Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Staying Sane

Terry Shames, here, talking about staying "positive"  In these times.

Positive? No. Something like “upright and functioning” comes to mind. This will not be a cheerful post, so be advised.


I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a husband I get along with (usually), two entertaining dogs (except when they wake me up at 3AM to inform me that a skunk is in the backyard),


a nice house with a big backyard 

 plenty to eat (we’re not going there), no kids to educate, and plenty of friends and family to talk to by Zoom or on the phone—and lately in the backyard, at distance.  I’m also healthy and usually upbeat. I have wide interests and actually find there are too many things to do.



But the biggest advantage I have to keep me positive is that I’m a writer. 

Being a writer means I can lose myself in whatever world I’m creating at the moment. That said, in the first few months of lockdown I finished up a novel I was working on and the result was a disaster. It read as if halfway through a crazy person had taken over. I wandered off the subject, failed to address plot holes and generally screwed up. I kept trying to revise it and only after my agent “gently” broke it to me that it would not do did I realize I should have scrapped it a long time ago. I didn’t like the characters or the plot. In better times, I think I would have recognized the shortcoming of the book earlier. But I do think that forcing myself to write every day kept me sane.


So now, I’m sane, but not positive. There are too many bad things going on in the world right now. Why did the apocalypse choose 2020 to rain down? Who knows. All I know is that scientists have been pleading for years for governments and citizens to pay attention to climate change. Reaction has largely been hands over ears, eyes shut, screaming loudly that it can’t be true. The result: climate run amok—epic fires on the west coast, and apocalyptic air quality.


Backyard at noon during smoke.

Scientists have been pleading for months that being disciplined about wearing masks and keeping distance would improve chances of overcoming the pandemic. Reaction has been wildly scattered, with some taking it seriously; others not. The result: we all know. The non-believers make sure the believers have to stay inside—maybe forever. Thanks.


Every day seems to bring new horrors to face. People try to stay positive with wry humor (Did you have millions of acres catching fire on your Bingo card?) or ignoring it (I can’t face another disaster. I’ve turned off my TV), or trying to find something positive (note my second paragraph).


I did find that since I scrapped the book I was working on and went back to my “roots” and focused on the community I’ve always written about, I have been able to escape for a few hours every day into my alternate world.


Everyone knows me as the most upbeat person around. But it’s gotten increasingly harder.

There’s nothing to be done but put one foot in front of the other and, in my case anyway, believe that things will get better. But that doesn’t mean I don’t envy people who are Covid deniers, who blithely go on about their business and ignore the 1,000 people each day who die of the disease. It doesn’t mean I don’t envy climate deniers who blithely buy gas hog cars and vote for candidates who roll back environmental protections. They live in an easier world than I do. Their world is more irresponsible, but probably more fun.


Positive? Sorry, but the most positive I can be these days is to know that I’m not Covid positive.


But like Brenda, I have a few things that help me cope:


Reading. I’ve never read so much. Fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, sci-fi, you name it.


Buying new toys, one in particular: Because we decided not to have our housekeeper come (yes, we still pay her), I bought a Roomba. You’d think I bought a new pet. I follow it around and talk to it. I named it Sweepie.


Jigsaw puzzles. I’ve been doing huge puzzles. It keeps my little eyes busy, if not my brain.


Exercise. Going on long walks has been very helpful—until the smoke. Now, indoors is best. I do have an old exercise bike and elliptical trainer, and they get liberal use.

Hike near my house


Cooking. We never went out to eat much, so I’m really happy that I love to cook.


And one odd addition: I like to drive around. It makes me feel normal. A drive to the Bay is lovely. Except, now the smoke. At least I have hopes that the smoke will go away.

And now, tomorrow we're leaving to spend three weeks on the beach in a rented house that is Covid free. And we get to see these two while we're there:















Brenda Chapman said...

Thanks for sharing, Terry. You voice the worry, fears and frustrations of many. I wish you a lovely break with your family the next two weeks.

James W. Ziskin said...

Wishing you a great getaway with the family.


Jennifer J. Chow said...

Thanks for this post, Terry. I definitely think I've been escaping through reading and writing. Have a nice stay at the beach!

Susan C Shea said...

The three weeks will be a real mood shifter, I know. My oldest son came over today and we spent 4 wonderful hours talking books, gardening, politics...He brought me three books, I have him five to take home!