Cabin Fever

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I’ll tell you what people, if planet earth were a person, he’d be laughing at Michigan right about now. Not only are we three weeks into our Social-Distancing routine but, on top of that, we have to deal with a freak Spring snow storm? Okay…I’m sorry. I retract my previous statement. In the great state of Michigan, we’re used to dealing with fluctuating weather patterns, so this really shouldn’t be a shock to us. Nik Estermyer and Nate Smith are both probably walking around in summer-shorts right now, and Donna Sherman is probably getting ready to post a picture on Facebook, celebrating early Christmas 2020–if it isn’t already up.

P.S., I love you three, and I miss you.

So…here we are. It’s Friday the 17th of April. Tax season is suspended. Tigers Opening Day: suspended. Malls: closed. Sit-in restaurants: closed. Seems like just a week ago, I wrote about some of the beauty seen in this quarantine-season of our lives. Now, I’m not retracting from that message at all. Today, I just want to talk about the other side of that message; the dark side, if I can call it that. If the beauty can be found outside, I think it’s safe to say we’re all starting to feel the effects of the dark side within.

I’m starting to notice my kids are bravely telling me, more and more often by the way, “Dad, bring it down. Your authoritative voice is on again”. Yesterday, I was looking for my son, and was calling out his name, as if we live in a 150,000 sq. ft. home. Zeek appeared from the bathroom and said, “Can you hear yourself right now?”

I’m doing it again, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, you’re so loud.”

My bad, lil’ dude. I’ll bring it down.”

So, yeah. There’s the raised voice thing. But that’s just one symptom I’m picking up on. Here’s another. How come all of a sudden, all junk food seems to be appealing to me? Three days ago, I went out to the grocery to pick up a few items. Among those, were a bag of my daughter’s favorite “Cheddar-Cheese” potato chips. At home, I brought the bag out.

Jordynn took a glance at that bag in my hand and said, “You’re not gonna eat all of them this time, are you?”

What?” That’s all I had. She had a point. I couldn’t rebut.

Let’s review the list, thus far. Irritability: check. Binge-snacking: check. Here’s the big one.

I’ve always been somewhat of a night-owl. As a writer and a musician (if I can call myself either), it’s really no problem for me to work until 12AM and still get up for work around 6AM. But this is different. These days, I find myself staring in the direction of the ceiling at 3AM, wondering when I’ll finally drift off. When I do, it’s pretty tough to raise up by 8AM. One day, this week, I actually slept until 9:50AM! Morning nuked. It’s not even so much the late hours that I’m up; the problem is…I’m not doing anything constructive! I’ve got no motivation to accomplish anything at that hour. I just want to sleep! Even my cats are out by the time I make it to bed.

Cabin Fever people. Cabin Fever. The irritability, the snacking, the insomnia; it all adds up and it stinks. I don’t think it would be so bad, if the weather were more…oh…I don’t know…Springy, maybe? Is that even a term? But this late winter push, we’ve got going on is a real downer. So I think it forces me to come up with alternatives. I’ve got nothin’. And the “nothin'” is driving me insane.

Anybody remember “The Neverending Story”? Bastian’s fight against “The Nothing”? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Sorry. I digress. Sleep-deprivation and all.

So, what do we do, and how do we go about combating Cabin Fever? Well, I can’t really answer that question for you, because I’m no expert. I’m just coming to terms with the fact that I’m actually dealing with this very real syndrome, in the first place. But let me give you some parting words of encouragement. You’re not alone. Chances are, if you’re up at night, so am I. You’re not the only one barking at your family these days. And don’t feel too bad, if you notice junk food wrappers in abundance. We’re all fighting the fight now. But, we’ll all get through it together…at a distance of course.

In closing, I work for a great company, with some truly talented people. One guy in particular–Mr. Mark Holloway–heads up our company Health and Safety program. Mark’s a pretty cool guy, who genuinely has the best interest of his peers in mind. For our monthly safety meeting, Mark took the time to shoot a YouTube video on the effects this pandemic might be projecting on all of us. I definitely thought this was worth sharing with my supporters, friends and family. While I may not have any real answers for you, I think Mark might. Take a look; be safe; keep reading; keep praying; and I’ll catch you all on the next one.

Coolest Safety-Officer I know. If he says it, you can believe it.

The Long Sigh

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It’s no secret; COVID-19 has infiltrated every aspect of modern-day life. “Social Distancing” has evolved from a once obscure term, to an over-used tag-line associated with day-to-day activity. Medical masks are now as common as sneakers among citizens. News-radio has shifted its programming to 24-hour-a-day reporting of updates on the latest casualties and restrictions associated with the virus. Toilet-paper—for whatever reason—has become a hot commodity. Schools and universities are closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 season. Small businesses have shut their doors; some may never recover. And, all around the world, people are afraid. The times are truly unprecedented; yet another commonly used term for the turn of the new decade.

Despite the “doom-and gloom” reality we’re faced with today, I see something else. I see people turning to God, in prayer for one-another. I see pastors all over the world—the world—using social media to reach not only their own congregants, but a drove of new seekers-of -truth, in these uncertain times. While “Social Distancing” keeps us apart, party-goers are turning to Instagram and Facebook Live, to listen to—and watch—DJs throw live sessions of every genre of music imaginable. ZOOM, Skype and Duo platforms are not only keeping business meetings on track, but connecting families together in ways that were not seen before the pandemic.

Despite the “Stay Home; Stay Safe” order, I see families bike-riding the streets of my neighborhood. I see couples taking leisurely walks. I see families posting photos and videos displaying their renewed family-household dinners; family game-nights and family puzzle sessions. I see neighbors interacting at a distance, in ways formerly prevented by the daily hustle and bustle of normal work-hours. And, I hear children outside. Sure, kids are still playing video-games online, but the constricting air of indoors is causing them to get out into the fresh air of the Michigan Springtime. Backyards are abuzz with the sounds of laughter, the smells of burning charcoal and searing meats.

I see more of my favorite authors taking to social media to interact with fans, in ways previously hindered by demanding schedules. I see you Janet Boynes. I see some of my closest author-friends using the internet as a platform to not only display their work to the masses, but to entertain their adoring fans in new ways. I see you Lindsay Marcum.   

Around the world, marine wildlife is returning to areas previously dominated by human presence. Dolphins are swimming the canals of Italy. White swans are congregating in park-lakes. The few brave fishermen daring enough to take to the pole, in defiance of the “Stay Home; Stay Safe” order, are reporting fish biting like never before, now that the human presence is removed from their natural habitat.

The world is slowing down. In spite of the devastating pandemic, and its life-altering affects on our modern society, civilization is collectively taking a much-needed pause. We didn’t ask for it. We certainly didn’t want it like this. But, underlying the tragedy taking center-stage is a quiet beauty; something I find comfort in seeing every day, in our new reality. I truly see that God is still in control. In this time, when the future of our society as we’ve known it seems to be at the brink of permanent change, God’s hand is still moving over the earth, bringing families closer together and friends into a more compassionate sense of caring. We’re reaching out to one another more. We’re checking on our elders. We’re smiling in the midst of sorrow. We’re laughing in the sight of death. And we’re praying more than we were just 365 days ago.

I didn’t realize how beautiful my new neighborhood was, until my wife and I made it a priority to take walks together. I didn’t realize how grateful I am to have her by my side, to weather this temporary world-wide storm with. I didn’t realize how much I love my family…until I was put in a position where I have to spend time with them. I didn’t realize how blessed I am to have God in my life, until He slowed down the entire world, just to get everyone’s attention.

Are you paying attention? Or…are you waiting for things to go back to “normal” and missing out on what He’s trying to tell you? Look beyond the fear and the anxiety. Listen for the whisper. Look at what’s happening just underneath the veil of mass panic. Trust me; God’s got this.