Today at the supermarket I saw one of the employees unboxing several boxes of 12-roll packages of Charmin toilet paper and putting them on the shelf. A stack of 12-packs of Bounty were sitting in the aisle, also tempting. I noticed the instinct to grab one start to kick in, but I stopped myself.
The Habit of Stockpiling
I just bought a 9-roll pack of toilet paper last week and hadn’t even opened it yet. That was the largest package of toilet paper I ever bought, and I bought it only because it was literally the only toilet paper in the store. Generally I buy smaller quantities.
A 12-pack was too big to fit into my shopping bag. How would I carry it back to the studio apartment where I’m staying? Even if I could carry it back, where would I put it? Most people in NYC don’t have extra space to store large quantities of toilet paper or paper towels.
In general I limit my purchases to what I can fit into a hand-held shopping basket, because that’s what I can carry with me. Like most New Yorkers, I can’t just load up the trunk of my car. (I don’t even own a car.)
As I always say, my feet are my car and my shoulders are my trunk; I’m limited to what I can carry with me. And New York apartments don’t exactly offers a lot of place to store bulk purchases. I buy what I need for a few days or a week at a time.
Despite all of this, it’s so easy to fall into the habit of scarcity and lack, which prompts the instinct to reach for that 12-roll package of toilet paper I don’t need right now. The uncertainty of the situation — How long will lockdown last? When will this end? — also triggers the habit of grasping for control.
Breaking habits requires a consistent diligence and effort.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself of a crucial truth: No amount of toilet paper will bring certainty to this situation.
I had what I needed for now, and when I need more, I trust that I’ll be able to get it. Then I redirected my focus to more useful resources to stockpile.
Yesterday, I shared five of the resources I’m “stockpiling” to get through coronavirus quarantine. Here are 5 more. No extra storage space required.
Every crisis seems to awaken that part of us that knows how to be kind to others. This one is no different. Volunteer groups like Invisible Hands are serving by doing grocery shopping and delivering supplies to the most high-risk groups.There are so many ways each of us can deliver kindness to others, even from isolation.
Kindness to others starts with self-kindness; we cannot give others what we are unable to give ourselves. That means being kind to myself, instead of resorting to self-judgment or self-criticism.
This is going to be a long ride. And it will feel a lot longer if we can’t find reasons to laugh. Cultivating a healthy sense of humor does not ignore the reality of the situation. People are dying. It is likely that someone you know will die from this. We are all experiencing a heavy dose of loss and grief. In the face of that, it is crucial to laugh. One secret I’ve learned from my ventures into stand-up comedy: every situation can be mined for jokes, if you’re willing to look within.
People dying is certainly not a joke. But standing in the toilet paper aisle contemplating whether I should buy a 12-roll pack of toilet paper to use as a makeshift yoga bolster is funny.
I have lived “home free” for over 18 months, and continue to live that way. On top of all the uncertainty about the virus and how long lockdown will last, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the place I’m currently staying. One thing I’ve learned on my adventure into extreme uncertainty is that the greater the uncertainty in a situation, the greater the need for presence.
When even “one day at a time” feels like too much, I dial it back to focus on “one hour at a time” or even “one minute” or “one breath” at a time. Certainty is found in the moment. Cultivating that sense of presence helps the world feel more in balance.
These are tough times for people who like to be in control, because they are revealing that we have no control over what happens. The coronavirus has been a disruptor of plans. We must respond by adapting to the situation.
In yoga, we modify poses using props or alternate versions to accommodate where the body is on a given day. Similarly, this time calls for adapting in the ways we work or gather. For the first time ever in my life, I’ll be having a Passover Seder solo this year, joining my family by Zoom, because gathering with the family in person can put everyone at risk.
Cultivating flexibility in mindset helps us adapt to the current situation, move through with greater ease, and “go with the flow” with less resistance.
There’s no question that things are different right now. For some people, the lack of same-day delivery from Amazon is a major loss to grieve. Working from home, you may not have all the tools you ideally desire. But these moments also give us the opportunity cultivate and strengthen the ultimate resource: our resourcefulness.
I’m currently living in an apartment without furniture, other than an air mattress, a little folding tray table and a metal folding chair. Bonus: fewer surfaces to clean! (See, humor!)
For a week before I had the table and chair, I used two yoga blocks and the box from the air mattress to create a little “table” for writing and eating. Garbage bags serve as window shades at night.
The gyms are closed, but I have a handful of resistance bands — my travel gym.
To quote Tim Gunn’s famous line from Project Runway, this is the time to “make it work.”
The more I tap into my creativity and resourcefulness to accomplish what I want to do, the more solutions I find. Resourcefulness is, truly, the ultimate resource.