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13 May 2020

Know Your Neighbors: Are You Crying More Than Normal During the Pandemic? Yeah, Me Too

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When the virus shutdown began, it was difficult for me to acknowledge that I am considered one of the vulnerable ones—someone who’s “elderly.” After all, I know people at least 15 years older than I am who are in great shape, mentally sharp and active.

Then I realized that being considered “vulnerable”—whether one is “elderly,” physically at-risk, or in a dangerous place like a nursing home or prison—should be a term that describes someone society should quickly move to protect.

Well … then I heard the lieutenant governor of Texas talk about how old people should sacrifice themselves so the economy can once again flourish. (At least that was my interpretation of what I heard him say.) Then I heard the president say we’re all “warriors,” like Americans during World War II, and some of us need to be willing to risk death so that the rest of us can feel safe and rebuild our country.

For what it’s worth, I am not expendable! I would die to protect my children or grandchildren, or maybe even somebody else’s kids, but I do not wish to be sacrificed to create a job.

On the other hand, I might kill a total stranger to get my hair cut.

Staying in and staying apart has had a definite effect on me. I’m not totally alone—my boyfriend stays with me, but after more than two months basically inside, there are days I might prefer being alone. You know what I mean.

I keep in touch with friends, sending messages of support and sharing both inspiring videos and hilarious jokes. I spend two to three hours a day on my computer, reading news feeds, responding to emails and checking out Facebook.

And then there’s Forty Thieves solitaire. I’m an addict to crossword puzzles, KenKen puzzles and soduku—and now that I’ve discovered Forty Thieves, I’m hooked. Once I start, I’m determined to beat the game, and that can stretch into hours of time.

I have friends who claim to have completely reorganized their closets (mine are already color-coded), scrupulously cleaned their houses, filled bags of clothes to donate, and baked everything from sourdough bread to cookies. To them, I say: “Shame on you for trying to make the rest of us feel guilty.”

When it comes to being lazy, this shutdown has been a guilt-free gift to me. I’m pretty lazy to begin with. Sure, I do a weekly radio show, write this column every other week, go to the market once a week and read every police procedural upon which I can get my hands. Beyond that, I’m perfectly happy sitting on my couch in front of the TV and watching reruns of everything from CSI to Law and Order, and the previous night’s late-night comedy. (I’m elderly, you see, so I go to bed too early to watch them live.) I have not cleaned out my closets, although I’ve been threatening to for years. My house is dusty—that’s a genteel way of saying I’m not a good housekeeper. I manage to make sure we eat, but my cooking philosophy is that if you can’t just heat it up in the microwave, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

Then there’s the crying.

I’ve always cried easily. When everyone stands up to sing “The National Anthem,” I cry. When I see a news story about how people have come together to help someone in need, I cry. When I watch videos of people bring reunited, or nurses and doctors trying to save people’s lives, or anything inspirational, I cry. When Miss America is crowned, I cry (even though I don’t believe in beauty pageants). Moments of togetherness, of families caring for each other, of strangers reaching out to strangers, of individuals putting themselves in harm’s way to help others —it all makes me cry. When I see protesters toting long-arm weapons, or innocent joggers being shot down, or the worldwide numbers of the ill and dying, I cry.

However, EVERYTHING makes me cry right now. When I go to the market and see everyone wearing a mask, I cry. When I see a YouTube video of parents dancing with their children or roughhousing on their living-room rugs, I cry. Intellectually, I know my tears are an expression of the concern, and even depression, that I feel during these perilous times. Knowing that, however, doesn’t stop the tears from flowing. Even things that are absurd or hilariously funny make me cry!

We’re all going through our own adjustments. Some are catching up (remotely, of course) with family members and old friends. Many are reading or playing video games or binge-watching shows they didn’t get to see when they were living “normal” lives. Most of us are sincerely feeling that by staying home, we’re not only protecting ourselves, but others as well.

But a lot of us are also feeling cabin fever. How desperate am I, after more than two months of being stuck in my dusty house with its overcrowded closets? Yes, I enjoy being lazy—but the loss of haircuts and mani-pedi appointments has been shockingly difficult. I have lousy hair, and I can barely comb it myself.

I previously mentioned that I’d kill for a haircut. OK, I wouldn’t really kill anyone. But I might trade my first-born for a mani-pedi. OK, I probably wouldn’t really do that, either. Instead, for now, I’ll just cry.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal.” Her show The Lovable Liberal airs from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays on IHubRadio. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

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