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All the world's a stage | Chuck's World


Last updated 12/11/2020 at 12:14pm

I’ve determined that I’m not good at this, whatever this is. That’s part of the problem – being aware that I’m not great at navigating this particular situation isn’t helped by being unable to identify the situation.

I’m not alone, either, which is also part of the problem, along with this tendency I’ve noted for the calendar to get a bit whimsical. It’s difficult to assess and correct something when I’m not sure what day it is, or how long this has been going on. Or what “this” is.

I think I’m just bad at 2020. And I’m not all that optimistic about 2021.

I’m not gloomy about it. The fun part of reaching my age is that I have a much clearer picture of my personal deficiencies, which may include a peculiar definition of the word “fun.”

But I take some comfort in knowing what I can’t do, after all these years, and this era is just not in my skill set. This was made clear way back in mid-March, when I read the first of many, many articles about Sir Isaac Newton and the Great Plague of London in 1665.

Newton, a college student at the time, quarantined at the family estate and used the time to invent gravity, or something (I skimmed).

This was supposed to be inspiring, I guess. I’ve managed to come up with a unified theory of tortillas, but otherwise I’ve got nothing here.

You don’t want to read my take on politics. I have no insights to offer about the Seahawks, and I can’t help you when it comes to professional hockey (I know nothing about the sport; do they keep score? Probably).

In fact, the only interesting thing to note is that my life probably looks a lot like yours these days, with possibly fewer tortillas in the mix. I’m not talking about work challenges or busy days; I’m referring to the lack of options and the dearth of spontaneity.

There are no improvised date nights or lazy conversations at the coffee shop, and nobody comes home at the end of a long day. They’re already here.

The best I can do is offer my current way of thinking about the pandemic and our reactions to it, and of course it comes from a movie.

The Kübler-Ross model (i.e., five stages of grief) has been around for over 50 years, although I’m not sure how enduring it is in the culture. Developed by psychiatrist Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969, noted in her book “On Death and Dying,” this idea of stages got a lot of traction in the 1970s, elevating a simple (and apparently often misunderstood) observation to the level of science.

And I have a feeling it got a boost from “All That Jazz,” the 1979 Bob Fosse semiautobiographical film, in which a comedian’s riff on the Kübler-Ross idea gets a lot of attention. It was the first time I’d heard of it, anyway.

It just occurred to me that our mutual experience over the past nine months has been progressive, if boring, and might fit conveniently into stages. It’s not the theory of gravity, but it’s all I’ve got.

In the Kübler-Ross version, the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While these work for our pandemic, as well as lots of other things we can think of, I think it’s helpful to look at this time as unique and not something any of us have experienced before. We need to update Dr. Kübler-Ross’s ideas a bit.

The Five Stages of COVID-19, then, are flailing, fighting, numbing, binge-watching, and sugar.

Yes, they could all be sugar. I know. Make your own damn list.

We began in March, not knowing what to do or what would happen next, so we did what humans have always done in these times, which is to panic and then buy a lot of toilet paper. It all seems so innocent now.

And then, also very human, the bickering began as information trickled in, and we all wanted to be the smartest person in the room. The hydroxychloroquine battles of mid-May won’t soon be forgotten.

All good things come to an end, though, so as the fighting died from lack of oxygen and we all retreated to our corners and cable news preferences, ennui set in. On a Zoom call during this period, I wondered aloud how people were managing during the pandemic.

“Vodka and weed,” one of the others said, although I gather this was an observation and not a confession. Still, I get the impression there was a lot of numbing going on, understandable and also very human.

And then we started watching. I have my choices and you have yours, but I suspect a lot of us have been clicking “Next episode” and then not remembering we did.

Again, we don’t need to talk about sugar. I had a friend who used to speculate that specializing in tattoo removal techniques would be a good career move in a few years. Now I’m thinking it’s dental school.

None of this is Newtonian in scope, but at least it helps me with perspective. We’ve all been on a journey, and it’s not over yet.

In the meantime, these M&Ms aren’t going to eat themselves.

Although if their plane crashed on a remote mountaintop and there was no food, it might get interesting. I’d probably binge that show. Somebody tell Netflix.


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