Carolyn Hax Live: "Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay"

Apr 01, 2020

Advice columnist Carolyn Hax took your comments about her current advice column and questions about the strange train we call life. Her answers may appear online or in an upcoming column.

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Hi everybody. In case you've lost your bearings, it's Wednesday.

Right?

If you're new here, a warning: I'm slow. There are other good chats happening now for those feeling alt-tabby. LINK

Carolyn, thanks for doing a mid-week chat. We need you! I'm a mom of two (baby and toddler) who is supposed to be working from home full time right now. Spouse is also at home working full time, and kids are home. We've all been home together for two weeks now, all with colds and the baby teething. I don't think I'm looking for practical advice so much as advice on how to think. I really am grateful for the fact that we have a comfortable home to be quarantined in, that we have technology, that we are not desperately ill, that my spouse and I both have jobs, and so many other things that a lot of other people don't have. And I'm thankful for the medical professionals/workers risking their own health to keep us safe and afloat. BUT - I am also drowning. I love my kids but they are driving me insane, the toddler has been throwing mega tantrums every day and I'm having a really hard time being as patient as I want to be, my job is still expecting me to actually work full time, and even though my spouse and I are switching off, every second is filled with either childcare, necessary cleanup/food prep, work, or sleep. Yes, we have a schedule. I'm writing this while I should be working. And I feel so much pressure to just be thankful. Please help me get my head around this.

Please take this as permission to treat this period of your life as an unholy free-for-all during which you are not obligated to feel grateful.

Unless gratitude helps--in which case, go ahead with the gratitude exercises.

This is really just about getting through. How you do it is not important.

I've suggested it before and it has been really helpful for me lately: When you start to feel overwhelmed, try zooming either way in or way out.

So, to go way in, think of your next task and only your next task, and don't let your mind even think of drifting to the next thing. A toddler tantrum is probably the best (ha) opportunity to work this muscle. All that matters is your child in that moment. All those big feelings a toddler doesn't yet have the language to express. So, you listen, and soothe, and there is *nothing* else in your life until your child feels heard.

To zoom way out, think of the ocean, look at the stars, think of humanity centuries ago. Think of what people have endured through history. Think of how spring is pushing through the soil whether we're paying attention to it or not. Look at art, listen to music.

Again--I've found both of these helpful, depending on what I need at the moment and what I am able to do.

Where I find it's most stressful to dwell is in the weeks-and-months range. If you're thinking about how long you can hold yourself together for! months! under these conditions, then you're actually undermining your effort to hold it together. Weeks-and-months range is for optimism--it's for "I cant' wait till [good thing]" mode. For negativity, it's way out or way in. 

As always, YMMV with mental exercises. Try it and check back in Friday.

 

About a year ago, my husband was diagnosed with leukemia. Late last year he had a bone marrow transplant, and things seemed to be going well until suddenly they weren't. Six weeks ago, he was admitted to the hospital with graft vs host disease. He's improving, and the doctors are confident that he'll make a full recovery, but he probably won't be home for another month or two. In the meantime, I've been juggling work and the care of our three young children (one 3-year-old and 8-month-old twins - I was pregnant when he got sick). With the help of an extensive social network, life has been hard but doable. But now that network has shrunk dramatically, and I'm having a harder and harder time keeping all the balls in the air. I feel guilty every time I ask for help. You can't take care of children from a safe distance, and I can't give them everything they need by myself. I'm terrified that I or one of my kids is going to get sick, because I'm still sending them to (a small, in-home) daycare. My life is just a series of bad choices lately. How do I balance social distancing with the fact that I cannot do this by myself? And what do I do with all this guilt and anxiety?

Actually ... I think you can do this by yourself. I just think you can't do it *up to your standards* by yourself.

Maybe? Yes?

If so, then please crumple up your standards and throw them away.

Your children need to be loved and kept fed, sheltered and safe. This you can do.

As for the in-home daycare, I am not a public health expert of any kind, so will leave that part unaddressed except to urge you to talk to your kids' pediatrician about the risk and possible precautions.

I wanted to share a suggestion - a hard thing for me is seeing stuff pop up on my calendar, stuff that I planned less than a month ago. Dance recital, my dad coming to visit, kindergarten registration, my friend's wedding, a work trip to Europe (I'd never been). It was hitting me again and again and again with every notification just how FAST everything changed. I've just sat down gone through and deleted everything so my phone will stop ambushing me. It's a little thing, but as we're learning, all the little things add up fast.

How are people who live alone coping with being quarantined? Since I was scheduled to be off from work this week, I did not charge my plans. I am doing You Tube yoga, signed up for free online guitar lessons and binge watching shows. I am wondering what are you all are up to?

I'm about to answer a few questions from people flying solo. I'll post ideas as they come in.

I have nowhere else I can brag about my mad skillz but here: I have figured the perfect angle for my webcam so that you can only see my collarbone and above. I now have no reason to wear a bra or pants. This includes getting in and out of my desk chair to refill my coffee/wine.

You're an inspiration.

Hi Carolyn - I'm an associate attorney and work has been keeping me sane during all of this; I live by myself and haven't really seen anyone in almost two weeks, I have family I'm worried about, and I'm mourning that all the self-esteem I had just built up regarding dating is going to go to waste. But work was really busy, so I had that as a distraction and felt like I could get through this. Until today, when I found out that everyone's salaries are being cut 20% for the foreseeable future, which was stressful but understandable and manageable. And then six hours later I found out that more than half the projects I'm working on are pencils-down, which is also understandable but much less manageable. Work was the one thing I wasn't worried about, and now I'm terrified that my billable hours are going to plummet and I'm going to get laid off. I have plenty of time for these thoughts now, and I didn't realize how much work was helping me get through this. I know it's impossible to predict what's going to happen, but it feels really hopeless right now. And I really just wish someone could hug me.

A thousand people probably wish they could hug you right now, if that's any consolation. 

And, I see self-esteem as a commodity that doesn't expire--at least not so quickly.

Finding productive new uses for your time can also can be a self-esteem builder, just of a different sort. What skill have you always wanted, and can you learn it by video? What mindfulness or fitness regimen have you always pushed aside because you were too busy? What part of your home--closet, shelves, drawers--have you blocked out of your mind because you couldn't face sorting through all the accumulated stuff?

It's not hopeless, it's just a little shapeless, with the structure of work falling away so abruptly.

Last thought. This won't help you with your billable hours, but maybe people in your social network could use some legal work? Now that so many of us are dwelling on things we don't usually think about, I figure I can't be the only one thinking it's time to update my will and etc. I realize this might be outside your specialty, but it's a thought.

 

Not a virus question, but I can no longer see any captions with Nick’s drawings. This is since the new format (with the colored ones). Is there a setting that needs to be changed? Love the drawings but miss the witty captions.

The color pieces don't have captions. The M, T, Th and Sa illustrations never did (the ones accompanying the adapted columns).

Hi Carolyn - First of all, thank you so much for being here for us! I’d like to share something that is really helping me get through the isolation. My sister and I have gone from weekly to daily phone calls, with a designated subject for each call. We take turns coming up with a topic to discuss the next day that gets us off just complaining about our life now. It keeps the calls positive and gives us something to look forward to.

Happy Wednesday, I think. We could all use some good news, so I wanted to share this with the 'nuts. I work with adults with intellectual disabilities, and I've been home for a few weeks. One of my clients, Bethany, doesn't speak very often, and I'm not certain how much of this situation she is grasping. She just knows she hasn't seen me in a while. Yesterday, her sister sent me a photo of Bethany waving at me. I sent back a photo of me holding my cat. Her sister showed her the picture, and Bethany said, "That's Katie and Bailey." She has learned my cat's name. For the first time in days, I felt normal and human again. We will get through this.

I'm having a tough time. I'm trying to figure out how to do my work remotely (and it's so sub-optimal that it's making me crazy, because I'm used to being good at what I do). I'm navigating a bunch of challenging circumstances with extended family (the one-year anniversary of the murder of a cousin and the impending death of an uncle). And, you know, there's that global pandemic and impending economic collapse. So I could really use a hug. But I can't get one. I'm single, I live alone, and I'm socially-distancing. All the things I normally do that help me love my single life---participate in my religious community, dance a few times a week, spend time with friends and their kids----are unavailable to me. I never expected the complete lack of physical contact to be so hard, but it really is. Any suggestions?

I'm sorry you have other stuff to navigate on top of all of this. 

And the hug thing, obviously, is a heartbreaking theme here. 

At the risk of turning this into an emotional MacGyver episode ... please look not at the specific things you put in your life to make you happy, but at the broader fact of your putting things in your life toward your happiness. You didn't just get these things at birth, or at graduation. You felt a need for them, thought about them, chose them, put effort into them, paid attention to how you felt when you participated in them. You rearranged your schedule to make them a priority.

These are things you can do again. 

It's obviously not the same--you're choosing from a starkly limited menu; you're having to start from scratch all at once instead of gradually as you built your adult life; you're doing that while feeling the loss of other things. But it's still going to draw off the same skills you used before and the same emotional feedback system you've grown to trust.

So, deep breath, and think about where you'd like to start. What is your most immediate, most meet-able need?

How to have hope in the midst of so much loss, sadness and fear. Thank you

Easiest assignment of the day: (Re-)watch "Inside Out." Loss, sadness and fear are things we feel when we have things to lose. They are inevitable byproducts of loving, caring, valuing, feeling deeply--all of which, speaking only for myself, I wouldn't for a second consider giving up, even knowing how much they're going to hurt sometimes.

I also find it helpful to think of people who can testify to surviving challenges I can barely imagine. Jason Rezaian's "I survived solitary confinement. You can survive self-isolating."--LINK--is thoughtful, pragmatic and compassionate, without an ounce of suck-it-up-buttercuppery. 

And there's David von Drehle, who can always be counted on to show us the forest when we're weeping in the trees: LINK

And there's this bit of close-up analysis of how each of us might emerge stronger in small ways: LINK. Even if none of these ideas really applies to you, there's a larger message here of human resiliency that won't be denied.

And as always, there's Mr. Rogers and his ageless "find the helpers" wisdom, as the helpers are putting on a display of compassion and courage for us that I for one won't soon forget. In hand-freaking-made protective gear no less. 

---

Afterthought: I hope I didn't cheer-lead you into a deeper spiral. Always a risk. If your ache was more for someone to see your despair than to answer it with hope, then please write back, or post in the comments for some community love. 

I'm home solo, too. I made myself two to-do lists. One is all the discrete tasks, including projects I never usually have time for (ex.: clean out the closet). The secon is a master list of things to do each and every day. The three most important things on it are: 1) do something from the other to-do list. Even just making progress on a single item is good. 2) talk to someone. Anyone. Out loud, either across the way or by phone, but not on line. It makes a huge difference in staying connected. 3) get outside. No matter the weather, the fresh air and fresh surroundings will be restorative. I'm open to others' ideas as well. Despite all this, I go a bit nuts sometimes myself.

Great stuff, thank you.

Carolyn, Could you post a link to the chat with all the ideas of what to do on crabby days? I remember one person whose mother suggested wearing her favorite outfit. Those cheer your self up ideas might come in handy, about now.

Hey crowd, up for some sourcing?

Ask for help - don't feel bad about it. You have years ahead of you to return the favors. I was in your shoes once (with a sick child), got by with lots of help and now I'm giving back, not necessarily to those who helped me, but to those who need help now. Accept help.

Overall, I'm doing OK with the self-isolation thing in practice. What I am not doing well with is all the "reframing' this into a positive - whether via tv news segments, articles in the Post, or on social media. This is not a positive thing, trying to say it is really irks me. I liked my life before - I read plenty of books then, I don't need someone to tell me to do it now. I miss going to the theatre and museums - it is just not the same on a screen. It seems like anything less than an attitude of loving the slower pace of life and expectation to produce some work of creativity is scorned with a Suffering Olympics pile-on.

We interrupt this optimism with some well-earned grief and fury. It's all welcome here.

I am watching old movies on YouTube. I am streaming on a few different services I subscribe to since I do not have cable TV. I am having Zoom "events" with friends. Friends are taking turns having informational but fun events. Every Tuesday and Thursday one discusses a topic - we had a friend who takes amazing pictures of birds and he shows pictures of birds and talked about the birds (just a paragraph -not a lecture), another person shows some pictures of their trip to China, we had a cooking lesson and we are planning others. Sometimes its 4 people on the call and other times its 20 people. Friends of friends are joining us.

I know most people are doing their best but when i read about young healthy people bragging about getting curbside pickup twice in one week while high risk people are forced to go out because they are not lucky enough to get a slot i get so angry. Other than deep breathing how to handle this?

Stop reading what you're reading? Especially if it's upsetting you without helping. 

Also--please try to remember that not everyone is seeing things from your angle, and not everyone has the same set of facts. Your "bragging" young people may have no idea they're taking a slot from someone at high risk, because it hasn't occurred to them (yet) or because the idea is too abstract. They may have an "aha" moment a few weeks from now and feel ashamed.

So, yes, breathe. And kindly inform where you see opportunities.

 

 

I may be an outlier here. I am an introvert, so being alone is really pretty comfortable for me (my dogs are, obviously, constant companions). I had been working a high stress job until the end of February, and quit with the offer of a new job to start the first of April. I had not had any kind of vacation for a while, and was looking forward to down time. My new job has fallen through. I am at a crossroads. I am not as panicked as I ought to be. I have a little savings--very little--to see me through a couple of months longer. I am, however, so enjoying time to read, to not be beholden to anyone, and to let my body tell me when I should eat and when I should sleep. Do I have any idea what will happen? No more than anyone else. I am just more comfortable with uncertainty. Probably not helpful for many, but just my experience.

Thanks for weighing in.

I'm not sure how practical this is, but I notice so many people who are doing okay mention their pets, and so many people crying out for physical connection, that I wonder if pet-fostering is the immediate-term answer. Dunno if this even works amid stay-at-home orders, but putting it out there. 

I've been taking walks every day. In some efforts to avoid people in my city neighborhood, and keep a safe distance, I've been taking different routes than I normally do, exploring different streets and admiring the homes. Yesterday work was extra busy, and I didn't get my walk started until the sun was setting. And that was a fun experience, because I could see people in their homes, nothing creepy, just noticing as I passed by, and even though I was outside, felt a bit more connected to all those people in their homes. Maybe cheesy, but then I've made cheese (both literally and figuratively) a regular part of my diet and coping strategy these days.

My daughter sent me this: For those who have lost track, today is Blursday the fortyteenth of Maprilay. Sounds about right to me.

Also known as National Stretchypants Day.

You are all doing an AMAZING job! Each completed day is a success, so be proud! Trust yourselves in prioritizing things that are important. Reach out to friends and family: to vent, to listen, to laugh, to cry. I see so many wonderful things happening in a really difficult time...you all inspire me. THANK YOU!

No no, thank you!

Holy carp, listening to him in meetings is revelation and I'm now 100% sure the problems he has had at work over the years are entirely of his own making. He doesn't do any of the things you need to do to get along with people! He's not like this at all with friends and family, either. I don't know what to do with this information, though.

Share it. You  probably know how best to approach it, knowing him as well as you do.

If someone were saying it to me, I'd want them to be blunt but also give me a chance to adjust my head for what I'm about to hear. Such as, "I overheard your meeting and I might have an idea about your work issue." Followed by what I usually do right with others that I'm not doing with colleagues.  

Hi Carolyn, I was diagnosed with cancer on this day last year. No fooling! And the trauma feels the same as what has happened with coronavirus. I think we are all going to emerge in 3 to 12 months with some level of PTSD. Just watching everyone around me going through some of the same levels of despair that I went through over the last year is fascinating and chilling. It's the uncertainty and not knowing I think. Plus finding out new and terrible things from time to time and you want to scream 'HEY! I DIDN'T SIGN UP FOR THIS!' Just to know I'm okay now. I still have some delayed plastic surgery ahead of me but I'll live. Take care. Kansas

For those living alone, what works for me: 1) I've been fully focusing on whatever I'm doing at the moment. If I'm watching TV, I'm ONLY watching TV. No phone allowed--it sits in another room. When I pet my cats, that's all I do. Even folding laundry now gets my full attention. My closet has never looked nicer. 2) I've put a strict daily limit on my news consumption. One hour of news a day, and no news after 9pm. I got a website blocker to enforce this. Again, the phone stays in another room. 3) I make sure I talk to an actual human being on the phone at least every other day, even if it's just a 2 minute call to check on my dad. 4) I'm constantly telling myself that the best thing I can do for the world right now is something I'm really, really good at: staying at home.

Going off earlier comments - I just want to scream at people on my social media feed that are humble-bragging all this baking, cooking elaborates meals, binge watching show, etc., I am busier now than I was before! I guess the answer is just to stop with the social media, huh?

Sure, if that helps. 

You can also stop assigning motives. People you say are humble-bragging could just be trying their best not to lose their s***, and this is what they settled on.

If nothing else, this is a great time to assume the best of people. If that helps.

If not, then, like I said, you can do your yelling here. 

First of all (((hugs))). Second of all, I am going to give you some advice. It will probably be the hardest thing you have ever done since you are already nervous, but pull back on that bar exam courage. Treat your job as if you have a shingle out and go out and find the work. It happens more naturally in the office, though even there some associates (me, when that was me) just wait for the work to come to them. You know some seniors and some partners. Reach out to them in a confident way and ask if they have any work for you. They could just pass things along to the people who they have always passed things along to. But maybe your eagerness will catch someone's eye. There could be people whose have more work to pass along because of this (think the banking and bankruptcy groups, maybe real estate) It is also possible that someone in the firm is making sure to keep the busy projects evenly spaced among the associates already working there, but a lot of law firms aren't that well run. There is hope in that your firm did a big pay cut across the board rather than do layoffs as a first option, but it will depend on how things go from here. So, don't panic, but do something that might not be your first choice. I didn't once in a different circumstance and I was laid off. Do better than I did. You can. You know you can.

You are responsible for my 1st happy weep of the day. Thank you. Missing my work kiddos desperately. Saw a few via video yesterday and it helped too

Agreed, this was a keeper.

I came to read the column and found that there is a chat happening and it is such a wonderful surprise treat in the midst of all this weirdness! Thank you!

You're welcome!

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." 

-Hunter S. Thompson

I wanted to chime in to add that I was really sick with what my doctor is pretty sure was Covid 19. All the symptoms. Manageable at home thankfully, but still gross and awful feeling. And I have a 12 month old, and both myself and husband supposed to be working 40 hour weeks at home. It's all so much. We had friends offering to get stuff for us. But I don't want to expose them to the store for any additional trips, and they all are in VA or DC, we are in MD. It felt like a lot to ask anyone for anything. But one friend stepped up and didn't ask what we needed, he just texted asked if he could drop something off on my front porch. Didn't say what. He dropped it off without knocking, texted as he drove away, and it was so wonderful. It was simple, just a grocery bag with some random things clearly from their house, a few potatoes, a few bananas, some frozen curry and rice. But it was just so thoughtful and heartfelt, and easy. So often we don't know how to help others, and put the onus on them, the sick, to tell us. We manage so much in our lives, work, kids, home, I don't want to delegate how people help me too. It's not worth the mental anguish of feeling like a burden. But this gesture was amazing, and I'll never forget how nice a handful of potatoes made me feel.

I was an associate at a large firm during the last recession, so the anxiety expressed is real. My firm opted for across the board salary reductions to prevent lay offs and the tactic worked - although I was not happy with the salary cut, I was happy to keep the job. As for the loss of billable hours, look at using the time to take some of the (many) free continuing legal education courses that are being offered around the Covid-19 issues. We all struggle to meet CLE requirements, so unexpected free time can give a jump on those. If you firm limits the amount of "free" work you can do for friends/family, reach out to some local charities and see what kind of pro bono work can be done to support them during this time. Best of all, try to remember what was fun before you got buried in billable hour requirements. Is there a book you have been wanting to read or a show you have gotten behind watching. Intersperse your day with these breaks and it may help with the anxiety. Remember, people always need lawyers and you will get through this.

Hi Carolyn, I am right now, as I type, waiting for my fathers funeral to be live streamed to me 3000 miles away. I can’t describe how surreal this is. I don’t even know what I feel. I’m sad and numb and disbelieving and angry. I just don’t know how to make this feel real so I can grieve. Any advice?

Oh, that is devastating, I am sorry.

I urge you not to "make" this into anything it isn't already on its own. Sad and numb and disbelieving and angry are what you've got, and that's plenty for you to work on right now. Your grief will tell you what it needs as you go along. If it ever starts to feel like more than you can manage, or if you feel stuck, then please see what grief counseling is available to you. Therapists are up and running on FaceTime and Zoom and etc. in response to distancing.

My condolences, and take care.

The best advice on being overwhelmed came from a table leader. It was my first time grading AP English Lit exams. My first morning on the first of 8 days. They came at you by the hundreds, one after another. I felt a wave of despair. "I can't do this," I told the table leader. "Well, can you make it to morning break?" he asked. That was about 10 minutes away. Yes, I told him. "Then make it to lunch," he said. "The trouble is you're looking ahead 8 days. Nobody can do this for 8 days." It got me through and I came back for 10 years. And whenever I became overwhelmed in any situation, I asked myself: Can I make it to morning break?

Yes, great example of zooming in, thank you.

I was confused by this: "young healthy people bragging about getting curbside pickup twice in one week while high risk people are forced to go out because they are not lucky enough to get a slot i get so angry." What is wrong with getting curbside pickup? Should healthy people not do it?

If there are limited slots (i.e., if your grocery store is booking days in advance for the service), then, yes, people who are a low-risk category should consider being the ones to shop inside. It's the same principle as with TP: don't buy more just because you can when you already have a month's worth at home. Choose to leave some for the desperate, even if you're not sure of anyone's desperation.

Again: Offering these as common sense, not public health expertise. 

I listen to a lot of music and sing and dance with my dog several times a week. The Atlantic had an article about some college folks who had a weekly collaborative Spotify playlist, so I started one with my sisters back in November/December: we live in three different states. We add 5 songs a week, and I make a Survey Monkey and we vote. Sometimes we have theme weeks, like "shake your booty" week. Very thankful for this frivolous exercise now. I am reading through all of my comics and graphic novels. I'm thankful to be able to walk my dog out briefly for bio breaks and to watch him gallop through the grass like things are normal. I miss people, but... here we are. Glad to have a forced break from dating though, let me tell you.

Ha. Clearly I need to teach my dogs to dance.

Being ok on your own is something you can practice. I think society somewhat discourages that kind of independence, so there can be a default to feeling anxious, as if we're rejects. For me, it's been like untying a knot, and now I really enjoy being on my own.

You need to give the people you see as "bragging" or out doing things that seem irresponsible the benefit of the doubt. As best as you can. Stretch and find a reason why what they're doing might not seem as horrible as your first instinct is. A young person bragging about having nabbed a curbside slot might be a caregiver for an elderly person or live with someone who is compromised with an underlying condition and cannot risk getting sick themselves and passing it on. Or they *themselves* have an underlying heart or lung condition themselves that you're not aware of. My sister posted on her FB timeline this morning to please understand if you see her out and about - because she's an essential worker and that's the only reason she's outside, and everybody else PLEASE STAY HOME. Give people the benefit of the doubt as best you can. We're all in this together and we don't know what any individual person is dealing with.

So great, thank you.

I'll add this, a great point about the fact that shaming can lead to people not admitting they're sick, which increases the risk to us all: LINK

Best approach to dealing with people who call concern over Coronavirus preparation and mitigation "hysteria?" Engage, ignore, fight, flight? Thanks! :)

Here's what I want to know. How can people see images of *field hospitals* going up and still be nyah-nyahing this? It just boggles the mind. 

Maybe you've noticed that is not an answer to your question.

My first thought is that you DISengage, and stay as far away as possible from someone who refuses to take precautions. For your own well-being. Where you think you might have some influence, then of course you try, kindly: "I realize you think you're safe from this, and you may be right, but you could unwittingly pass it to people who aren't safe." 

I'll take suggestions from anyone who has found an effective approach here. You may also notice I have been reading and reading on this, and I haven't found the "How to deal with deniers" how-to that holds much promise.

I did, however, see a stunning little video on Twitter that I idiotically failed to save: It was a simple graphic of red lines, with one version showing the spread as people moved about freely, and a second version showing "one person stayed home," etc. Anyone else see it? 

 

Sorry to intrude on the single isolators, y'all deserve SO much attention. I'm single mom, 3 kids. We are mostly introverted, and were doing OK until this week when--BAM--each kid went off the rails in his/her own way. Their therapist will not do phone call or video appointments (therapist for expected kid-of-divorce issues). I'm freaking out that my handling of this crises will fully shape their adult lives, and I'm effing it up by not listening enough or too much or ... well, the list goes on. Easy reading for parenting during a pandemic that will result in healthy future adults who can cope with stuff?

I can't think of easy reading, but--you are human, you are there with your kids, you are trying. Please see these as three things you want your kids to take with them into adulthood:

1. People make mistakes.

2. They are loved.

3. You are showing up.

Thanks for the thoughtful response. I should add that the cat has been very helpful, of course, although he steadfastly resists my attempts to cuddle. I remain optimistic that we will reach a negotiated truce on that... eventually.

Perhaps there is an attorney here who speaks Cat.

Last week I was sick, scared, couldn't breathe very well; I was diagnosed two days later as the bellwether, the first "community acquired" case in my province. I'm beginning to recover now. Anyone sick and scared who's reading this: I'm so, so sorry. I wish I could give you assurance above and beyond my own survival.

That seems like powerful assurance to me. Thanks for checking in.

Here's a link for the eye-opening graphic https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/3/26/21193851/coronavirus-covid-19-staying-home-social-distancing

That's it! Aaahhh! Thank you. 

video, not graphic, but it works https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXQVx13SbzQ (not endorsing it as fire safety advice, though...)

Thank you, little match person.

Are you sure? Last week was yesterday, after all.

I thought last week was last year. Thanks a lot.

This article is a pretty good round up of ideas (any Krista Tippett on civility is always a worthy re-read). It is from a religious slant, so YMMV, but it might plant a few seeds for thought. https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2020/03/27/coronavirus-how-talk-people-arent-taking-social-distancing-seriously

Thanks, will have a look after.

One more point: Your handling of the crisis will affect their adult lives. It will not fully shape their adult lives. You and your handling of the crisis are important influences on them but FAR from the only influences.

With the advice being so conflicting regarding whether the public should wear (non-medical) face masks to avoid spreading any potential infection, should I be making them for my family to wear when any of us need to go out in public? And yes, with keeping social distance (not possible with grocery clerks, etc.) and rigorous handwashing and thing-wiping-down.

If you're on the fence, then wear them. You'll make it that much easier for the people who have to wear them, and who are (I hear) getting shouted at to go home if they're sick. Which of course is just a terrible ball of misinformation, ignorance and shaming, but, one problem at a time.

Hi. I feel like you're providing an amazing service here- many thanks. So, even before the pandemic, I was in a bad place. I have little contact with my very dysfunctional family, I just ended a long term abusive relationship, and I recently moved to a city where I don't know anyone. Then, COVID hit and I lost my job. Now I have no money, no insurance, no friends, and I live alone. I am isolated and depressed in the extreme, and I don't know where to turn. I lost most of my friends in my old city during the time I was in the bad relationship- I've tried reaching out to them via text and phone, but most of them haven't responded or have replied in a way that makes it clear they're dealing with their own problems now and aren't really up to reconnecting with me in a meaningful way. Now that we know the current situation could last for months, how do I survive this?

Obviously you have significant challenges right now, with the isolation and job loss, but do please give yourself all the credit you deserve for leaving the abusive relationship. Where you see emptiness, I see a hard won clean slate for you to fill with a life that serves -you- now. With small things to start as you're able.

Also, my advice up above about not thinking in terms of months right now is crucial. Think to morning break, to use that example. And, think of places that are suddenly hiring, and weigh your risks of exposure against the risks of isolation. 

Small steps. Also you say "most" of your old friends weren't receptive--so stick to the ones who were receptive. Don't overload them, but don't give up, either.

And, think how you can help. That is a source of emotional lift and connections. Delivering supplies to seniors, for example. Check with your local police, fire station or council on aging. 

The queue is filled today with other ideas, so I hope there's something for you there. As always, the comments section is filled with people who will "listen." 

Thanks for posting.

Personally, I like to combine two tactics: (1) Do my level best to take a deep breath and be a grown-up about it. Being crabby is allowed. Taking it out on other people is not. This too shall pass. Etc. (2) When it's situationally appropriate, directly say to people I'm interacting with "I'm just really grouchy today for some reason. Trying to get a grip on it, but sorry in advance if I'm more snappish than I should be." We've all been there. Some people may ask what's up (which gives you a chance to vent, if you'd like, or deflect) and others may just give you a little more leeway; if nothing else, it's insurance against hurt feelings if you do slip a little on the "act like an adult" part. Plus, I find acknowledging it seems to make it pass quicker.

I saw a photo of someone painting a graffiti message on their fence or wall outside that read: "You are not stuck at home. You are safe at home." This really helped me.

You are not your job. This is as good a time to find that out as any. These are terrifying times, and no one has a crystal ball to see what will happen next - life as we have believed it to be may never be the same again, and probably was never that way to begin with - sometimes the veil of certainty is ripped from our hands and we see the fundamental fragility of life. This is one of those times - use it to figure out who you really are, without all the labels we usually give ourselves to reassure ourselves of our identity, and to keep us from seeing that fundamental uncertainty.

This is lovely, thank you. When I got an eyeful of it in my mid-30s, "the fundamental fragility of life" was terrifying and disorienting for me--at first. Then it was liberating. 

Speaking of fragility, I'm on E. After a break, I'll check the queue to see if I missed any other new suggestions.

Otherwise, though, this is it for now. I'll be back here Friday at noon. Thanks, Yu, and thanks to everyone for your part in such a great community.

So glad you are safely away from your abusive partner. Please reach out to your local Domestic Violence agency, they may have services you can access to keep you from feeling so isolated. For anyone out there who is stuck at home 'Socially Distant' but in danger, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

The shingle advice is great advice. Law firm partner here; definitely like it when associates are pro active about getting work. Also, be careful about doing work for friends and family; the firm may have a policy against it because it can make the friend a client of the firm and expose the firm to conflict issues and liability issues for allowing work to be done unsupervised.

For those who have extra time have your friends with children read a book or a chapter to you. Children can call to discuss something they are researching for school or to explain a fact they learned today. A friend with teenagers is having them email or video chat or call me every day to discuss their school work. Its a win win - they actually do enjoy discussing it with me and I am learning something. They are trying to find topics or math problems I know nothing about them.

I'm a fellow single person for whom physical touch is a love language, and it sucks. One thing I've been doing when FaceTiming with my parents or friends is to end the call with a virtual hug - we close our eyes and hug ourselves and try to imagine it's the other person. Obviously it's not the same, but it's nice, and it helps.

If your favorite shoe repair place is open, as mine is, this is a good time to take in all the shoes that need new heels, soles, crescent toe protectors, whatever. You won’t miss the shoes as much, and the shop will appreciate the work. (My shoe shop is open because they repair work shoes and boots for police, fire fighters and chemical, oil and gas workers. And tv journalists.)

One thing I find hopeful is that this IS going to end. Not as soon as any of us like, but it will. There's already a ton of R&D happening on a vaccine -- some moving into very early testing already. The day to day is incredibly overwhelming and scary, but there are small signs that this will end...and I'm trying to focus on that.

If any of my friends/neighbors asked me to, I would gladly - draw stuff on their patio/driveway/cul-de-sac that were kid-friendly (mazes to kick a rock through/hopscotch/activity lines [hop on one foot from here to here/do 10 jumping jacks here/etc.) if location allowed - read a book or tell a story or chat online or on the phone - send pictures for kids to draw/caption/make up stories about - draw with kids online (and I am in no way an artist...) And so on. People with kids, please don't be afraid to ask your single friends to do stuff with your kids online. My own kid is 26 and surly at the moment (unable to restart his life as he planned because of coronavirus sequestering at my house) so I have some free time and would happily virtually watch/entertain/help with your kids however I could if anyone asked.

"young healthy people bragging about getting curbside pickup" 1. How do you know they are young AND healthy? 2. They are practiceing social distancing. They are actually protecting others. Including the high risk people that are in the store. Or the high risk people in their family. It might be helpful to just not assume.

I should have been more clear in my response: Only if there are scarce slots should people be judicious about using curbside pickup (anecdotally I've heard of some vulnerable people who can't get a grocery pickup or delivery slot for weeks). Otherwise everyone--all risk levels, real or perceived--should practice as much distancing as possible, including with the use of curbside options.

And not assuming is always a good policy.

Hope that's better.

 

I saw on Twitter a post that said "you aren't working from home during a crisis; you are at home because of a crisis trying to work". I keep trying to remind myself of this distinction and it helps me feel less like an unproductive bump on a log when I can't seem to focus on work.

I've been working on this for a long time, and I'm finding it really helpful right now, and I highly encourage it for others: Stop worrying about what everybody else is doing. You get mad and feel lousy and it doesn't change a thing about what they're doing. Yeah, a lot of people are doing dumb stuff. Whatever. Either they'll figure it out eventually or they won't. Wash your hands, stay home if you can, help elderly neighbors. The judging of "young, healthy people" who get delivery slots is useless. It just makes you, the judger, mad. Turn off the internet and go read a book.

As a parent of two 20 something year olds, I admitted (and still do) when I did something wrong, like I should have been more patient earlier, or I didn't realize how important something was to them, etc. I also admitted when we were going into new territory and I wasn't really sure how we were going to do something but that we would figure it out together. And we did. Making changes along the way. It was this fine balancing act - they wanted reassurance that I knew what I was doing (I didn't always), but they also wanted to be heard. I learned more from them than I think I taught them. They are awesome little people now that I would want as friends if they weren't my kids.

My grandparents were kids during the Great Depression, and one in particular would talk about her very difficult childhood sometimes. She wasn't bitter, just matter-of-fact, and shared a lot of hard things. She got through them, and came out on the other side and had a very happy life. Hard things don't have to define us, and they especially don't have to define children. This is a moment in time that will pass.

Hopefully you're not as unkind to them as you are to the people who accepted CH's invitation to exchange views on how to cope with isolation.

Thanks, I should have addressed the snark. I'll refer to my comment on the same issue last week (just scroll pas the Q and A to the gray text): LINK.

I had my last grocery delivery on March 1. When I tried another one approx. 10 days later, no slots were available. I can drive to do pickup, but then how do I get my groceries into the house? Same with toilet paper--for the past year I've done Costco delivery at a high price for essentials. In my area there are no deliveries--not supermarkets, not Instacart, nothing!! If you're elderly, disabled, and a caregiver for an at risk person, you're just SOL.

Here’s something unexpected that helped me. I’m not a huge churchgoer, and I normally attend a liturgical church (Episcopal), the kind many in other denominations/religions sometimes don’t associate with warmth and intimacy. They’re wrong about that, by the way. Anyhow, I discovered my church conducts services online in these distressing times. I felt skeptical—how much more distancing can you get? The experience turned out to be exactly the opposite. It was close, warm, personal, fulfilling. If you are feeling isolated and despairing, find out if your place of worship has made such accommodations. I’m glad I did.

After therapy following terrible health anxiety which followed two cancer diagnoses I have learned this: uncertainty is the most real thing we have or will ever have in the present moment, and the present moment is the only place we can fully live. Even though uncertainty is defined by not knowing, it is more our true reality than the past or what might happen in the future. Learning to embrace that fully, not just acknowledge it under duress or rhetorically, has changed my life 100% for the better.

My dad, whom I miss terribly, was a table leader for years, so while there's no way to know if he was the one who gave you that advice, I like to think he might have been. Thanks for relating it in any case.

This just leveled me. xo

One thing I was surprised others I've talked to haven't thought of - even working from home you can make a vacation request. Maybe she can request some time off - a couple days, one day a week, whatever - to ease the stress and urgency and find some balance.

Asking friends to drop off prepared food, not necessarily a whole meal, but a main dish or even just cookies, on your porch is not increasing their risk, and it gives them a way to do something safely. Do you have a close friend who might be willing to move in with you, full Brigadoon, if you stopped sending your children to daycare?

Everyone is adjusting and learning as we go. Everyone needs to lower their expectations. Children however (especially toddlers) only know that Mommy and/or Daddy are home, and are trying to make sense of why you are not paying attention to them. Because they are so egocentric, they figure that it must be that something is wrong with them - which just short circuits their already shaky self-regulating system. If you can find time to focus on them when they are not in the midst of a tantrum, or fighting with their siblings, or drawing on the wall, you will find that they will begin to look for ways to get your attention in a positive way. If possible give them activities that they can do near by and praise them often for playing nicely and letting you work. Set timers for breaks and be prepared to put them first. Children always sense when you are distracted, and will do anything and everything to get you focused on them.

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Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997 as a weekly feature for The Washington Post, accompanied by the work of "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis. The column has since gone daily and into syndication, where it appears in over 200 newspapers. Carolyn joined The Post in 1992 as a copy editor in Style, and became a news editor before turning to writing full-time. She is the author of "Tell Me About It" (Miramax, 2001), and the host of a live online discussion on Fridays at noon on washingtonpost.com. She lives in New England with her husband and their three boys.
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