Coping in a Strange World

Nathan Sparks
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If you feel anxious and depressed because of the chaos in the world, I would regard you as normal. I have always felt I was grossly sane and grounded, but the last couple of years have made me feel I am losing precious fibers that attach me to reality like a tree perishing in the forest one fiber at a time. I suspect I am losing my connection with the world and the values I have known since birth. I read that 75 percent of Americans surveyed rated 2021 a bad or terrible year, and it is predicted by most that 2022 will be no better and probably worse. With COVID-19 infections increasing, climate change now a scientific certainty, bitter political division the rule of the day, and intolerant and angry people all around me, I have grown nervous just venturing out of the house.

You see, I grew up in the simplicity and safety of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and today find myself in a confusing and dangerous world. Like many of you, I remember a day – in fact, 60 or so years – when we felt safe and secure at home with unlocked doors, children playing in the neighborhood, secure savings protected in the neighborhood bank, and elected officials working together to solve problems. But today’s world is violent, callus, and disrespectful of longstanding institutions and values that my fibers require for survival, our commitment to democracy and a healthy and safe environment being chief among them.

To this point, I have coped with the new order by either ignoring it or relying on the humor I find in my efforts to survive. Like you, I try to cope as all around me takes on new shapes and forms. Here are a few of my favorite coping ideas and practices.

COVID Virus

First, I try to maintain a safe distance when standing in line to pay or to receive some service. I actually stand on those blue stickers on the floor, but I remain vigilant for people who would break line by moving into the “safe distance” I provided. I recognize that some who would refuse to wear a mask or get a shot of vaccine for the protection of themselves and others might think nothing about jumping in front of me in line.

If given an opportunity to receive a free miracle drug developed at the urging of President Donald Trump (Operation Warp Speed) and proven effective in preventing illness and death from the COVID virus, take it. It is my belief that history will record that the quick and lifesaving development of the COVID-19 vaccine as the greatest achievement of the Trump presidency.

Avoid the risk of contracting the virus by eating lunch in an empty restaurant at 3:00 p.m. In that way, you will not want dinner. Safe and healthy. I lost ten pounds that way. I call it “The Early Bird Special” on steroids.

I have convinced myself that my mask keeps me warm when outside in the cold around others, and I suggest you wave to strangers to make up for the loss of a smile as a greeting.

Domestic Terrorism

If you find yourself in a march or parade of some sort and the people around you are angry and suggesting violence to disrupt the government or disrespect democracy, you should quietly slow your pace until you are near the rear of the procession, then slip out of line as if looking for a restroom and run to your car and go home. If for some reason you cannot escape, do not have your photo taken in front of a rebel flag with a guy dressed in buckskin and a horned headdress.

Politics

Do not discuss politics with anyone under any circumstances, but vote every time you are given a chance until there are no more elections.

Climate Change

Be cautious about buying a car in this and the coming years. Avoid cars with internal combustion engines. While the move to electric cars should be celebrated, there is bound to be tremendous depreciation on any gas engine autos purchased now or in the future. Remember all those picture tube television sets and 8-track tape players you got stuck with.

If you are young, consider buying future beach front property in Valdosta, Georgia, or Aiken, South Carolina.

Internet Technology

Use caution when purchasing merchandise on the internet. I purchased a rose bush from a dealer and have now been notified the dealer has been hacked by the Chinese or a group of flower mobsters. I was cautioned I should be on the lookout for my credit card information being used to make other floral purchases either in China or Sicily.

Avoid those “I’m not a robot” tests on the internet to prove you are human. They are totally unreliable and impossible to pass. Last December I was asked to select all squares with a bus. One square had a full picture of a school bus and another had a picture of the front of a big Greyhound passenger bus. But another square had a picture of a traffic jam on an interstate highway made from 8,000 feet above while another had a picture of a big wheel probably on the front of a bus. You know there must have been a bus somewhere in that traffic jam. Of course, I got labeled a robot, but to my surprise another test was quickly given about crosswalks. Again,
I was found not to be human. They were all trick pictures. Finally, I passed when they showed only an elephant and a cat. I guess they really wanted to sell me the underwear even if I was a robot.

By the way, if you are offered cookies on the internet, I would advise you not to accept them because they’ll never send them to you. I’ve always loved chocolate chip; don’t you?

Working from Home

If you are like me, you are doing a lot more work from home and spending more time confined there with your spouse. If this is your situation, be on the watch for “spousal fatigue.” You should take regular breaks away from your spouse by pretending to go to the drugstore or to the service station to check the air in the tires of your car. Try taking nightly walks into the deep forest. I have observed that “spousal fatigue” can be a very dangerous condition usually evidenced by intense screaming and the pulling of hair. Or just sitting whimpering in the fetal position in a corner of the bedroom.

Driving

During the pandemic, I find that it is good to drive around the city. In the car alone I feel I should be safe from the COVID virus but still out and about the community. However, there are a lot of angry drivers out there, and most of them are in little black cars or pickup trucks with loud mufflers. Isn’t a muffler supposed to dampen sound? Wow! “Loud muffler” – that’s an oxymoron. I thought we had noise ordinances.

Medical Attention

You should see a doctor immediately if you experience a sudden cough or congestion with a runny nose. Fatigue, night sweats, and a headache can also indicate a COVID viral infection. Remember, your doctor should be contacted and you should be treated for trauma injuries caused by family members quarantined with you or if you experience deep depression associated, for example, with the lack of interest in taking down your Christmas decorations even though it is now March.

Loneliness

If you suffer loneliness as a result of being confined to your house, it is advisable you should create an account with Walgreens. The recorded lady from Walgreens calls me four times per day just to tell me what drugs I will need to refill next month, or what drugs are ready and not ready for pick up. Walgreens even calls to tell me they have filled prescriptions I haven’t taken in years, but it is always good to hear her voice to break the solitude. She is a welcome voice in a desolate world, and I even use her as a suicide hotline.

Heroes

Be kind to America’s new heroes who continue to work and serve under difficult and dangerous circumstances. I am primarily talking about ICU medical staff, waiters and waitresses, and school teachers.

Finally, it would be helpful not only to ourselves but to society as a whole if we would occasionally think about people other than ourselves. Good luck, and happy coping!   

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