Chacos column: Climbing out of April’s black hole of time
COVID-19 is causing the social disruption I’ve been yearning for since watching the early 1960s television show “Leave it to Beaver” as a child. And it’s not for the ability to clean my house wearing a dress and pearls like June Cleaver, but it’s for the new normal I want to embrace on the other side.
Notwithstanding the tumultuous, excruciating situations we will face as trauma infiltrates our lives in the coming year, I find beauty in the straightforward way the Cleavers led their lives. Therefore, to find the silver lining and a more simplistic future, I’m tackling my anxiety, fear and changing times with the boyish appetite of Wally and the Beav when they’re called home for a meatloaf dinner.
It’s our body’s natural response to stress. Anxiety is asking us to overcome and deal with some hard, new truths. And I’m learning to harbor a healthy level of it and not let anxiety swallow me whole. Just last week the idea of home-schooling my three children had me making a color-coded flowchart for electronic devices, Zoom meetings, classroom assignments, daily chores and book reports. By noon I was polishing the silver, and an hour later I walked the dog around the block twice. By 3 p.m. I had frantically vacuumed the living room like Magda in “There’s Something About Mary.”
I’ve since scaled back my manic, all-consuming need to control my family’s new daily routine. I’m trying to encourage my kids to embrace the simplicity in mastering a few life skills instead. I have them reluctantly cooking from scratch, typing, doing laundry, exercising and honing their mental math by measuring out mom’s perfect martini. Sure, my offspring work a few daily assignments online with their teachers, but we’re still searching for the right fit with compassion, routine, love and a dash of formal learning.
By nightfall, I’m emotionally and physically spent, but in spite of my third-rate home-school program, I’m finding the happy.
This is the emotion that shows our ugly, warty underbelly. Fear is what makes us ignore the other person in the same grocery aisle and what makes us all run out for a year’s supply of toilet paper. Fear has people buying into half-baked opinions by a full-fledged narcissist and has us questioning the authenticity of the world’s top infectious disease scientists.
But if legitimate fear is a result of COVID’s alarming rate of infection and death, then its unpredictability and economic disruption serve to exacerbate that feeling. What a wily tool for someone who thrives on keeping us in one of our most primal, innate, hardwired and automatic states of emotion.
Fear plays into our phobias and fuels our desire for safety. It’s what permits some of us to sit and swallow daily, irrational remarks with unconditional devotion. To move through fear mongering, I’m finding the facts without accepting “just a feeling” from the Situation Room. And I promise not to hoard any more toilet paper.
I’m one of those exasperating, rolling-stone types that thrive on stressful situations, well out of my comfort zone. Confined in the same routine for too long, I become a teenage pimple ready to pop.
So, not surprisingly, I’ve been training my whole life for this moment of COVID-confusion and thinking outside-of-the-lines panoramic pandemic.
And, if we can see the subtle order in the chaos and confusion, we will be stronger on the other side. The massive disruption we are facing both locally and internationally may just be the change we can gift future generations. I’m banking on it with the stimulus check that should be arriving by the end of April.
And in the meantime? I will employ due diligence on tackling everything I can realistically achieve, aiming to please the ones I love.
And for the things out of my control? Well, that’s just a “nasty, snarky question.”
Andrea Chacos lives in Carbondale, balancing work and happily raising three children with her husband. She strives to dodge curveballs life likes to throw with a bit of passion, humor and some flair.
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I’m not often given to public displays of affection, but on the morning of Monday, July 19, I felt it necessary to give an old and dear friend a proper send off.