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A half-shaved eyebrow or purple hair? However you’re coping with this pandemic, you’re doing fine

SHARE A half-shaved eyebrow or purple hair? However you’re coping with this pandemic, you’re doing fine
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A hand-painted sign on a business in downtown Salt Lake City on Monday, April 13, 2020, reminds Utahns to social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

On Easter Sunday, which felt oddly flat with only online church, I decided to take one of my daughters on a late-afternoon jaunt.

My sister lives in Ogden, 30 miles from my house, on property that’s separated from the Ogden River by the walking and biking trail that runs behind the house, winding lazily between the water and the backyard fences.

Kathy, who’s older than me by a half-dozen years, is one of the people with whom I communicate nearly daily. We talk by phone a lot about COVID-19 and family members and who’s doing well and who’s frustrated and restless in the pandemic isolation process.

I, sadly, belong in that latter category, though I am physically staying away from people, wearing a mask (fading slowly from daily bleaching) and getting my grocery and restaurant meals through curbside service like a good, at-risk baby boomer. When people talk about boomers who have a hard time staying put, I get it. Apparently being somewhere else is in our time-stamped genetic code.

Kathy’s retired and stays home tending her beautiful backyard, reading and occasionally walking along the river with a friend who keeps more than 10 feet between them as they visit and get fresh air.

Kathy is proud of the yard that borders the trail, with its decorations and flowers and little gnome house made from a tree stump. During those phone calls, she likes to remind me that it’s spring and the ornamental lantana and hosta and tulips and daffodils are donning their finery, while the giant cherry tree is in full bloom. I know it’s spring at my house mostly because the weeds have sprung, too.

So Alyson and I (we live together) drove to Ogden to look, sneaking into Kathy’s backyard like criminals. She was right; it was pretty perfect back there in the open air, no one in sight. We inhaled the fragrance and listened intently to the river pushing past. Nature, for the moment, was a balm to so many unsettled feelings, including fear and grief. We stood together but so far apart we were almost alone, and it felt like the first time I’ve ever actually “basked.”

Kathy rambled out of her house and we stayed what seemed like miles from each other, the hugs mental, the distance wide. In mere minutes, we were back on the road heading home, oddly sated by a perfectly ridiculous journey.

Years from now, when I look back on COVID-19, I suspect it is the joyful, ridiculous, this-could-only-happen-when-you’re-stir-crazy moments I will remember.

Years from now, when I look back on COVID-19, I suspect it is the joyful, ridiculous, this-could-only-happen-when-you’re-stir-crazy moments I will remember. The Saturday night when Jen and I convinced Aly to put off shaving her head because she wondered how she’d look — “If I’m going to do it, I should do it now while no one sees me.” We distracted her by cutting it short in random whacks, then dying it purple. Her hair actually looks great. An accidental pleasant surprise.

One friend’s teenage daughter shaved off part of her eyebrows — “It’s quarantine! Why not?” Another friend says her neighbor’s son spends hours in the cul-de-sac dancing. Another friend’s daughter video conferences for hours with pals, the sound of laughter lightening at least six houses at once.

Some, maybe most of us, struggle with restricted movement and limited options these days. But we are doing it in a kind of global togetherness that may prove good for us. We’re discovering position doesn’t make you better or protect you. Those with all things material can suffer the same losses and grieve the same needs. The neediest can be the most generous. And heroes may wield brooms and shopping carts.

We know for certain we can do hard things, because this is hard.

As Kate Sweeny, professor of psychology at University of California Riverside, told me, “You’d never wish this on the world, but it’s happening and there is something beautiful about the fact that we’re all in this together as I’m looking at pictures of doctors flying to Italy from Cuba and China. There are beautiful moments that don’t happen in life ordinarily.”

However you’re getting through it, she said, “you’re doing just fine.”