25 March 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not


Dear Diary,

Greg is not traditionally …um, how shall I put this?… empathic? In tune with others’ feelings? Intuitive? I suppose any of those will work. They’re not his strong suit. He’s more adept with the concrete and logical. The tangible and clear. He’s a “Facts, ma’am — just the facts” kind of guy.

But he’s also compassionate and kind in that he wants to know what’s happening under the surface. He wants to respond with sensitivity. He just sometimes needs an assist so he can be looped in on WTF is going on. 

I’ve found it works best to supply him with his lines rather than wait and hope — futilely — that he’ll guess them.

Say, for example, I tried to make a frittata last Tuesday and it LOOKED magnificent but the potatoes were, you know, mostly still raw. And say I worked really hard on it — cutting a forking lot of spuds on a mandolin, whipping up the egg and milk mixture, seasoning it just right, adding turkey sausage — on top of managing the Whole House and All the Children and — worst of all — MYSELF. And say I’m normally very laissez faire about culinary failure. Very willing to laugh at myself. Very, “Meh. Whatever. Ice cream for dinner. THREE CHEERS FOR MOM!”

Well, Diary, you can see the potential for disaster, yes? The boat drifting down the river with no oars and the sound of a waterfall too close for comfort? The huge yellow caution sign that says CALAMITY AHEAD?

Do not fret, though. Do not worry. Greg and I have now been married 25 years, which have all been deliriously blissful (you can put more emphasis on delirious than blissful, Diary), so we’ve worked out a few of the communication glitches. So I simply said, with WORDS instead of the magical mind meld maneuvers I’ve tried in the past, “Dinner didn’t go according to plan, and I’m feeling a little sensitive about it. We’re going to  microwave individual portions to finish cooking the potatoes and all pretend it’s a really lovely meal. Now you say, ‘THIS LOOKS AMAZING’ and ‘GET IN MY BELLY.’”

Diary, USING WORDS IS INCREDIBLE. It is the BEST. All the Woolsey people said, “THIS LOOKS AMAZING” and “GET IN MY BELLY,” led in their chorus by one Gregory A. Woolsey because he Knows How This Works. He’s already passed this class. He’s in the honors program. 

It was exactly what I needed: team buy-in and positive feedback whether or not the frittata deserved it. (Hint: it didn’t.)

Sometimes we just need to give others their lines. Sometimes we know what we need to hear, and we can save everyone a lot of effort and angst, a lot of hurt feelings and shattered expectations, if we just coach them like they’re on stage and we’re the ones holding the script. Their performance is better. And the playwright in each of our hearts is happier with everyone staying in character. It’s a win/win. 

My point in telling you all of this, Diary, is I’m about to feed you some lines, and I’m going to need you to understand how to respond.

See, this is the calm before the storm. At least here in my little part of the world. Others are in the middle of it already. We’re tracking numbers and stats, reading articles, listening to reports, and it’s all important for us to know — we have to take this seriously, and that’s impossible without knowledge — but, honestly, it’s also too much.

I feel like a child who’s had too much stimulation. I’ve reached my saturation point for the day. 

So I need you to shush my mind, Diary.

You know how a parent shushes a baby? 

They hold this tiny being — this sweet little screaming treasure, this darling magical oppressor — to their shoulder, and they bounce, and they rock, and they pat the baby’s back, and all the while, to the rhythm of the bouncing, they say, “Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.” Four quarter notes followed by a whole. The eight count dance of rest. 

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

On repeat. 

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

Their feet walk a beat back and forth and back and forth.

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh..”

Until their heart beat and the baby’s find a synchronized beat. 

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

And the baby burps, her tight belly easing.

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

And her head falls forward on her parent’s chest.

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

And the white noise of the shushing drowns out everything else.

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

The parent can slow their steps.

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

The parent can draw out the tempo.

“Sh.      Sh.     Sh.     Sh.     Shhhhhhhhhh.”

The parent can put the baby down.

“Sh.         Sh.         Sh.         Sh.         Shhhhhhhhhh.”

And if the merciful heavens shine down upon them — if the stars align just right — the parent and the baby can rest.

That’s what I need you to do, please, Diary. And you should feel free to do it for the World right now, too. 

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

We’re over-stimulated. Drunk on a cocktail of input and anticipation and grief. 

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

It’s not that we won’t pick up the information again soon. We will. It’s the cycle of day and night, up and down, go and stop, news and rest.

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

It’s just that I’d like to lay my head down for a bit…

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

…and close my eyes…

“Sh. Sh. Sh. Sh. Shhhhh.”

…and sleep.

It’s your line, Diary.

With love,




P.S. A few other small notes:

It was a horrible rainy day in Oregon.

The kind of rainy day we don’t like to tell people about, lest they learn our secret.

My sourdough starter was finally robust enough to make BREAD. 

And it didn’t suck even a little.

Our Fairy Message Mother didn’t leave us any words today.

Instead, she sent us a symbol.


I approve. 

And, finally, I’m reading this in small snippets, one small essay at a time. 

One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder by Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle soothes my soul and reminds me to Pay Attention and that the good is mixed in, inextricably, with the difficult and mind bending and bad. And even though he left our world not long ago, I can’t help but think he wrote it for such a time as this. 

The first section of the book is titled:

That the Small is Huge,
That the Tiny Is Vast,
That Pain Is Part and Parcel
of the Gift of Joy,
and That This Is Love

And that, friend, is where I shall leave us. 



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14 responses to “25 March 2020 — The COVID Diaries: Staying Sane in a Time That’s Not”

  1. You need a time out. I was there on Tuesday. I am “working at home,” which means I sit around and eat lots of things I shouldn’t, and watch too much news, and read too much Facebook, and indulge in too much stress. On Tuesday night my brain had a mini-meltdown and a mini-freakout and a mini-anxiety-attack – none of which felt mini. I Wednesday, I called my boss and said, “The work I’m doing today is to have this conversation with you. Today is a self-care day.” She said, “I love that!” Wednesday, I watched TV shows with happy endings. I relaxed. I was grounded from Facebook and the news. For 24 hours, I had no clue what was going on in the world. It was blissful. I felt better. I needed it. You do too. My boss has told our entire staff that tomorrow is a self-care day. They are not to work – only to take care of themselves. Would you like to be an honorary employee for the day?

  2. My husband does much of the cooking at our house, so I’ve learned that the praise MUST be given regardless of the crunchiness of the potatoes or beans or whatever. Usually there are positive things to be said about the aroma in advance of sitting down at the table; if it tastes good, too, then that is icing on the non-existent cake.

  3. Beth is your website eating my comments? Because, RUDE.

    I love what you’ve been sharing with us. We were inspired to create our own painted rocks of good cheer, and we had the time to do it right, you know, and let layers dry before going to the next step. And we were all ready to go for a walk and leave them strategically placed, when Jon said, “Should we really be putting these out right now? What if someone picks it up to look at it, then puts it back, and someone else does the same, and things get passed along?” So I’m really hoping for some advice or reassurance about this.

  4. Breathe, friend, and feel God’s grace and love and incredible neverendingness around you.

    You’re not alone in this. Not at all.
    There’s a song I’m pretty fond of, by an artist who calls himself Blacklite District, that goes in part, “A tragedy tapped on my shoulder, and said hello…”
    I’m there, Friend. And right now, the whole world seems to be there with me and we’re all scared and weeping together. But at least we’re together. And we’re going to be ok.


  5. I wrote my husband a manual. It has lists of what I like and don’t like, how to tell when I’m depressed and what to do about it, my sizes and what colors I like to wear, things I would like for gifts, everything. I update it on occasion, and he adds (absolutely ADORABLE) notes in the margins.

    And when I’m having a bad day, I drag him to the bedroom, make him cuddle me, and tell him “say nice things to me.”

    Because I’m trying to show my children that it is okay and good to have needs and it is very important to tell people who care about you so that they can try to help you. I just try to keep the five million sorries I tell my husband from their ears.

    He really doesn’t want me to say sorry. He’s quite happy that I tell him what I need because he’s empathetic and in tune but he prefers clarity and communication because it’s efficient. But deeply ingrained feelings of guilt and unworthiness are difficult to reason with, ya know?

  6. Thank you Beth. That was just what I needed this morning. Someone to pat me on the back and say “sh sh sh shhhhh”.

  7. You are not alone! I burnt frozen perogies as well as onions for dinner last night and the family ate it up. That is love ❤️

  8. Geez, Beth, you kill me sometimes. “The eight count dance of rest”. Do you even realize what you did there?

    No idea why it got me so much. I’m sniffing back tears. It’s just so beautiful and perfect. Maybe because I used to hang out with the marching band kids at football games? And the 8 count was this fabulous, happy, quick little shot of madness and joy? But this…this is what we need. A little holding and a little rhythm and a little peace. Gorgeous.

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