusted my life according to what I’d determine is right for me.

As I think long and hard, my answer is still nothing. But a few ideas have been reinforced.

perspective_kegarlandIt’s always important to acknowledge our specific privileges and then consider life from others’ perspectives as a way to break out of our bubbles and gain diverse understandings. Some people are a little more worried than I am because they’ve had to figure out how to make life work, not make adjustments…literally learn how to do life. They’re waiting on their government-funded stimulus checks so they can eat and pay bills.

Others are a little more whimsical because their local news reports sound different and their government restrictions are few. For example, an IG follower in Brisbane posted a photo of herself getting a haircut…at a salon. Someone in California would probably shudder to think of committing what they would view as a socially irresponsible act right now.

Think about life from another person’s perspective. An alternate point of view may lead to a shift in empathy, thus opening a space for other things, like dialogue, grace, or service. And without sounding too preachy, I think it’s worth reminding that these traits are important not just now, but always.

*Oh, and about those finances…privilege has also allowed me to give more. Because I’m not driving anywhere, I’m saving on gas. Because we’re eating out less and spending fewer dollars on entertainment, I’ve watched my discretionary funds grow. With the money I’ve saved, I’ve been able to be of service to my alma maters and to a few family members, and for that I’m grateful.

In what ways are you privileged these days?

4/9/20

~kg

Corona Chronicles: Shelter in Place

I’m sitting on my patio, watching a little brown boy in a white shirt and gray shorts. He’s riding a hoverboard on his knees. First, he goes straight all the way to the cul-de-sac, where he whirls around and comes back towards me again. Then, he twirls in circles, one, two, three times, until he’s facing straight again. Music is playing but not loud enough for me to hear the melody or words, just enough for me to know he’s listening to something while he spins in circles, passing the time.

brown squirrel eating

To his right are two squirrels. I’ve been watching them for twenty minutes. One sits close to a tree, eating something between his paws, probably a nut. I’ve always known squirrels were skittish, but I never noticed how much. It seems he can hardly enjoy whatever he’s nibbling in between sporadic looks toward distracted noises. He scurries up the tree and sits on a branch and I briefly think about making a squirrel house, with nuts and such. Who am I kidding? I don’t even want to help my husband build things for our own house, much less build a whole home for a hungry squirrel, who seems to be doing life just fine without my interference.

Now, my across-the-way neighbor has come out. He and his wife are in the at-risk age group for coronavirus; his white hair tells me so. Friday, he washed his patio screen with a hard-bristle brush while the trees on his Christmas pajamas danced. I drowned out the repetitive grating during online yoga. Saturday, I saw him drive a two-seater sports car for the first time. His wife slowly backed their white SUV out of the driveway, making space for him to zip into the one-car garage. Today, he’s semi-dressed for an outing: light-blue, short-sleeved, buttoned-down shirt, navy casual shorts, barefoot. We have an automated sprinkler system and rain has begun to drizzle, but for some reason he’s decided to water the bushes.

boy s blue crew neck shirt
Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

Two hours have passed. There’s a father-son duo riding their bikes up and down and up and down the street to the same dead-end hoverboard-boy glided towards. This is the fourth time I’ve seen them. I wonder if the father is wearing a helmet to model good cycling practices for his son, who looks to be no more than five years old, or if he wears it because he really believes it will protect him, should he fall on this short jaunt. I also wonder where the mother is. I always question mothers’ whereabouts when I see fathers and their children. It’s probably a result of my own social conditioning. Here they come again, a fifth revolution.

I’ve sat here long enough. I know because hoverboard boy is back at it, this time a bit more dare devilish with his twirls. I glance up to see him belly down on the concrete. He’s limping back to his garage. He returns with his bike.

I wonder if anyone heard me cackling with my sister for hours the other day or if neighbors watched my husband and I eat waffles, sausage, and eggs in our PJs this morning. Is someone sitting in their home office, peering out their window at the brown woman, wearing glasses, trying to preserve her final month of contacts, while tip-tapping away on her orange laptop? Are they guessing what I’m writing, creating a narrative about why I’ve been sitting here for three days? Or, have they assumed as I have that we’re all creatively sheltering in place?

P.S. I wrote something similar three years ago from Starbucks. It’s funny what can change in a short amount of time. While I realize I cannot go to Starbucks and people-watch, I can make my own coffee, sit on my screened-in patio and create a similar experience. Adjustments. We all have to make them and function according to our current circumstances.

4/5/20

~kg

 

Corona Chronicles: Reading as Escapism

In 1990, when I moved to Covert, Michigan to live with my grandparents, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do about living in a remote town of fewer than 2,000 people. There was nothing I could do about not seeing my father. And there was nothing I could do about missing my friends, some of whom I’d known since I was six years old.

I had little control over my life, and I’d succumbed to the idea that I didn’t know what tomorrow would bring or how the next day’s unknown events may disrupt whatever today’s new normal was, kind of like now.

So, in between finishing high school, working at a bank as a 10-key data entry clerk, and messing around with my new boyfriend, I read.

img_3543I read Stephen King novels. There was something about reading scary-ass narratives that could never happen to me that was more comforting than reality.

Misery helped me focus on a crazy nurse, who held her favorite writer hostage and tormented him.

Firestarter swept me away to unbelievable events centered on a father and daughter who’d gained telepathic powers and the ability to set fires.

The Dark Half is a little harder to explain, but let’s just say reading about a fictional author with dissociative disorder was captivating and kept my mind on other things, kind of like now.

img_3500I’m always reading, but lately, I’ve  been reading more, faster. I started Octavia Butler’s Kindred right at the beginning of our country’s serious discussion of the pandemic and finished it just as Florida’s restaurants were mandated to do take-out only, about two weeks.

Right after, I was compelled to find another book. As I’m writing this, I’ve decided on Jasmine Guillory’s The Proposal. It’s a light read that shelters me from 24-hour news cycles and fear-based social media updates.

Unlike when I was seventeen, I’m not burying my head in the sand. I’m fully aware of how I feel and what’s going. I sense the world’s pulse. But I’ve easily slipped into a coping mechanism and I wonder if that’s the way we all function.

Hoarders hoard and fearmongers spread fear because they’ve been triggered. Folks who call others “dumb” and “stupid” for attending Mardi Gras or other group activities may be repeating phrases spoken to them during their childhoods. Like me, they’ve been here before on a smaller scale, but maybe they’ve not been able to process their emotions to understand other ways to function. Being triggered is a thing that’s real, inherent. 

Usually, I write for others, but this piece is more so a reminder from me to me not to judge how others are handling social distancing, quarantines, and death. However, I’m sharing because I do hope in some way it also reminds us all that we’re each doing the best we can, considering our past backgrounds and current circumstances. Even though it may look a little different, we all seem to be in survival mode.

So, if you have some book suggestions to help me escape, add them in the comments below.

3/28/20

~kg

Parts were written for this essay published on The Mighty: How Reading is Helping Me Fight Through Feeling Powerless Over COVID-19.

Corona Chronicles: Meditating

I typically don’t share much about my personal spiritual practice because I know that even in the 21st century, people still consider some things a little woo-woo, and I’d rather not get into a back-and-forth about validity. But, after a couple coronavirus weeks and listening to people, I think a conversation about meditation may be helpful.

meditating_1In the early part of 1998, I had a miscarriage that resulted in a D&C. Shortly after that procedure (and against the doctor’s advice), I was pregnant again with my firstborn. In order to calm my mind and focus on having a healthy baby, I read a book my mother-in-law had passed on to me about creative visualization. The internet calls creative visualization a cognitive process. I’m not sure if that’s different than meditation, but for this post, I’ve decided they’re the same. Whatever camp it’s in, creative visualization is what first taught me how to focus my mind on a subject.

Sixteen years later, when I wanted to understand why my relationships weren’t going so well, I downloaded a guided meditation led by Deepak and Oprah. This meditation lasted 15 minutes a day for 21 days. Deepak provided daily mantras and journal prompts centered on specific traits of the theme, which in this case was called, “Miraculous Relationships.” Quite honestly, this worked for me and I discovered more about myself and how to engage in healthier ways with everyone. The relationships I currently have are my testament.

After the relationship meditation, I began reading about chakras. I was intrigued by the information, which I’ll briefly summarize. In short, chakras represent the body’s energy centers. They can be blocked, spinning in the wrong direction, or too open. The idea is for them to be open and aligned.

chakraAs soon as I read about each chakra, I related immediately to how the explanations represented different parts of my life, which had slipped out of alignment. For example, I knew my throat chakra, which is associated with self-expression, was too open because symptoms included gossiping, arrogance, and condescension. For those of you who only know me through this blog, it may seem uncharacteristic, but at one point, these described me perfectly. Conversely, once I began chakra-based meditations, I began to speak a little differently and learned to communicate in kinder ways (i.e., this blog).

This leads me to our current times. Everything from trending hasghtags, like #staythefuckhome to a man dying from eating fish tank cleaner because it included ingredients of an alleged cure is evidence to me that the coronavirus has the world functioning in fear. I understand why we’re so afraid. I totally get being worried, considering life seems unstable. But, I also know it is unhealthy to remain stuck in these emotions and fully believe feeling unsafe and anxiety ridden are examples of our root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras being imbalanced.

So, last week, I focused on me. I meditated on balancing my own root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras to remind myself that everything is okay, because it is. The one I like to practice is by Late Blooming Light Worker. Her meditations include a 10-point process, which I’ve found to be a comprehensive way to:

  • breathe mindfully,
  • remove body pains,
  • focus on one chakra at a time,
  • learn mudras (hand positions),
  • practice affirmations, and
  • chant.

Meditating on the three chakras above helped me to listen to coronavirus news, while maintaining a calm sense of understanding about the present status of my own life, which I control no matter what disease is spreading.

So what say you? I try not to give advice, but I do think using creative visualization could be a great way to envision the type of world in which you’d like to live. A guided meditation may help you understand yourself a little more. Aligning your chakras could prevent you from slipping into fear-based living.

Either way, please let me know how you’ve been coping and what you’ve been doing. If you meditate, let me know which kind. If not, then feel free to share how you’ve been staying above the fray, while corona is among us.

Be well.

~kg 3/24/20

Corona Chronicles: Coronavirus/COVID-19

charles-dickens-quote-lbt7i6rI finally understand what Charles Dickens meant when he wrote the intro for A Tale of Two Cities, well, kind of.

It was the best of times. It is the best of times. Isn’t it? I mean, think about it. We live in the Information Age. Technology has afforded many of us access to anything we want to know via the Interwebs. Cell phones connect us in ways we probably never imagined. We don’t have to ask anyone anything anymore. Technology has made it so. We can Google corona virus…and voila! Not only will we receive information, but it may change right before our eyes as we all learn together in real time how to react.

It was the worst of times. Every country around the world has a lot going on. Vladmir Putin is planning to remain president for life to enact revenge on the West. At least ten countries (have been and) are presently at war. Approximately 64,000 Black women are missing in the States. About 15% of the Amazon rainforest burned in 2019. July 2019 Anchorage, Alaska reported their first recorded temperature of 90 degrees. Add corona virus to this list, which the World Health Organization has now classified as a pandemic, and I’d say it seems to be the worst of times.

It was the age of wisdom. Oxford defines wisdom as “the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period.” The Information Age has gifted us with 24-hour access to one another and to new sources. These connections have led many of us to believe we are wise about all of the things we encounter. But this is an illusion. Everyone only thinks they know everything. Really, we don’t know much. For me, not knowing has been most evident as the corona virus spread; however, I don’t know hasn’t been a phrase uttered very much the past few months. But it should be. It’s a perfectly fine thing to proclaim.

safe_imageIt was the age of foolishness. Yep. Through the socials and traditional media, I’ve heard everything from only elderly people can die from corona virus to no black people can die from corona virus. Really? It seems sensible that compounded illnesses and weak immune systems make people more vulnerable to a corona virus death, but I’m pretty sure viruses aren’t age discriminate and don’t racially profile. Even President Trump disseminated misinformation during his State of Emergency address that had to be backtracked. Turns out you can’t just send everyone home from Europe in two-days’ time after all.

It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. <sigh> I’ve never seen so many people hope the government will save us, while simultaneously having little faith that the government will actually do anything. But I understand. Historically, doctors and scientists study diseases, create vaccines, and prevent epidemics and pandemics. Typically, those who are at the top of the field work with the government to do so. But, specifically in the U.S. our government is pretty dysfunctional. Couple that with our president, who has in some ways made these people (and their associated knowledge) the enemy and left specific CDC jobs unfilled, and you get the skepticism many of the country’s citizens have.

There’s more to Dickens’ intro, but I’d like to add two of my own:

It was a time for panic. It was a time for calm. My mother-in-law texted me, saying this: A friend of mine received a message yesterday from a friend that works at the Pentagon that all grocery stores will close in a couple of days. All schools are closed here.

My grandmother has socially isolated because she’s 93, and according to her and the CDC, she should remain home due to her age.

Hundreds of thousands of university students are returning home to finish the semester online.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks, staring out of the window, watching what looks to be typical rush-hour traffic. Folks must’ve gone to work today.

I’m waiting to hear what time my daughter’s flight will return from England. Corona and President Trump’s travel restrictions interrupted her Spring Break trip. Florida’s schools just announced that students will have an additional week off so that they and their families, who travelled to high-risk areas can remain home and not infect others and so custodians can conduct a deep cleaning.

115f5913cb41de40e1d0fb24bcd110e0According to social media, people are still stockpiling bread, water, Clorox, and hand sanitizer. Shelves are empty. Folks are praying; others are spreading conspiracy theories, and some are joking about capitalizing on inexpensive trips.

And as I sip my grande Mango Dragonfruit refresher, while watching America scramble to contain a virus we’ve never seen, I have some inkling of what Dickens meant when he wrote those paradoxical words. It is indeed both the best of times and the absolute flippin’ worst.

~kg 3/13/20