In this virus era, everybody’s looking for ways to stay safe and stay sane.
To take COVID-19 seriously, but also maybe to laugh a little.
They’re — we’re — searching for ways to stand six feet apart, yet hang together.
The problem with that is, as folks physically isolate, they — you — tend to isolate mentally and psychologically, too, especially in an environment where there is a complete lack of control, or at least a sense of that. And it’s real. Real hard to deal with. They — you — watch and read the news, looking for any crumbs of optimism for the present and near future, all against the dark backdrop of keeping it … real.
Hope is good. Delusion is not.
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of what’s real.
Responsibilities remain — bills to pay, households to support, work, such as it is, to do, relationships to maintain. If you stay at home, you feel limited, caged even. If you wander out, you’re putting yourselves and therefore your loved ones at home at risk.
There are only so many board games you can play before the roll of the dice starts to edge up on you, so many movies you can watch before the popcorn starts sticking to your teeth, so many books you can read before the words blur.
There’s no live drama to immerse yourselves in via sports, no Jazz games, no college football spring practices, no soccer, no Olympics, no golf, no tennis, no baseball. This past week was supposed to bring Opening Day, the traditional start of the Major League Baseball season, a day that is framed with and defined by positivity, by optimism, by sunshine, even for fans of teams that have no authentic chance at finishing anywhere near the top.
But there’s always a chance, some chance, even if it’s a fat one, that something surprising, something amazing might happen.
And this year, those green cathedrals are empty — out of respect for the public good, for the well-being of the masses. And those aren’t the only churches that are empty. Every church is empty.
There’s irony in the fact that in a time of crisis, a time of need, when people feel out of sorts and threatened and vulnerable, when they — you — aren’t so self-assured anymore, when they might want to look to the heavens for some divine help, they can’t assemble at church to worship and send up their prayers.
What kind of cruel hoax is that?
So … what’s everybody supposed to do?
I’m no doctor, no life coach, but I’ve read enough over the past few weeks to have felt like I could pass at least one test or two. And the advice of people who know about such things seems to center on positive affirmation.
Knock that sneer off your face. I know what you’re thinking.
“No way am I going to stare at my reflection in the mirror and give myself any kind of power pep talk, like the little engine that could: ‘I know I can. I know I can. I know I can.’”
No. You probably can’t.
Hold on, all y’all. Experts say we need to do this, no matter how clumsily. Every. Single. Day.
Give it a try, really. The first time I did it, I busted up laughing, which was healthy enough without going any further. But a friend of mine who’s a certified psychologist says positive thinking, while hardly an answer to every problem, really can help. It can. It can. Say it with me. It can.
We’re also supposed to meditate. You know, calm your mind, quiet your thinking, breathe in peace, breathe out every stupid, vexing, anxious thought that plagues you. I’m a novice here, too, but there might be some-healthy-thing to this. I’ve tried it in my golf swing, and locking out personal problems from your mind sure helps you hit a 7-iron pure. Especially if all the things you’re thankful for float through your consciousness, beamed up on the big screen in your brain. Give it a try. It beats watching network news.
And, finally, there’s staying in the present. This is age-old methodology in sports. Athletes are preached it from their first session with a sports psychologist. Don’t worry about what’s happened in the past. That’s already gone. As Jerry Sloan so famously used to say, “You can’t play backwards.” If you missed your last five shots, forget about them. Dial in on making this one. And don’t worry about what’s going to happen in the future. Don’t worry about the advanced consequences of the present, focus instead on what’s happening right now. Make the most of it.
Nobody knows when this coronavirus is going to subside. Nobody knows when sports are going to be played again. Nobody knows when the economy will safely be restarted. Nobody knows nothing about what’s coming next.
What we do know is that we can make the best of the here and now — whatever it is, however limited. Taking a solitary walk. Looking at nature. Making dinner. Eating dinner. Cleaning up after dinner. Watching a mindless show. Reading a dumb column. Appreciating some positive little thing or person in our lives.
Standing six feet apart, but hanging together.
We can do that, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week — until this thing lessens and we can go back to doing the really important things, like watch ballgames again.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.