STAFFORD: Here’s how to handle that rude awakening

Tom Stafford
Tom Stafford

I woke with a mist of fatigue filling me like fog in a drainage ditch.

But, like you, I’ve now lived long enough in the midst of the coronavirus to know I had to get up out of that ditch.

So, acting on faith alone, I grabbed on to the rope of my daily habits and pulled as hard as I could.

Barely upright, I microwaved up a dose of oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins. Yummm. By the time I downed the chaser – a deep cup of coffee with a little extra sweetener – the fear that I’d see myself in a mirror had subsided.

And when I exhaled a deep breath, I realized it was a Wednesday morning, which is almost always good news for yours truly.

Because it’s the morning I usually finish my column, a source of two boosts.

The first comes from having assembled another of the 3D word-and-thought puzzles that columns always seem to be. I think my pleasure in finishing them is like one smarter people get from finishing the New York Times crossword in the allotted time.

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The second boost comes from remembering the hour or more I usually have spent interviewing someone for the column. Amidst the questions, answers and laughs, I almost always learn something. And there’s a critical dash of what we most lack these days: a sense of camaraderie that feels like the blessing of sunshine on a raw fall day.

But last Wednesday, it didn’t last.

What unfolded played out like the scene in the Matrix in which Neo awakes in an amniotic sac that looks like an air bag, is spit out, hurtles down a goo-sluiced slide from Dante’s Water Park and splashes down in an underground cavern.

Except when I came up for breath, it didn’t seem like an underground cavern.

As I came to, my mood felt like it had been left for dead in the pit beneath double-wide outhouse. In the middle of winter.

As an added bonus, I seemed to hear the sound of my relatives laughing at me through the two (let’s call them) portholes, above.

The situation would have been helpless but for one thing.

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Like carvings of “Kilroy Was Here” left behind by World War II soldiers, I started coming across notes carved in the outhouse’s wood support beams by friends who obviously had been in this same place not too long ago.

Of course, I hadn’t known that. But because I’d recently seen these people on the surface, looking clean and well-shaven (the women more than the men), it gave me hope.

And inspiration.

Most important, it reminded me of how easy it is for any of us to wake up in a pit.

So, today I’m announcing the official formation of the Zombie Outhouse Support Group for people with COVID-related mood disorders. (A quick market analysis sets the potential membership as equal to the number of Americans expected to vote in the 2020 election.)

Because of the Zombie affiliation, I’m calling it a 12-lurch, rather than a 12-step program. And I caution all to be patient. Because you have to crawl like a Zombie before you can lurch like a Zombie. As your sponsor, I know.

Most important, the support group has established a motto we hope will become as universal a call for help as 9-1-1. Any time you feel you’ve been hurled down into that hole, just shout out: “Will somebody please throw me a rope down here?”

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I promise you; help will be on the way. While you’re waiting, look for my initials among the many carved into the woodwork and know you have company.

And if this doesn’t work, call 800-950-NAMI, the helpline for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or – in a crisis, they add – text NAMI to 741741.

I have it on good information that they have plenty of ropes.

So, don’t hesitate to ask.

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