Forty Days and Forty Nights
By Pattie Hanmer
Following the restrictions put in place by our local Governor and the mandated self-isolation imposed by the health regulations of Washington State, I am force to entertain myself and my family during these months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Luckily for me, I am not trapped in a home with anyone. Just me and my dog during COVID-19 and he seems to entertain himself licking his paws and food bowl.
The word "quarantine" originates from the Venetian language form, “quarantena”, meaning "forty days". This is due to the 40-day isolation of ships and people that needed to stay on board before they went into port during the time of the Bubonic plague.
I am not counting the days. They all seem to run together like a “Groundhog Day” scenario. So, the quest is to entertain myself, keep healthy, be vigilant about forming good mental habits, and to make sure that I have a daily supply of oxytocin to avoid an overload of cortisol hijacking the body.
To this point, I have reveled in how this experience of forty days and forty nights of self-isolation is a rather biblical experience. Every day I allow my creative self to conjure up a story, a piece of art, a new recipe in the kitchen, or devise a new plan to move forward. There is so much available to learn, study and absorb due to the immense availability of digital information at my fingertips. The challenge is to sort out the chaff from the wheat. Who has ever been in a pandemic before with an internet? We could be consumed with the news being dispersed from every corner of the world - it is a viral information epidemic which I consider is more harmful than the virus itself.
I have coined the time BC, DC, and AC (Before COVID-19, During COVID-19 and After COVID-19). I can speak to the first two but the After AC is mystifying. So, I will focus on the DC time from my perspective. Perhaps in years to come this decade will be known as “The COVID-19 Age” not the “Iron Age” or the “Bronze Age” but a historical period of time that was equivalent to the past extensive civilizations but condensed to a 10 year cycle due to the global impact and the behavioral adjustments that arose during this significant time.
Initially, my mind and thoughts are busy trying to decide whether to purchase appropriate stocks in this bear market. Three months ago, I might have bought Zoom or Johnson and Johnson, but alas I am no Warren Buffet, I do not have the financial vision that perhaps was in the Wall Street ethers. Now I focus on mother nature and her bounty. The gardens, the flowers, the birds, the new growth. An explosion of tulips in my garden, a rainbow of bliss.
My cherry blossom tree, with a sweet perfume - delicate, pretty and in full bloom; this seems much healthier rather than wealthier concerns to explore and appreciate.
My latest new activity is hiking the Shinglemill Trail on Vashon Island, an undulating hike of a mile or more from mid-island to the water. I love going in the late afternoon when the birds are getting ready to settle down into their tree condos. It reminds me of New Zealand - peaceful, tranquil, and provides a sense of my own private Universe. It provides a perfect opportunity to hug a tree rather than hugging a person. Quietly and with intention, I wrap my arms around a hemlock, fir or cedar tree providing me a deep nourishment, a very consoling alternative to a human, my nose appreciates the aroma from the bark and the moss, preferable to a Chanel No. 5 or petunia essential oil which can sometimes be overwhelming on a person.
My days flow along. I do not even count them. I have a routine of some kind, yet I know the gradual pull to the familiar does not help my neuro-connectors; and this is a not a time for complacency. This is an opportunity to be still, reflect, consider what is essential in life, and discover what it is I could be doing to move forward with what supports me and my community. So much information is flowing, and it is an overload to the nervous system; so, I am choosing to keep my life simple and find my “Giggly spot”. This is great medicine for anyone that is feeling the intensity of the pandemic.
I have chosen several friends to share fun stories in a “Chicken Soup of the Soul” kind of way, from memes to streaming videos, “YouTubes” and a whole host of entertainment from years-past TV and movies. In this way I have found my “Giggly spot”. I dedicate at least 10 minutes a day to laughing out loud either on the phone with a friend or with myself.
Norman Cousins, an American political journalist, wrote a book “Anatomy of An Illness.” In the 1960's he had been diagnosed with a degenerative disease which left him in constant pain, and he was told he would die in a few months. He disagreed and reasoned that stress had contributed to his illness, he believed positive emotions would help cure his disorder. So, he checked out from a hospital and took huge doses of Vitamin C while watching humorous films and “laughing matter”. He discovered 10 minutes of a good belly laugh would ease his pain and was more effective than morphine. His condition improved and within 6 months he was back on his feet and able to resume work. His story baffled the scientific community and inspired several research programs.
I do not believe it is a panacea for the virus, but it is a good ingredient towards helping my state of being. I am choosing to avoid conflict - I do not want my energy to be contaminated. I am seeking people who look towards the world with optimism to inspire me and to make me laugh. My giggly spot floods my body with endorphins a natural immune fighter, and I hope to spread a laughing virus. Forty days and forty nights of laughing is my quest. I can only do what I can do for my wellness and self-care; however, if it can offer just a dose of happiness to others, then I will feel I am contributing towards helping some stress to subside.
Simply seeking inner peace, listening to inner wisdom.