Coping With Corona
By David E. Kaplan
Yes, too frequently! To the kitchen and sometimes a pitstop at the bar cabinet!
And for those in for a little more adventure, I hear:
“We, wife and I, are going away for the weekend; we just haven’t decided which room to move to!”
This is the “new normal” or as one headline so poignantly warned, “If your weekend felt normal, you are endangering us all.”
‘Social distancing’ and ‘washing your hands’ we are told is our “only hope”. With Corona accelerating, we have little protection other than our behaviour, which requires us to keep apart.
While people are unable to control events, they can control how they cope with them.
This is literally in their hands – both figuratively and literally.
With the entire Israeli public under strict lockdown, Lay Of The Land was intrigued how this boisterous and socially gregarious public was handling being cooped up in their homes.
“You have to keep going and keep busy,” advocates Pauline Borsuk, a senior citizen resident at the South African retirement home Beth Protea in Herzliya, Israel. “I keep engaged by phoning my brothers on WhatsApp in the States – Boston, Houston and Washington and my kids and grandkids in Israel. Then I go to pottery, walk and sit in the public areas of Beth Protea – keeping our two-metre distance of course, and have my hair done once a week. We can’t leave the place; we can’t receive visitors and we no longer have meals together in the dining room.”
So how is that managed?
“All the meals are now wonderfully packed and brought to our rooms. So we adjust; we manage. I was a professional social worker, so I understand what is required to cope. You have to keep going and do the best under these trying conditions. This is the way I think. I had a mother like that and a grandmother like that – it’s in my genes.”
And finally Pauline adds “don’t lose your sense of humour.”
So true as shown by the amount of time people globally are investing in the dissemination of humour through social media. A sense of humour is proving a strong line of defense in coping with stress.
A key element of jokes shared, mostly on WhatsApp is that they comically force you to look at the same situation in different ways.
With frequent references by politicians saying, “we are at war” and “fighting an invisible enemy”, I loved this one below comparing our efforts in this “war” to the “Greatest Generation” of WWII:
As far as keeping busy at home, people are proving imaginative and industrious, I called my Lay of the Land colleague, Rolene Marks to get her take what she is “up to” when she is not writing or broadcasting live and she did not allow me to even finish the question:
“Call back in an hour. I’m just about to start my on-line gym class on Zoom!”
This I was familiar with. My daughter Keren, a dance instructor is running five classes for her students on-line using Zoom and hopes to raise it to twelve classes. She has converted an upstairs spare room into a solo dance studio, “and it’s working well,” she says descending the stairway with a heavy sweat after an early evening class. “Great way to keep fit and keep up our spirits” she says. Without having to leave their parent’s homes, her students range in age from nine to eighteen years. It does come with some dangers. With a slanted roof in one section of her loft ‘studio’, a bump on the forehead was noticeable after one energised modern jazz session!
To see Keren perform with friend Lee in the local Hod Hasharon Park before it was closed to visitors due to Coronavirus:
Inspired by my daughter’s example, I have converted our lounge into a gym and removed an unpacked GymTrim exercise machine which I had brought from South Africa when I came on Aliyah in 1987. That’s a long time ago. Many times I considered getting rid of it. Which only gives credence to the adage – “Don’t throw away today what you might need tomorrow.” In this case, that tomorrow took over three decades to arrive – thanks to Coronavirus!
Reflecting on my native South Africa whose population only this week has been locked into their homes for a period of at least 21 days, the writer, Richard Poplak in his ‘Locked & Loaded – South Africa enters the Age of Corona’ notes that “home” is “a mutable term where some will sequester themselves in palaces, others in shacks. These inequities – long nurtured and time-tested – are the conditions in which any virus thrives. Can we beat Covid-19 when we haven’t figured out how to live without a plague.”
Over 700 cases in South Africa have so far been diagnosed and the future is uncertain.
My next call was to Manof, a community settlement established by South Africans in 1980 in northern Israel. Located on Mount Shekhanya in the Lower Galilee, about 30 km northeast of Haifa, Manof has a population of 862.
Only a few days earlier, some 197 of its residents came out of a 14-day period of quarantine after having attended a party celebrating the Jewish festivity of Purim where also attending had been a visitor from abroad later diagnosed as having Coronavirus. .
Fortunate in not having attended the party, Irit Kaplan escaped the quarantine. A psychotherapist, with a clinic near Nahariya, a coastal town in the north and nearly an hour’s drive away from Manof, the writer was interested to know how she kept her practice going.
“On the phone and on-line, I am at least managing to maintain about 70% of my work and that includes supervising my fellow professionals.”
And how has Corona affected her clients?
“A spectrum of reactions, all depending on the circumstances of the individual from a divorcee feeling more alone now than before to others anxious over their economic future. Also, with the children all confined in limited space, homes become pressure cookers.”
However, it was pleasing to hear from Irit that she had not “yet” encountered “any major fears, depression, acute anxiety or panic attacks as a direct consequence of the Coronavirus.”
An hour later, I called back Rolene calculating she must have finished her online Zoom gym session. She had, but she was about to start her online live ballet class. “It’s the only way to get through this Corona. One has to continue doing things that feel normal and structure your day meaningfully.” As an example, she cites her husband, who is in hi-tech and now working from home, “gets up in the morning the usual time, dresses the same way as if he was going to work, and ‘travels’ to the dining room where he has set up his office, sits in front of his computer and does a full day’s work.”
As for Rolene, “there are five of us in our gym class; we have a WhatsApp group, and we synchronize when to hold our classes. My ballet is with another group and if its Sunday, its Pilates.”
So Corona or no Corona, “we pursue our lives within the limitations imposed on us.”
Away from the cities and towns, Israel’s rural population living in its collective settlements are fortunate to have social infrastructures to cope with Corona.
“I think what is quite unique about Israel,” says Irit, “are our support systems across the country on our kibbutzim, moshavim and yishuvim. Already in place, these structures of support equipped communities to absorb the unforeseen Corona.” She explains that on Manof, “We have a committee for our seniors who are constantly phoned to see how they are doing and if they require anything from food to medicine. We have organised for provisions from our local store to be delivered to households by the youth of the moshav, who are all volunteers. On our internet network, people advise when going to the supermarket or pharmacy and offer to get for those who need anything. We also have a women’s WhatsApp group called “Who’s Got A Cup Of Sugar”. We are 135 in the group and help each in need. On an ordinary day, it might be “I have run out of baking powder, ginger or garlic, these days it is more in tune with the needs of coping under Corona and that includes, sharing jokes. Above all, we need to keep our spirits up.”
Israelis are used to keeping their spirits up as well as accustomed to staying at home and obsessively tuning into the news. Wars and constant terror have prepared and hardened this population.
This however is different.
How we should have listened to Bill Gates when he addressed the 2015 Ted Talks when he warned :
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes.”
These days, it’s not to bomb shelters, sealed rooms or the stairwell Israelis scurry, sometimes in their pajamas. With Corona we have the luxury of staying put on our sofas.
As Dana Kesler noted with wry humour writing in the Tablet that when this is all over, Israel can expect “a post-coronavirus baby-boom plus a long line at the rabbinical courts to get a divorce.”
A baby-boom is good; in the meantime let’s get over the virus!