My theory is that in tough times like we are currently experiencing, you have to keep your humor activated. Otherwise, the Covid chaos will just eat you up.
It isn’t just my theory. I found an article on the Mayo Clinic website entitled “Stress relief from laughter? It's no joke.” The article details short term effects of laughter/humor. One of the short term effects is that it stimulates many organs. Specifically, laughter: “enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.” Hey, my enlarged, under-pumping heart can use all the stimulation it can get, especially in this stressful time!
The long term effects include:
Since Covid appears to impact those with immune system issues, it would seem a good thing to use humor to improve our immune systems. As a person with chronic illness, I definitely use humor and laughing wherever I can as a way to manage and even defeat the anxiety which is often the result of the chronic nature of my illness. I am happy that an institution as reputable and trustworthy as the Mayo Clinic is endorsing my coping technique!
Even though this Covid era can increase both frustration and fears, there are some incidents that made me laugh. IN a previous blog post I wrote about the repair of my HVAC system which required an HVAC technician and a plumber to fix a crack in the pipe leading to the building drain. They had to get into the unit below me, and the plumber was stationed in that unit while the technician was trying to push the pipe through a hole in the floor into the unit below. He was a bit dramatic, continually exclaiming “we’re screwed”.
I finally realized that this really meant that the plumber and the technician were going to have to spend more time on this repair than anticipated – and not that the job was impossible to perform to the chagrin of the homeowner. The technician admitted this when I gave him my credit card to pay for the work done. But the reason it was harder and more time-consuming to fix apparently had nothing to do with the location of the main drain line and the difficulty in situating the pipe correctly. Nope – it was because when the plumber walked into the HVAC closet he said “well this will be an easy job”, thereby jinxing the repair. Yep - this was the story the HVAC technician was sticking to especially since the plumber was not there to defend himself. Because I had my mask on my smirk of disbelief was not visible, which was probably a good thing.
Another incident related to how my safety precautions impact everyday live in the Covid era in unusual ways. I needed to get the emissions inspection for my car by the end of July, and a safety inspection by the end of August. While the state extended the emissions deadline by a month, I figured I might as well get it done in July because who knows what the Covid picture will be like as the summer progresses. I also decided that I might as well get the safety inspection done a month early and just get both of them out of the way at the same time which means I only have to interact with the car people once and not twice. I decided that the better place to get this done would be the Toyota dealership up the street and not a gas station - as I figured Toyota would have a waiting area that was set up for social distancing and hand sanitizing, and they probably require mechanics to follow safety and hygiene protocols to lessen the spread of germs.
I asked Toyota to perform the inspections, change the oil, and take a look at the battery and anything else that might be impacted by not driving the car much during this pandemic period. After I dropped off the car, I decided to walk over to the nearby grocery store to pick up a few things. When I returned to Toyota, I headed for what I thought was an entry into the customer lounge. But as is often the case, the cloth mask creeped up into my eyes and was blocking the lower part of my vision. I did not see that I was actually headed into a floor to ceiling glass window. I did not hit it with much force but ouch! I then found the door into the lounge. I tried to be very nonchalant, like I had really meant to walk into the glass window. When I walked in, some nice man sitting in the lounge area asked if I was okay. I said yes, but that I felt like the commercial with the bird that flies into the glass patio door.
Another incident involved taking advantage of my “senor” status for shopping perks. Early one summer morning I stopped at a grocery store near my condo. The first hour of shopping is just for senior citizens over the age of 60. There is usually an employee stationed at the door to check IDs and let seniors in. But the person checking IDs was away from the door and while he looked over a couple of times, it was almost like he was ignoring me. I thought perhaps they had a limit on the number of people who could be in the store at once so I waited. He finally came to the door and I asked if the store was still open at 7 for seniors. He asked me how old I was. I responded I was over 60 and had my driver’s license ready. His response was that I only looked 25. Seriously? At this point, I had not colored my hair for five months and it was undeniably gray in large areas. I have not seen any stories on my iPhone to suggest that gray hair is the new style for twenty somethings.
But let me give this guy some grace. Maybe he is color blind. Or perhaps like me, he was suffering from serious mask creep into his line of vision. If not, he definitely needs to have his vision checked because trust me, my hair was screaming gray. Or maybe he was seeing my spiritual age and not my physical age. Or maybe he felt that flattery would overcome his awkward moment. I just said something like you’re the best and entered the store to do my shopping.
Sometimes it isn’t just the comedy that gets you through but the practical, light-hearted responses of people in tense situations. The day before I had my colonoscopy, I received a call from a nurse who was assigned to learn about my medical conditions as well as the medications I take each day. She then instructed me which medications I would be able to take before the procedure, and which ones I would need to suspend until the procedure was over. Luckily for me this nurse had a husband who also had been diagnosed with heart failure. This to me was really great since it gave her not only a medical knowledge but a personal knowledge of the trajectory of this chronic illness.
I went through all the heart issues I had, to include the extra heart beats and the atrial flutter. I told her that when I was first told about the atrial flutter, I kept asking – but isn’t the flutter just the same thing as the extra beats? I said that it wasn’t until I had a virtual appointment at the end of April and the doctor screen shared with me the reports that I realized the extra beats were in the ventricle part of the heart and the flutter was in the atrium part of the heart. This means, that they are two distinct issues in two distinct heart areas. The nurse had a very practical, even fun way of summarizing the problem. She said it was like your body when you are dancing. Some of the movements are done with the arms and some are done with the legs. I thought this was a great explanation, one that highlights that my heart is off doing a distinctly different dance because my atrium and ventricle are out of sync in rhythm. Maybe my heart can start a new dance craze.
I find nothing comical or uplifting in watching news or any of the cable talking head channels (CNN, Fox, MSNBC, etc.). Dueling experts on the pandemic do not inspire a feeling of hope or calm. I just want the facts told to me in a straightforward manner because while scary it is information I need to know. But I have not found a source that gives just the facts. There is always a spin attached. I prefer to read the paper and edit out opinion and drama.
Does this mean that my television has been totally silenced? Well at least not during July. For any fans of the Hallmark Channels, you will know that it is “Christmas in July” which means that the two Hallmark channels in my cable subscription are showing Christmas movies throughout the month. In the past few years, I have scoffed at Hallmark Christmas movies because they were mass produced and seemed formulaic: the holiday plus a female lead plus a male lead plus romantic potential plus a conflict then resolution and a happy romantic holiday ending. Sometimes the only way you could tell the movies apart were by the different cast members.
However, right now, formulaic and happy endings seems to be just what I need. So I have resorted to watching a number of Hallmark Christmas movies in July – and I have been quite happy. And if the pandemic continues throughout the year, well at least the Christmas movies will start up in October with a number of new movies. However, I will draw the line if they create a movie with the title “A Very Merry Covid Christmas”. Somehow, I doubt that this will fit their tried and true holiday formula!
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.