- 12 gallons distilled water
- 2 boxes of Bagel Bites (family size)
- 1 box of taquitos
- 1 Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino
That’s the “apocalypse” grocery list my 18 year old went to Target with this weekend. And to be clear – the water isn’t for us humans. It’s for his plants. I was permitted to snag two gallons for my coffee.
I threw in two boxes of pizza and some chicken strips for his older brother, and headed to check out.
I was not actually apocalypse shopping. Maybe I should have been. But I lived in Florida during Hurricane Irma, in the eye of it, thank you very much, and while Covid-19 might take down my health, it wasn’t going to flood my streets, tear off my roof or leave me without power for ten days. So, it seemed like for now, I should still be able to buy groceries, even while “social distancing”.
But clearly, my neighbors were did not agree. Like many of you, my son and I walked through empty aisles where toilet paper, paper towels and canned tomato sauce once shelved. Tomato sauce? Well, it was gone.
My local yoga studio is owned by a woman named Kate. A small place that embraces the community mindset: it’s our studio, not just hers. Class was smaller than usual and of course, everyone was talking about the school closings, the new work-from-home policies and the canceling of the St. Patrick’s Day parade. As you can image, in Massachusetts, that’s a pretty big deal.
Kate announced that she needs to reduce the number of classes being offered and she will likely teach nearly all of them herself, at least for the next few weeks. She can’t afford to pay the other instructors when class sizes have shrunk so drastically, and yet she wants to keep the studio open for anyone who wants to attend. She just opened a second studio a few months ago, and as she’s talking, I can’t help but wonder how she is managing her recent expansion now that everything is contracting in fear. I wonder how many other small businesses are taking a hit that seem temporary and short-term today, but could have long-lasting effects on their ability to survive, much less thrive.
It’s a quaint, French style bakery with the best quiche in town. And a rather delicious Mexican chocolate mocha. Four of the six tables had patrons. Perhaps it’s easier to give up yoga rather than your morning coffee and cinnamon roll?
I am fortunate. It’s their last day open and serving inside. Starting tomorrow, it’s take out only. And if you call ahead and request it, they will walk your order out to your car. The are now daily publishing a menu of items you can order for the next day’s curbside service. I love their creative customer service – after all, they don’t have a parking lot – so they’re walking down the sidewalk of a typically busy street to get to hand deliver your breakfast sandwich or scone. And at the same time, I am sad that I don’t get to enjoy the warmth and yeasty smelling corner table with a view of the bustling sidewalk.
It is day five of “still no toilet paper in the grocery stores”. At least, not at the times that I’m going to look for it. I am still a little unclear why it was toilet paper everyone raced for. And bottled water. Why not the cold and fever meds? Or the asthma inhalers?
The good news is, I am not yet out of toilet paper. I can wait it out a little longer. But know that if you’re in driving distance of my home, I may be knocking on your door next week if this situation isn’t somehow remedied.
Fear drives us to do things we would not in “normal” circumstances.
Like hoard paper products that are in no way related to the actual crisis at hand.
What I learned about myself when I went to Target, to yoga, and to the bakery, and interacted with coworkers over zoom and friends over chat, is that our energy can take a 50 thousand foot drop in a matter of seconds, and we could not even be aware of it Yet we’ll react to it.
I didn’t walk into Target to buy a bunch of stuff. I needed coffee creamer and ink for my printer. Only when I saw the pandemic that was happening in the store did I think, should I be stocking up on a bunch of random stuff too? The vibration of fear of contagious. Suddenly I thought I needed… stuff. More stuff. There’s security in stuff, right? It was the head-shaking of my ever practical 18 year old that reset me. We needed water. And Bagel Bites. And we’d come back later if we needed other stuff. So, I inhaled deeply and threw in the extra pizzas anyway.
Yoga makes me happy, relaxed. And yet concern for future of the studio and for my newfound yogi community had me mentally rolling through scenarios to save them… buying annual memberships for all my friends even if they never came to class… making sure Kate charged for her online yoga classes that she is now creating… a virtual bake sale to raise money for the now out-of-work instructors? I was racing through scenarios that didn’t make fiscal or even logical sense. I only knew that I didn’t want to lose this sacred space.
When I saw the other patrons in the bakery, I suddenly realized how tense I had been walking in and wondering if anyone else would be there. Was I going to lose my Sunday morning ritual of a hot coffee and a flaky croissant on my walk home from yoga? Was this another local business about to shutter its doors because of the weirdness that is today’s pandemic response? What could I do to help them? If I buy a quiche a day, will that keep them afloat?
A quiche a day? Really? I like a good quiche, but come on…
My favorite routines, my sense of stability in my little corner of the universe, are suddenly in question. And while logically I am processing the new reality, only recently did I become aware of how that instability was driving some of my random, highly impractical thoughts.
Instability creates uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds ambiguity. Ambiguity has a love affair with fear.
And while I love a good love affair, there is no happily ever after that comes from that one.
For me, the anxiety and downshift in energy doesn’t come from the risk of getting sick.
My energy shift comes from the fact that we are choosing fear. The pandemic response is a fear-based response, and it is triggering the same fear-based reaction in many of us. This group think is contagious. And while most of our fear-based reactions may not actually be dangerous, that doesn’t mean they’re good for us.
Fear-based thoughts and behaviors are energy vampires. They disintegrate the positive flow of constructive energy that has us taking advantage of this unusual time to discover new things. Things like really paying attention to the people we live with. Like learning new patterns and schedules that still support the lifestyle we want to lead. Like breaking out of our comfort zone to test new habits and ideas. Like practicing what we preach to our kids – patience, kindness, respect – when they are now around 24/7 and stress-testing all of those virtues.
The television and internet news is like a machine gun, shelling us with repetitive and sometimes overwhelming information. There is so much we don’t actually know and yet every news outlet, every social media forum, is talking about it all the time. The contagion is not just Covid-19. It’s the fear.
We each need to do what we think is best of ourselves, our family and our health. In that spirit, I am asking you to pay attention to where your energy is these days, and take a moment to think about how you shift it from fear-based to… Haagen-Dazs-based energy.
What is Haagen-Dazs energy?
My 21 year old walked in as I was writing that last sentence. He asked why I had ‘that face’. I said I was trying to think of another word for joy.
He looked at me and flatly said, Haagen-Dazs.
My boy knows me well.
Find your joy. In these quarantined moments, find them with the people you are surrounded by. Find them in your new daily routines. Your new daily chores. Your new you. Find them in the support you see your community offering each other.
It’s there. Your Haagen-Dazs is there. You just have to be willing to look for it.