It's been a over five weeks since we've been isolated and I've mostly kept it together. Working from home, writing these blog posts, exercising, reading, doing jigsaw and the NYTs crossword puzzles, trying some new recipes, and zooming with family and friends has all helped keep me sane. But that doesn't mean I haven't experienced isolation freak out.
I imagine you've had at least one freak out too. I'm no expert but some mental collapse during this time seems pretty normal. Thing is, like most freak outs, it appears to be brought on by a mundane occurrence. Then, when it's over and you have your wits back, you blush with embarrassment by your overreaction, knowing what had occurred was a small part of a bigger picture.
My freak out came from such a mild appearing event. With hindsight, it was a whole lotta nothing. I was digging into a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of felines. At least 50 different kinds. Intent on finishing the Savannah breed, I searched my carefully arranged pieces. I had placed browns and whites in a box top, greys and blacks were in that plastic container, blanks were situated over here, pieces with letters on them catalogued over there. When not working on the puzzle, I kept the various storage boxes high on a bookshelf, knowing Dante and Bruno would like nothing more than to bat the pieces all over the wood floor.
I was looking for a piece with two ins and two outs, that was a little thicker in the middle and that would complete the Savannah's tawny colored hind leg. The piece I searched for also had a pinch of a dark rust colored spot on it. While I was sorting through hundreds of inch-wide pieces, a thunderous sound transported me back to last July when I was with my family at TooJays Deli in Plantation. We were about to dig into our bowls of matzoh ball soup when there was an explosion followed by a tremor. Outside the restaurant window, smoke and debris soared and then billowed down like a meteor shower, a bombardment of metal, wood, roofing material, cement, pieces of furniture and fauna. The stunned silence of the restaurant patrons and employees did not last long. I moved mom away from the window and waited for the next blast I was sure would follow. People were crying and screaming. A mother next to me tried desperately to calm her frightened son. The causes of the explosion careened through my head. Terrorist attack? A plane crash?
Another explosion never came and within a few minutes we hustled out of the deli. Mom gripped my arm. I grabbed a chair and carried it in my other hand. I imagined we were going to be there for a very long time and feared mom wouldn't have a place to sit. Remarkably, I was soon able to retrieve my car and mom and I, along with our relatives, were able to head home. Not a terrorist attack, not a plane crash. A gas explosion.
Turns out, being home in isolation has emotional similarities to experiencing an explosion. Senses are heightened, we try to stay calm and purposeful in our next moves, but in reality much of it is out of our hands.
It's hard not to be on edge during this unnerving time so when I was looking for the piece to complete the Savannah cat's paw and heard a crash, I jumped. My heart bucked like a bronco. I looked to mom who was seated on the couch watching one of her murder shows. She was okay. I scoured the rest of the living room to see what new disaster was upon us and saw the remnants of the Toyager, Turkish Van and Burmese cardboard cat shower. Then I spotted Bruno, my striped American shorthair brat, um, I mean, cat, seated on the table next to me. He had knocked over the box top where I had carefully sorted and placed all the browns and whites. A look of not me on his face. I looked to mom who was now staring at me, and smiling.
"It's not funny," I spat.
In a frenzy, I scooped up pieces and tossed them back into the box top. I moved the table and the couch, looked under the rug, got a long ruler and swiped under a bookcase. Did I get them all? I would not know until I completed the puzzle.
Freak out over, I looked at mom.
"It's just a puzzle," she said. She pointed to Bruno who watched from the orchestra section of the dining room table. "And he's just a cat."
I got it. My isolation freak out turned to laughter. Not because what Bruno had done was funny, no, he was in time out for quite awhile (which for a cat looks the same as the rest of his day). I laughed because I saw the big picture. My freak out had nothing to do with the puzzle pieces scattered around the living room and everything to do with the frustration, sadness and cooped-upness we are all experiencing. I took a long, deep breath and resumed puzzling.
I wasn't even upset when I finished the jigsaw and a piece was missing.
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