Hours ago, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared a post on Facebook mourning her recently late aunt. In it she details her coping tips during this lockdown, how she deals with anxiety, fights paranoia, and allows herself her fair share of worry especially as her husband is a doctor who has diagnosed two cases of Coronavirus. She also shares two books she is reading.
The post is titled “Lean on Me,” after the 1972 song by Bill Withers who passed away a week ago, and is shared with a video of the late musician performing it.
Lean On Me
Last week, my family suffered a devastating tragedy, the very sudden death of my closest aunt, from a brain aneurysm. One day she was well and happy and the next day she was gone. Our time is filled with pain whose cause still does not feel fully true. We cry and yet we feel as though she is not really gone.
And it is more surreal to grieve a sudden death in these strange times when the world has shut down, places once full are empty, heavy with the ghosts of silent gatherings, and across the world people are dying alone. Coronavirus is a menace in the air, a menace inside our heads. Every day I am reminded of how fragile, how breakable we are.
My husband is a doctor and each morning when he leaves for work, I worry. My daughter coughs and I worry. My throat itches and I worry. On Facetime I watch my elderly parents. I admonish them gently: Don’t let people come to the house. Don’t read the rubbish news on whatsapp.
This is a time to cope in the best way we can. There are moments when our spirits will sag. Moments when we will feel tired after doing absolutely nothing. But how can we not? The world as it is today is foreign to us. It would be strange not to be shaken to our core.
I cannot imagine thinking of over-achieving, or of accomplishing more than usual, when all around you the world as you know it has changed, perhaps never to return to what it used to be. And yet we must continue to go on day by day. We must choose to live. And to do so we can set small goals. Like drink more water, if you’ve spent the past ten years wanting to be more hydrated. Like learn something every day, no matter how small. Like call loved ones – not text them, call them. Like help someone – with a small cash transfer, an encouraging message, a shared laugh.
I believe in allowing myself to feel what I feel. But endless negative feelings are enervating. And so to manage it I give myself time to feel what I am feeling – an hour, or two, or three, or four – and then when the time is up, I try to push my mind into a different territory. It doesn’t always work. But it’s worth trying for when it does work.
In these pandemic-blighted times, living with a medical professional who so far has diagnosed two positive cases, in an American state being told to brace itself for an onslaught of more cases, my goal is to feel anxiety but not allow it fester into paranoia. And what helps me is knowledge. The news can be emotionally exhausting, and can inflame anxiety, but it is important for me to educate myself. I am always careful about my news sources, and I always keep in mind that there is much still unknown about this coronavirus. I will share links to articles in my stories.
And I make an effort not to read only about the coronavirus. I have just started reading ‘Selected Poems’ by Kenneth Fearing and a wonderfully honest memoir, ‘Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning’ by Cathy Park Hong.
I am listening to the great Bill Withers, may he rest in peace.
I wish you all strength and as many moments of tranquility as possible.