Category Archives: Coping

My front porch with dog looking out the window and rocking chair

Coronavirus Self-Quarantine: How to Stay Sane

Hello from the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus: Bothell/Kirkland/Seattle. While many people here are working 24/7 to deal with the unfolding consequences of the coronavirus, life has slowed to a crawl for those of us under self-quarantine. As someone “at high risk,” I have been under self-quarantine for six days and already have cabin fever.

In just the first week, Washington State has recorded 19 deaths from coronavirus, schools serving nearly 30,000 are closed, universities have moved classes on-line, county executives have directed everyone who can do so to work from home, businesses are laying off employees for lack of work, and the coronavirus virus is popping up in new communities every day. Friday afternoon rush hour in Seattle looked like 9:00 A.M. on a Saturday instead.

As the U.S. epicenter for coronavirus, we’re a few days ahead of the rest of the country in developing a community-wide response. Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far about dealing with the coronavirus.

Healthy people who come into contact with the virus can shed it as they go about their day–shaking hands and touching tabletops, keyboards, and card readers. They probably don’t know they are carriers of the virus. This is how it is spreading so quickly in communities and around the world. It is also why people at high risk of dying from the coronavirus must self-quarantine and people around them must be extra careful.

If you can’t find a hand-sanitizer to buy, make your own with these recipes. Keep hand sanitizers in your vehicle, handbag, and pack, Use them at the grocery, every time you use a keypad, pump gas, or exchange currency. Don’t shake hands or fist bump. Elbow bumping is safer. Open doors with your elbow or hip, if possible.

Work from home if you can. Get ready for quarantine–either mandated or self-quarantine. See below for tips.

People at higher risk of severe illness must stay home completely because the health consequences for us are severe. If you’re in a high risk group, the virus is hard to treat and deadly. Do not go into public spaces or touch surfaces that members of the public may have touched. Stay away from places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others, including concert venues, conventions, sporting events, religious services, and crowded social gatherings.

People at higher risk include Those:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • With underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
  • With weakened immune systems
  • Who are pregnant

Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for novel coronavirus should consult with their healthcare providers.

If family members or close friends are at high-risk, read this article about steps you can take to keep them safe.

Where to Find Information

Read updates and follow the recommendations of public health officials, doctors, and scientists such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) and local and state officials. Many of President Donald Trump’s current comments about the coronavirus are misleading, untrustworthy, and even untrue. This is not a matter of whether one likes the President or not, it is a matter of keeping yourself, loved ones, and your community safe. As one on the ground at the epicenter, I have found the following sources accurate and trustworthy regarding the coronavirus: the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Seattle Times, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, King County Public Health and Snohomish County Public Health.

How To Stay Healthy and Sane During Self-Quarantine

Stay calm. There is no need to panic. Check coronavirus updates no more than hourly for peace of mind. Think of what you can control and then do it. Here are some possibilities.

Soap on soap dish1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Time yourself by counting to 20 slowly, sing the Happy Birthday song twice, or the Alphabet Song once. Have other members of your household do so, as well. Use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.

2. Clean all surfaces that people may have touched or where they may have rested their hands, Clean them frequently in case the virus migrated there from a purse, toys, keys, or grocery bags.

3. Make sure you have 14 days of food available. Stock up on frozen vegetables and non-perishable foods. Buy snacks. See here for what to stock in your pantry for quarantine.

4. Buy enough pet food for 14 days. If you have dogs, get extra bones and treats to help manage their cabin fever and yours.

5. Make soups, stews, and pasta sauces. Freeze them in quart-sized containers.

6. Design a walking route inside your house and walk it several times each day. Or walk outside without touching anything that anyone else might touch. Do a few lunges, squats, and donkey kicks every day. Do stretching exercises. Movement counteracts depression and keeps the body limber.

7. Do projects for which you don’t have to go to the store. Clean the garage, spice cupboard or pantry. Sort through a closet or throw away old magazines. Do a woodworking or craft project you’ve put off. Detail your car. You’ll feel productive during the quarantine and pleased about what you accomplished.

8. Stream movies and T.V. shows. If you don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, you can get a 7-day free trial and cancel it at the end of the week. Try watching Cheers on Netflix and Hunters on Amazon for laughs and tension, respectively.

9. Get a library card and borrow e-books from home. Libraries have their catalogs available online. Read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and News of the World by Paulette Giles to be transported to a different world.

Flower garden in bloom10. Work in your yard or garden.  Fresh air, trees, sunshine, and gardening help create calm and relieve depression.

11. Watch online classes on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) or YouTube. Blueprint has low-cost cooking, decorating, sewing, woodworking, gardening, knitting, and exercise classes taught by well-known instructors. After foot surgery last year, I passed many an hour learning how to use a table saw, refine my sewing techniques, bake flaky pie crusts and make awesome pizza.

12. Call friends and family to stay in touch. Call people who are under self-quarantine. Skype and FaceTime for face-to-face contact. Go for a drive but don’t get out of your car.

If you are high risk, don’t go out in public, ever, until the coronavirus until you have medical clearance. Thinking you won’t be infected or infect anyone else if you do it just once is like thinking you can have sex once without protection and not get pregnant. You might get lucky, but you might not. Don’t risk it. Ever.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay sane.

Cracked Pots, Mended

I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for days to perfect this post on imperfection. Yes, I see the irony in that statement. I need to let go of the struggle for perfection and get on with it. Certainly, I don’t want grammatical errors in my writing, but that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about life and all that comprises it. I need to remember that perfection in life is more fungible than many of us realize.

Kintsugi Pottery Honors Imperfection

Hand built and hand-painted ceramic bowl broken during the firing process was repaired by Kintsugi. Created by Ruthann Hurwitz, The Village Potter

Ruthann Hurwitz [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

One of my favorite reminders to hold an expansive view of perfection is Kintsugi, a style of Japanese ceramic repair dating from the 15th century. In Kintsuge, a ceramist repairs broken or cracked pottery with silver or gold, and sometimes other materials. The repairs make the ceramic unique, bringing undeniable beauty from what had been broken. It becomes more beautiful for having been broken. It is tedious, but ultimately exquisite.

This style of ceramic repair is influenced by the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect; and mottainai, a feeling of regret when something is wasted; as well as mushin, the acceptance of change. Kintsugi reminds us that our broken places can be sources of goodness and beauty.

The boy and The Water Jugs

According to folklore, a boy had to carry water a long distance every day in two jugs that hung from a pole across his shoulders. One jug was whole, the other cracked. The cracked jug was only half full each day when he reached home, while the other jug was still filled to the brim.

As the boy trudged along one day, the jugs begin to speak (as they can in folktales).  The uncracked jug boasted about its perfection, saying,

“I am such a good and perfect jug. I do my work just right.  You, on the other hand, are lousy and worthless.  Your purpose in life is to carry water from the well back to the village but day after day, year after year, only half of your water makes it home.  You’re always going to be like this.  I think that somebody should get a new jug and replace you.” 

The cracked jug was devastated.  It called out to God , “Why have you done this to me? Why is my jug cracked?  I am no good.”  The boy heard the conversation and the jug’s anguished plea to God.  He responded to the jug, saying,

“Yes, you are cracked.  I’ve known that for a long, long time.  But your crack doesn’t make you worthless.  Look at the side of the road below your partner jug. It is dry and barren, and nothing grows there.  Now, look at the side of the road below you.  Do you see the line of wildflowers all along the road?  They flourish because the water that drips slowly from your cracked jug gives life to what would not otherwise exist all along the road we travel.  Through the crack in your otherwise perfect jug, you have brought life and beauty to an otherwise desolate and barren stretch of road.  I will not exchange you for another pot, nor will I let anyone discount the good that your crack has done

The Wisdom of IMperfection

Life keeps reminding me that I need not follow the stern internal voices calling for a particular type of perfection. That striving too hard for perfection kills the joy of life and relationships. That taking a deep breath and experiencing the goodness of “imperfection” elicits gratitude. That what I consider an imperfection or broken place in my life may be a way for me to bring beauty, healing, and wholeness to others.

After all, as Leonard Cohen says, “Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” (Anthem, by Leonard Cohen).

Of Cucumbers, Pickles and People

Roses and pickles“When does a cucumber become a pickle?” asks a Louise Penny character trying to figure out when her happy boy turned into a surly teenager.

When did my heart strengthen?  Sometime between March and August of this year, my heart returned from an almost fatal level of heart failure to nearly normal functioning thanks to a specialized pacemaker, newly available medication and cardiac rehabilitation.

Awesome.  Amazing.  Fantastic.  I’m grateful.  This is my best hope come true.

Exactly when did my heart strengthen so much?  When had it weakened in the first place?  Like a cucumber becoming a pickle; each was a process I barely noticed, a change I couldn’t date.

At what moment is a runner ready for a marathon?  When do patterns become habits and habits a way of life?  At what point does a student become an artist or a character become rooted in honesty and integrity?  At what point does healing occur or relationships fray too much to be repaired?

No one can say when, during his years in prison camp, the late John McCain changed from a hard-partying naval brat into a man of courage and honor. It was a process.  No one can say exactly when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford became a strong enough survivor to tell her story of sexual assault to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee considering Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court.  It happened over years of hard work and healing.

We change our clothes in minutes.  On the other hand, internal change–physical, emotional, spiritual, and attitudinal–happens over time.

When does a cucumber become a pickle?  Cucumbers become bread and butter pickles in a week.  Dill pickles need six months.

For pickles and people, the finished flavor is a matter of time in the brine.  If we soak ourselves in distrust and disdain towards others, we become judgmental and sour people.  If we repeatedly respond with bitterness or entitlement, we cannot help but develop a nature of such attitudes.

But if we repeatedly behave kindly, we become people who instinctively respond with kindness.  If we act repeatedly with courage, honor and integrity we develop character imbued with these qualities.  If we intentionally pause each day to give thanks, we become gracious, grateful people.

The good news is that we can dump out our brine and start afresh.  Choose wisely and trust the process.