As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
During hard times, we must hold on to what we know well.
After my daily shower, I always check my breasts for signs of new cancer. I look for rashes and spots that were not there yesterday. I feel around for lumps and bumps. This has been my cancer ritual since 2011.
But now, a few weeks into pandemic mode, I've completely forgotten to do this. I'm now checking for signs of COVID-19. I take my temperature; wonder if that little, one-time cough is going to turn into something bigger; massage my forehead, asking myself "Is that really just a headache?"
In short, my fear of cancer has been replaced by fear of coronavirus. And I've got a new ritual.
My husband ordered a huge amount of specialty chocolate for Easter this year because if he spent over $100 he got free shipping. In a big basket on our credenza are a big chocolate bunny, chocolate- covered almonds, peanuts, pretzels and coconut haystacks. Rounding out the stash are several peanut butter eggs. In my heart, I know that the threat of COVID-19 will be much easier with chocolate. Eating chocolate relieves stress, and there's a lot of that to go around these days.
We had a small Easter meal— ham, scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, Hawaiian rolls,l emon cakes and ice cream. We watched Easter mass on my computer screen. I had stored the colored, hard-boiled Easter eggs in the fridge, which I brought out and used for a centerpiece. Could it have gotten any more ritualistic than this?
During times of crisis, I default to rituals. I think we all do. We need to fall back on things we know well.
What other rituals are keeping me alive?
Every morning over the past few years, I've gotten in the habit of calling my Mother and my editor. These are simply "what's new?" calls. "Did you sleep well?" calls. You can be certain I make my calls every morning during this pandemic.
Even my daily shower routine and tooth-brushing procedures are much needed rituals.
My son is on the spectrum and craves rituals. He likes predictability and a set schedule. I'm starting to feel like him. With all of the chaos in the world, I want to know that my toast won't burn, as per usual.
Today my toast burned. I left it in the toaster too long. Big mistake. If you want perfect toast, it has to be removed right when the machine "dings." So with black pieces of hard bread, I defaulted to the toast scraping ritual, where, with a knife, I scraped off the black.
Rituals are everywhere. Even the act of writing this blog post is a ritual. I'm taking my experiences and trying to convert them into a meaningful missive.
In conclusion, I hope you find the rituals that keep you alive this spring. May I suggest devouring a leftover chocolate bunny, taking walks in nature, and enjoying a daily nap.
I hope you adopt new life-giving rituals such as wearing masks, washing your hands, splashing on hand sanitizer and keeping six feet apart from your neighbor.
I hope you stay healthy, wealthy and wise.
This is a spring for the books, folks.