Everything will be fine if you just do what I say.
How did it start? Maybe a parent with a hair-trigger spankin’ hand. Maybe unbalanced gut flora, which researchers now find may be the culprit behind anxiety and other mental disorders.
Maybe it’s just because I’m an only child and never had to concede territory when threatened with farts, boogers, inside-out eyelids or pendulous strings of spit.
Whatever it was, I grew up to be an adult with a need for order and obedience that makes Stalin look like a hippie.
I can’t say being a control freak has made me popular. Two failed marriages can attest to that. But I’m a good employee. I’m detail-oriented, conscientious, a workaholic. Obsessive proofreader. Defenestrator of stinky banana peels. Draconian overseer of supplies and proper recycling procedures. Corrector of improper toilet-roll installation. Shutter-offer of unnecessary lights.
Pandemic? I was born for this shit.
I’ve never met a rule I couldn’t follow. Unfortunately, I’m surrounded by normal people who aren’t quite as “uptight”, shall we say, about avoiding a lingering death by way of nightmare horror virus.
When I go to the grocery store and find that I’m the only customer not wearing a mask, I want to scale a pyramid of canned goods and scream, “ARE YOU PEOPLE STUPID?”
To date*, I have not done this. I have contented myself with hard looks over my blue-paper power shield and ostentatious hovering at a distance of PRECISELY six feet while waiting for the mosh pit in the dairy aisle to clear out.
It’s not easy being righteous.
Scott Berinato recently wrote an article published in the Harvard Business Review entitled That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief. In it, he describes our reactions to the pandemic in terms of Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief — a grief that we didn’t even know we were feeling.
Reading the article, I had one of those “a-ha” moments that everyone keeps talking about. A little intellectual orgasm.
Everybody in the world today is at a different stage of grief. For example, I’m still bargaining with the death cooties. If everyone just did as they’re told, this could be over in a few weeks.
I will do my part by shaming everyone within earshot into abiding by our local guidelines. I am the dungeon master. I bear the torch that lights the way. I will not go through a red light even though I am the only car within 20 miles, for fear of bursting into flames. The rules must be obeyed.
NO. WIRE. HANGERS.
Berinato’s point is that we need to be aware of the different stages of our pandemic grief, to know that wherever we are on our emotional journey, there’s hope that we’ll reach the final stage: acceptance. Which, while not exactly rainbows and unicorns, is a place where the silent screaming stops.
When we reach acceptance, we can look around our internal landscape and realize that, in this instant, we are alive. The world is still turning. The sun will (probably) rise tomorrow. We are part of a greater whole which is unknown and unknowable, to which we must surrender. We can only control our own actions.
Someone** once said, “If you worry about dying, it’s like dying twice.” I think about that a lot. I don’t want to die once, let alone twice. I just want everyone to do what I say because it’s for their own good.
Let my headstone read, “I’m not mean. I’m right.”
*There’s still time.
**Michael J. Fox