We all have different reactions to stress. Mine is scrubbing. Occasionally that means the literal on-your-hands-and-knees kind of scrubbing with a bucket of soapy water and a rag. (Just try getting to the far corners of the floor under a large piece of furniture without the hands-and-knees approach.) Look around your house. You know what I mean. Any number of things could be cleaner, less dusty at least. Yeah.
Usually for me though, scrubbing is the more general version, the simple make-something-better-with-energetic-activity kind of scrubbing. Pick something, anything. Lots of things could be better than they are. When we make something better, good things happen. When we sit around feeling stressed, dejected, annoyed, fearful or any other un-positive way, good seldom comes.
I know. I’m a worrier. I’m worried about bringing The Big Bad to my mom who’s trying to heal her broken back. I am worried when I’m not in her apartment that somewhere out there, something I touch, someone I pass by, will infect me. I’m worried about my friend Sandy who just had knee surgery* and is staying at the cottage. We all know how contagious coronavirus is. I don’t touch anything I don’t have to. I wear gloves almost continually. I don’t even want to breathe when I am anywhere other than my house, my car or Mom’s apartment. But sooner or later we all need stuff from the store.
Here’s the thing: I can’t make my mom’s broken back heal any faster than her bones naturally knit together. I can’t un-stiffen Sandy’s knee or cause the ice packs to un-swell it more effectively. I sure can’t reverse the deadly track of the coronavirus. I can’t play the trumpet and serenade my neighbors like this amazing and selfless trumpet player in Italy.
But by golly I can scrub! First and foremost of course, I can scrub my hands to help ensure I am not making the situation worse. I can “do” the other thing besides hand-washing that we all have been advised to do: Stay home as much as possible. Consider it done. I love home anyway.
I can also make food and give it away. Yesterday I made three ricotta pies which have safely made their way to three different refrigerators.
I can plant my lettuce, spinach, peas and onions, hoping I’ll be able to share that produce in a month or two. Basil is best started indoors. The sight of these seeds popping through the dirt was about as lovely a sight as I could have asked for.
I can pray. Lord knows there are plenty of people trying to figure out how to navigate this weird new world. I can also be a sounding board and hopefully an encouragement for people who want to talk on the phone, or text (as they are that for me!). Once in a while, maybe I can even make them laugh! To maintain my sanity/well-being (okay, and to let out a bit of frustration), I can break a hole in the wall near the end of the kitchen and start my next renovation project.
I do not mean to diminish the seriousness of the world situation by one iota. I am aware of the military trucks in Bergamo taking bodies to crematoriums in other Italian cities because there is NO MORE ROOM for them in Bergamo. My heart is heavy knowing I don’t have a clue about pain and suffering and worry compared to those in the thick of it.
But I do think we can collectively and individually make things better than they are. With some unfortunate and maddening exceptions (spring-breakers on Miami beaches come to mind) most people have brains, energy and helpful and caring hearts.
*He got in under the wire, one of the last three elective surgeries to be performed in our local hospital before they decided to draw the line on non-essential procedures.