As we inch/hurtle toward a year of living with COVID-19 and its attending horrors, those of us not wrapped in the gentle insulation of exactly the right medication (prescribed or otherwise) might be struggling a bit. Who would have thought, other than informed epidemiologists shouting themselves hoarse, that this would have lasted longer than that sack of dry beans you panic bought and never cooked because, honestly, even in lockdown, soaking overnight is planning too far ahead in an uncertain world. And then they said takeout was safe, so forget it.
But here we are! Nearly a year later with many of us "hitting the pandemic wall," tired of COVID-19. Aside from the mental health crisis wrought by a staggering death toll, the possibility of contracting the virus and crushing financial pressure, it's the little things. We're tired of masks when we should be doubling them up to guard against a more contagious mutant strain. We're over Zoom cocktails, the flat, diet version of once bubbly conversations, and itching for the forbidden luxury of crowding around bars and dance floors with strangers.
And yet, like on those long-lost nights out, there's always one of us who isn't tired, that one friend who does not want to take the ride home because, "You guys, it's not even that late," and THIS IS HER SONG. That friend is COVID-19 and her song is our collective exhaustion. She has come back from the ladies' room with pupils the size of saucers and you just cannot reason with her.
So here are some meditations to help you calm your anxiety, re-energize and push through the pandemic fatigue wall and straight into what will likely be another one and another one, like dominoes resetting themselves on a Möbius strip forever. Kidding! I hope.
Meditation for Standing in Line
Ground your feet on the orange social distancing floor decal and begin with a deep breath — deep enough to smell the fabric of your mask but not so deep that you might be inhaling the potential viral load of someone ignoring their own very bright decal. Exhale gently through your nose, releasing your breath and your frustration at their inability to eyeball 6 freaking feet after 11 months. Visualize the mask of the person ahead of you magically lifting, lifting, up, up over their nose. (If you're a cashier faced with hundreds of people on your shift, try this same visualization without the deep breathing. Without any breathing at all, actually.)
Meditation for Social Media Posts of Gatherings
It's easy enough to recover from the jump-scare of seeing a packed group photo from the Before Times but the shock of a fresh shot of a dozen unmasked Facebook or Instagram friends side-hugging at a party can linger. (Sweet baby Jesus, is that a charcuterie board they're picking at with their fingers?) Start by bringing your awareness to the tips of your fingers, where they hover over the keyboard. Move up through your hands and wrists, on and on until you reach your frontal lobe, where a string of angry comments is piling up like cartoon ticker tape. Imagine that string of negative thoughts and expletives drifting away on the surface of a lake like the one where you would have scattered your uncle's ashes if you'd been able to hold a funeral and ... nope. Nope. This is too heavy a lift for the millennia-old practice of meditation — this is a job for kitten videos. Like 45 minutes of them. Share some with someone you know who's keeping it locked down. Try that one with the lawyer who can't turn off the filter that makes him a kitten — send that one.
Meditation for the Overwhelming Urge to "Refuse to Live in Fear"
Right, of course, nobody wants to cower before the specter of death! If it's your time, it's your time! But since we're talking about a highly contagious virus very few people are as yet vaccinated against, let's channel that natural desire for personal freedom in a way that won't, say, kill me. Close your eyes and picture yourself on a mountain trail at dusk. Feel the earth, the grass, the bucket of chicken in your lap. Imagine the smell of the chicken wafting into the brush. Imagine the sound of curious wildlife approaching. A squirrel? A mountain lion? A bear? Who knows? Embrace the whims of fate without me.
Meditation for Resisting Rationalizing Dumb Shit
There will come a moment when you are tempted to flout the safety rules and recommendations — maybe by cheap airfare, maybe by what everyone else seems to be doing, maybe by the quasi-psychedelic effects of eating beans you didn't cook long enough and also may have spoiled. Spike the urge to hit a house party, an underground gig or the buffet at a wedding by closing your eyes, picturing 1980s Moonstruck Cher and slapping yourself full-force across the face.
It's a global goddamn pandemic. Stay home.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill (she/her) is the Journal's arts and features editor. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.