The past few months have been a historic stretch for the world. As I write this blog post we are nearing 65,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19. Though we get up each day and know we have lived months of this crisis, there also at times are fleeting sensations that at some point we will just wake up from this nightmare. This can not possibly be real! Others seem in denial and tell us that in time we all will just get back to normal.
We are not going to wake up from this, as if from a horrible dream, nor will we revert to living our lives as if this was last May. Everything is different and will be for years. Just as we can no longer, following 9/11, saunter into an airport and watch planes land with our loved ones on board, so there will be massive changes to how we live our lives as a result of this pandemic.
The weight of this crisis is overwhelming. The misery and trauma from emergency rooms where nurses took video for national newscasts, to the refrigerated storage trucks that held an ever-growing number of corpses gripped us all. We witnessed the implosion of the economy with statewide mandated shutdowns where tens-of-millions of workers were left stranded from their next paycheck.
I am by nature a very upbeat person, one that looks for a way to see how things can work out. When hearing news of someone being sick I always ask about the appetite of the one under the weather and point out that having a desire for this-or-that food item is a good sign. When things are a bit more difficult, due to illness, I make the recommendation for a potato soup as it is perfectly suited for such times. I just always have a need to let others know there is a reason to smile. It is part of my DNA.
But there was no way to self-apply that same mental uplift for me over the past weeks. Being a news junkie I had to keep up to date on events, had to check on the latest headlines countless times over the course of a day. But I was not able to turn my feelings into energetic walks of the type we would normally engage in at the end of each day. There was no lawn to mow or holes to dig for a tree or new plant. I was mostly taking in the images and awful news reports and having no way to release my emotions which ranged from sadness to outright anger at how the national government failed our citizens.
It was then I made a determined effort to pull myself away from the news for the bulk of each afternoon, and instead put my attention into the life and times of Winston Churchill. I juggled two books about his incredible life and also his masterful touch during the pulling of his nation together during the 50-plus day bombing by Germany. The horrors of the bombing might seem an odd tonic in an attempt to lighten the stress of COVID-19, but I knew that Churchill prevailed. That was what mattered the most to me.
There is no way to write about the man and not have countless stories that provide a fascinating view of his multi-dimensional persona. In both (The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson and Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts) the authors left this reader laughing, such as when Churchill goes up on a roof to watch an air battle and took a seat on a chimney. With a cigar in his mouth, he was watching and learning. Soon, however, someone came up to ask if he might move as he had sealed the chimney and smoke was backing up into the building.
It was that story that left me not only smiling but also adding it to my mental list of other historical tidbits. And then the idea struck me.
Over the past weeks, some people have used their stay at home orders to try new recipes and let us all watch. Others have read a poem each day, or told a couple jokes, or introduced us to a new word. With my need to focus on something new, and others clearly demonstrating how to use social media at this time, and with Winston’s latest smile in mind, it became clear to me.
I made a list of the stories shared with others who dined at our home or sat with us on the lawn. If you have come into this orbit you are sure to hear at least one amusing story from history before leaving. After my list was made I did a bit of research to round out the story on an event or person.
Then I worked at making the 60-second videos. It proved to be the tonic I was seeking at this time. Through much of my life when adrift due to one cause or another, I have always found my anchor to be in a good book…..or a pile of them. So it was with this project, as the stories all were accumulated from the pages I have turned over the decades.
Mental and emotional healing will take time for us all. No one can just ‘move forward’. We all have been impacted in ways that we have yet to grasp. The medical world has been assaulted and will require funding and efforts to make sure they have counseling for their profession. Families who lost loved ones will wonder why it happened in the fashion it did, and workers will need to find ways to work in an environment of masks and self-distancing.
For me, the product of my path forward was in 60-second segments of great historical people doing amusing things that deserve to be told again and again. The release of these videos will continue weekdays for the duration of Wisconsin’s shutdown order. An executive order I very much support.
I trust that my readers each find their way to deal with, and heal from, all that has been seen and felt over the past months.