I am taking control of COVID-19 fears the way I best know how—by reading everything good sources on the Internet have to offer. Every time my husband mentions something about the Coronavirus, I have at least five facts to either support or debunk what he has said from the various things I’ve read that day. I know more about mortality rates and “epi-” vs. “pan-” and the science behind why hand washing works than I ever thought I would. Because of all of this endless reading to get my own thought patterns on a rail, I know humanity’s deepest fears. Keep in mind that this highly researched and definitely not publishable conclusion is taken from my personal assessment of a conglomeration of all the news. All of it. I have read it all. Then, I’ve plugged all the key “fear” words into an algorithm cloud within my own brain, did some analytics and complicated math-to-word equations (also in my own brain), thinky-thinked it hard, and here is what I’ve assessed to be our greatest fears right now:

1. Running out of toilet paper.

We are all afraid of this. Which means, I am not alone. I have this fear ALL OF THE TIME. I wondered if I could help explain it to people who are like, “What’s with the TP??” In our house, I am constantly stocked with 2 Sams Club sized packages. When one 48-roll package runs out, it’s time to get the backup. I’m not sure where this fear came from. It would be easier if I had a horror story to track it down to in my past, so I could save myself years of therapy trying to know myself better. I could probably spend thousands of dollars in a comfortable chair, reliving the toilet experiences in my life. Maybe some hypnotherapy would help me get to true TP fear, self-aware enlightenment. When the virus is gone, perhaps I will celebrate by indulging in this professionally assisted self-discovery. Or, maybe it’s just that I don’t want to be on the toilet, yelling one family member’s name after another until someone brings me a darn roll, only to discover that the next closest TP is a 20-minute grocery trip away.

2. Losing all our money in a Black-Tuesday-style stock market fear bank run.

I read the stock market news, and I do what I always do with financial things I don’t understand—try to pretend it doesn’t exist. I am Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Ernie: Don’t look now, but there’s something funny going on over there at the bank, George! I’ve never really seen one, but that’s got all the earmarks of being a run.

Bert: Hey Ernie, you got any money in the bank you’d better hurry!

Mary: George, let’s not stop, let’s go!

George: Uh oh.

Mary: Please, let’s not stop, George!

All Mary wants to do is pretend it’s not happening and go on that damn honeymoon. Come on, everybody doing those trade-y stock-y things. Please, let’s not stop! Don’t you remember, just a few minutes ago in the car before the bank run, what George said? The stuff about New York, Bermuda, the highest hotels, the oldest champagne, the richest caviar, the hottest music, and the prettiest wife! Forget the bank. Let’s calm down and do those things instead!!

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This is me, trying to remember to be zen. 🙂

3. Catching the Coronavirus. As someone who isn’t close to an epicenter and doesn’t yet know anyone with COVID-19, my feelings about it pendulum all day long. The pattern goes something like this:

I’m scared. I am scared for people who are in their 70s and higher, or anyone who is immune compromised. I would not want to be sick, and if I were in this population, I would definitely self-quarantine until all of this craziness passes. I personally don’t want to get it for their sake. Anyone who gets it becomes a carrier who is putting these people at unnecessary risk.

Let’s quarantine. Part of me wants to tell the world it is time for a month-long quarantine, everyone all at once. The most hopeful, coping mechanism part of me finds the idea romantic. Let’s all snuggle in and read books. Let’s eat the frozen meals, drink copious amounts of the whiskey, wine, and beer we’ve stockpiled because the CDC recommended it to get us through this situation. (Isn’t that what they meant by “rice” and “water”?) Let’s knock on neighbors doors who have COVID-19 and signal through the window that we’ve left meals and essential supplies on their front porch. Let’s sneak to each other’s houses at midnight and have day-long family olympics tournaments. (And yes, I get how unpractical and possibly ineffective this is—this is why I am not president.)

Yay for kids. I am relieved that children don’t seem to be as affected by it. One cheer for COVID-19 on that front. (Did I really just cheer the Coronavirus?)

It’s okay if we get it. I strangely always imagine being sick would be nice. I think this stems from excellent sick experiences in childhood—stay home, snuggle in my parents’ bed, drink Sprite, watch endless hours of TV, enjoy that pink medicine.

It’s not okay. Then I remember that in reality, it sucks being sick. We were sick all of December, one after another, and all I remember from my turn at it was the aches, the feeling of not being able to take a deep breath, and dreading heading to bed every night to prepare for a night of coughing. I don’t want anything that makes me dread sleep, the best thing in the universe, almost as much as I don’t want anything that makes me think a family member might die. Newborns make you dread sleep. This is the reason we only have 2 kids.

It’s the end. Then, I go back to doom. We are all going to get this virus. Our financial systems will crash and we will go back to barter and trade, and all my family has to offer is websites and writing, which are obsolete because for some reason in this scenario there is no more Internet. I start thinking we should get some chickens, because then at least we’d have eggs. Then, with the virus gone, the worst won’t have come yet. Anyone who recovered from the Coronavirus will start developing symptoms where their hair falls out and their hearts stop beating and they crave human flesh, and the zombie apocalypse will be upon us.

We’re fine. And finally, I start thinking we’re fine. We are all fine. We could probably watch a strain of the flu spread the same way if people found the epicenter of the outbreak and followed it from there to a cruise ship to all the passengers disembarking to air travel to community spread, tracking deaths and hospitalized cases along the way. Are we fine?

Hope. Then I have hope. Maybe humanity can pull it together. Maybe we can all stop panicking, start washing our hands, and take care of ourselves and each other. Maybe we can find that middle place between panic and avoidance. Maybe we will be responsible humans and self-quarantine if we think we might be the next carrier. Maybe we can stop fearing the next recession into existence. Maybe we will stop COVID-19, and maybe we won’t. But we will pull together and be our best selves either way.

I picture a year from today, when the vaccine has come out and we’ve all lined up in an orderly fashion 6 feet apart from each other and an alcohol swab and pinch later, we are set. People have died, people have been sick, people have lost money that will hopefully come back over time, but none of us have run out of toilet paper. The larger global community has somehow gotten through this thing and will be prepared if the next one comes along. We’ll keep good records of the mistakes we made, and what helped and what hurt. We’ll pass down stories of the novel Coronavirus 19, so humanity is prepared when the next pandemic appears. Hopefully, it doesn’t happen again in our lifetime.

And if it does, hopefully it’s not the zombie one.