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Perry column: Time off for good behavior

Jeannie Perry

I feel like I’m doing the time, without having done the crime. In order to stay mentally healthy while serving out this self-imposed sentence, I’ve created my own quarantine routine.

I get up and make myself a simple, just-add-water breakfast that consists of one cup of tea and one bowl of instant oatmeal. Then I go online to check my email and search for good news while I wait for Andrew Cuomo’s daily COVID-19 update. A couple weeks ago I started to see articles on the appeal of New York’s governor, but I couldn’t really understand the attraction until I saw his daily briefing for myself. I get it now, though. Oh Pappy, do I get it.

Not only is he a second-generation Democrat, but Andrew Cuomo’s voice is like a voice from the past — telling it like it is and delivering the message in a calm, we-got-this manner. Maybe it’s just because he can speak in complete sentences, but as I listen to his measured, authoritative statements, I feel protected, safe even.

Which is the exact opposite of the way I feel when you-know-who opens his mouth. Often, I notice I’m holding my breath when I catch sight of Code Orange approaching a podium. It’s like I’ve been held hostage for the last three years, never knowing what he’ll say, or why he’ll say it. But now, listening to Gov. Cuomo’s speeches, it feels like I’ve been moved to a cell with a window, near the kitchen, and I can stand in a beam of sunlight and smell the freshly baked prison bread.

The other part of my daily routine is to take five deep breaths, holding each one for five seconds, and then lie on my stomach for five minutes before taking child’s pose. According to my online sources, this is a doctor recommended COVID-19 recovery exercise (except for child’s pose at the end. I added that because it is my favorite yoga pose.) Deep breathing does wonders for the mind and body, just by bringing attention to organs and muscles we ordinarily take for granted. I think we often underestimate the body’s ability to heal itself, but don’t get me started on visualizing the colors of the chakras …

Focus on the pandemic, right. As Gov. Cuomo said, this situation really brings out our true colors, shining a spotlight on the spectrum of the human condition. On any given day, I go from lizard brain to nun-like sacrifice and back again, 100 times.

While I don’t fear death, I don’t want to witness the cruel suffering that often preludes it. Our mission isn’t to save every life, because if you read the fine print, that’s not possible. Death is in the contract with all life, but we can try to ease the suffering of our fellow human beings.

We can share and empathize with other people, ignoring our basic instincts to hoard supplies and blame others for a trying situation. This is the message Gov. Cuomo is spreading, a message that the White House does not disseminate.

Here I thought it would take an alien predator to get all humans to align with each other, but maybe a virus can help us achieve peace on Earth without universal interference. And when it’s over we can amiably argue with each other about the origin of COVID-19. We’ll have nothing but time to research every conspiracy theory: Bill Gates wants to control the planet; 5G causes energy pollution in the atmosphere (and consequently in our cells); government created the virus in order to initiate martial law … Or maybe it’s just as it seems; overpopulation really is our biggest issue, and Nature is brutal in its measures to bring the planet back to balance.

Whew. Such heavy thoughts in the morning could send the day into a maverick tailspin of fear, despair, anxiety. That’s why I stick to my quarantine routine. A pretty good little start to each day: nourishment, reassurance and deep breathing.

With a take-charge attitude and some genuine self-care, we will get through this. We may even get off early for good behavior, with a little more grace and empathy, and a Cuomo-rific new administration.

Jean Perry is a Carbondale native and freelance columnist.


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