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