When we last met I was having a Pandemic Shopping Cart (Part 1) attack in the produce aisle at Safeway dressed like a Howard Hughes Impersonator in Rubbermaid gloves, a plastic poncho and a bandana “surgical mask” that made me look like I was going to hold up the cashier at gunpoint. No-one batted an eye because all the other shoppers were outfitted in their version of a germaphobe so I fit right in with the COVID-19 sci-fi sit-com dystopian zeitgeist.
Except for the fact at this moment I’m experiencing a moral dilemma but more on that later.
Backstory: Since I’m hyper-vigilant when it comes to pandemic protocols, I already did a major shop two weeks ago to stock up my Pandemic Pantry and I’ve now got enough lentils to feed everyone at The Rapture but I needed to stock up on a missing major food group: Junk.
For the past 10 minutes I went bonkers filing my Pandemic Shopping Cart with:
Feeling good as I head to produce knowing with a balance of healthy/junk food I’ll survive the coming recession/depression/apocalypse. But palming a green cabbage to make homemade slaw with lemon-tahini dressing, I wonder … did I overdo it? How long will a megadose of sugar or salt quell my anxiety before I crash and it starts all over again?
Should I put some or most of my pandemic junk food stuff back? Do I really need two boxes of granola when granola is nothing more than a virtue-signaling deconstructed cookie? Why am I salivating over Pringles? WTF is going on?
I’ve had enough therapy to know the momentary oral pleasure is infantile in origin and my cravings for sugar are likely a misplaced desire for the sweetness of love. And there are healthier ways to cope, which I do: exercise, meditate, listen to music, write, read, research, walk the dogs, plant a veggie garden, make soup, call friends, pick countless oranges and grapefruit from the ancient trees in my garden and leave Vitamin-C bags at friends’ and neighbors’ doors. But sometimes a Ho-Ho is what’s needed especially late at night when bingeing on serial killer sagas and hearing ambulance sirens outside my window make life seem beyond Edward Hopper bleak.
I’m hip to how food can help or hinder the immune system but sometimes my spicy coconut red squash and red potato soup doesn’t have the anxiety-quelling punch of a fistful of bitter-sweet chocolate chips.
Approaching check-out keeping a safe six-feet from a fellow Howard Hughes Impersonator I wonder if I’m using this crisis as an excuse to buy junk food I’ve avoided for years. Suddenly I remember hiding Halloween candy under my bed and recognize my pandemic junk food stash impulse is a child-like coping mechanism: the rush and diverting pleasure of eating the sweet and forbidden helped me forget things I didn’t want to think about as a kid and now, decades later, I’m reverting to the same avoidance tactics. What am I afraid of thinking or feeling?
Well I guess like everyone else I worry:
Will my friends and extended family stay healthy and safe? Will they get sick and need me to care for them?
If I get the virus will anyone be able to care for me other than my two insane standard poodles?
Can I afford to hire a lawyer to write me a real will or should I just hope my holographic version writ with the penmanship of a deranged blackmailer will survive the rigors of probate court?
And the larger picture: Will the hero health care workers who are keeping us alive at risk of their own and families’ lives get the PPE they need? Will there ever be enough tests and tracking? Will our country survive the assault on democracy by corrupt politicians selling our country to the highest/enemy bidder for kickbacks and more?
Then there’s my career that stopped dead in its tracks with the cancelling of a May 2020 premiere of my symphonic play I wrote and was in the middle of directing ("Ravel: A Musical Journey") with the St. Louis Symphony. When will concert halls open up again? Will I ever again be commissioned to write and direct my symphonic plays, a reliable and beloved mainstay of my creative and professional existence the past 14 years?
Will I have to sell my home? Will anyone have the money to buy it? Where would I go?
Then there’s the man in the parking lot at Safeway two weeks ago who sneezed in my car window while admiring my two giant and absurdly friendly standard poodles Oscar and Sasha … Was he a carrier with or without symptoms? Did I roll up the window fast enough? Could my obit read “Death by Standard Poodle?”
Sometimes these thoughts cease on their own after a session of heavy breathing aka mediation or a power walk in the cemetery with my insatiable and cheerful dogs, but sometimes a Rad Chocolate Chip Cookie is the answer. The point?
Everyone’s got more than they can handle on their plates and sometimes the mechanism for grounding and calming ourselves is healthy and self-nurturing but sometimes it’s a shot of Tequila, or a blunt of Blue Dream, and sometimes it’s Cheez Doodles.
After this circular talk with myself I decide to put most of the junk back but keep a few favs: the power bars (the mind game is strong on this one), the semi-sweet chocolate chips and a bag of jalapeño Kettle chips.
Back in line I notice the pandemic shopping cart of the guy in front of me is piled with cans of Chef Boyardee Big Beefaroni, frozen pizzas, sausage rolls, hunks of cheese, hard salami, ice cream, Safeway croissants — not the junk foods I crave, but comfort foods. I get it. Completely.
And the pandemic shopping cart behind me? A wizened couple with bottles of Jim Beam and Smirnoff, a six-pack carrying case of discounted wines, some hamburger and hamburger buns, chips and tonic water. And I get that too.
We’re all coping the best we can.
Let us know in comments how you’re coping: What does your pandemic pantry look like? What do you crave and during these cray stressful times?
Look forward to seeing you next week with Women Write Funny Blog 103: The Woman Behind Women Write Funny. By Didi Balle.
Upcoming Blog Posts: Excerpts from the Lazy Ass Host Handbook by Didi Balle.