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I’m Scared. How Are You?

I’m Scared.  How Are You? I’m Scared.  How Are You?

The Table

How are you doing these days? I don’t really feel like I’m doing so great a lot of the time. We should talk about this. Are fear and anxiety making you a little crazy? I recently spent a couple days on a sanitizing spree -somehow cleaning the grime from under the stove made me feel like I was making our home a healthier and safer place.

Are you awake in the middle of the night with dark imaginings stealing your sleep? I felt the need to sit up in bed the other night and switch on the light to watch the breathing of my 60+ asthmatic husband and wonder what would happen if he got infected.

Let’s talk. I’ll put this column up on the Facebook page, and you let me know what’s on your mind: www. Whatever you’re going through -- being more prone to fear, anger, sadness; feeling ferociously protective of the ones you love; feeling lost and like you don’t know what you’re supposed to do anymore -- it’s all the normal response of the human animal to this kind of stress. We’re just all in the process of sorting out how to best carry on when the world feels suddenly more uncertain and dangerous than it did before. If you want to sort it out with other people, join us on the Facebook page.

Here I have to admit that social media up to now has tended to make me feel somewhat worse about everything. The exuberantly optimistic memes and thoughtful essays telling me how this experience is going to bring out the best in all of us seem to be too easily dismissing the reality that we are facing. Yes, I’m aware that humanity has faced these challenges before, and in every crisis we can find examples of courage, decency and determination in the face of fearful hardship. But I think where we find our balance is in realizing how we are still going to feel weak and small and vulnerable and often very, very helpless even as we plow our way through our fears to carry on with a life that we can hope reflects the courage, decency and determination that we admire in our forebears.

I know that my mother must have fought down a sense of dread every day during the war years, not knowing what might happen to her Marine husband. Great-grandma Sara was a brave and selfless physician, but when she was dying from tuberculosis she caught from one of her patients, I think she would rather have lived to see her two little girls grow up. I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting that my father-in-law had to change his shorts each of the three times he crash-landed the B-24 he flew over Italy.

We are just at the beginning of our present challenge, and circumstances are going to get worse before they get better. Now is the time to assess your resources, to figure out what settles your mind and steadies your nerve. I find it’s fairly simple things that work for me: a brisk walk to breathe in the cold clean air and caw at crows as they fly overhead; listening to Bruce Springsteen enumerate all our sorrows and defeats in a song that demands that we pick ourselves off the ground and carry on; reading some really fine writing aloud with Tom, pausing to admire a particularly well-done turn of phrase.

Then we need to figure out our purpose in this effort. It may be that we are on the front line, working in an essential business to keep people fed, connected and cared for. Others need to hunker down at home and try to figure out how to not go mad while caring for spouses/ children/parents. Performing artists are sharing their work online, while other creative folk come up with games and other activities to keep people connected while at a distance. Some can knit baby blankets, write thoughtful notes to health care workers, be exceedingly kind to grocery store clerks, leave candy bars for the delivery people.

What are your struggles, what helps you carry on, what purpose have you discovered in the difficulty of these days? If you want to talk about it, look us up: If you don’t go online, drop me a note at 218 S. Main St. Medford, WI 54451 I made a batch of Brown Bread the other day. Somehow that was my comfort food of the moment. I don’t have space for the recipe here but write to me at the Main Street address and I will mail you a copy.

Sally Rasmussen lives in rural Taylor County with her husband, Tom.