Talking to stuffed animals and other lessons of COVID-19

Teddy bears are a source of comfort and can be a sounding board for something we are trying to express.

  • Wednesday, August 12, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

The stuffed lamb my sister gave me for my birthday sat for years in a basket under my window.

Recently, it made it to my bed.

And then, to my arms.

The other night I found myself talking to it.

“Uh-oh,” I said to my thank-God therapist who does Telehealth with me every week. “Is this normal?” I stammered.

“This is absolutely normal,” she said. “Stuffed animals are a source of comfort and they can be a sounding board for something we are trying to express.”

Where much comfort is needed, much is allowed. As long as I don’t become delusional and think the animal really is alive, I’m apparently good to go, which is a rational approach that can be applied to other comforts especially now.

Consider food.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Kellogg’s has seen skyrocketing demand for Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Pringles.

Fortunately, I got off food that turns milk blue a long time ago.

My comfort food of choice — organic dark chocolate — is healthy, that is, until I start eating it by the 3.2-ounce bar. We learned the hard way, me and Lambie, who got a jacked-up earful one night, that excessive amounts of cocoa powder have been linked to nightmares and night terrors.

I also learned that non-stop cherries are not a good substitute for non-stop chocolate. Think upside-down volcano. Think for next time: One serving instead of eight. Seven cherries, not 70.

Speaking of mindfulness and food moments, I have learned not to operate my Instapot while distracted by COVID stats, presidential politics or the fact that the Amazon guy just coughed on my front porch. Instapot is Instagratification. It is also a real problem when I pour rice and water on top of the heating element without the pot.

Five months into this pandemic, and I am learning to stay alert not only to who’s wearing masks, but to making sure my next Netflix series is in the queue before I watch the last “Poldark.” This saves me from wandering around the house wondering where my next cute-guy fix is coming from.

I have learned to order seasonal jigsaw puzzles in advance and to buy bird seed by the case since birds — and squirrels and chipmunks and apparently bats and raccoons — seem to be super hungry or super plentiful, or maybe that’s just because I’m watching.

I also know now that I can’t just go out and buy a cute puppy, as there is a run on cute puppies, also medical marijuana and sex toys — these latter two I only know from Google, not personal experience, natch.

I have learned as much as anything how important it is for us to go easy on ourselves.

According to a Kaiser Foundation report, 45% of adults say the pandemic has affected their mental health, and 19% say it has had a “major impact.” Find a Lambie to sit with you when there’s nobody else around. They have great, floppy ears to wipe your tears.

Also: Just as it’s OK to cry, so is it OK to laugh, even when it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot to laugh about.

My sister, who lives 1,200 miles away, and I both have extenuating health issues. We are both worried beyond worry. We talk about these things when we Facetime, which is sometimes twice a day.

But then one of us will say something really stupid. She’ll put on a crazy hat or I will show her the inside of my nose. And the laughter starts.

It’s the kind of guffawing that brings great release, the kind you pay for at laughter yoga clubs that starts way deep in the belly, reminding us of the super-human resilience of the super-human soul.

I glance over to check on Lambie.

I’m relieved to find she’s laughing, too.

Debra-Lynn B. Hook has been writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at www.debralynnhook.com; email her at dlbhook@yahoo.com, or join her column’s Facebook discussion group at Debra-Lynn Hook: Bringing Up Mommy.

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