Coping in Our Genes

This is my grandfather, Henry Clay Payne, posing in Okinawa, 1945. The photo was taken about a month or so before his ship was torpedoed and then sunk by a kamikaze. He was one of 152 men killed that day, four days after my Dad’s second birthday.

He’s been on my mind since I read the article “These Royal Navy Submariners Know A Thing or Two About Isolation,” by BuzzFeed correspondent Tom Warren. Blame it on the vintage, black and white navy photos, I guess — since Henry Payne was neither in the Royal Navy nor on a submarine. Still, I imagine that he — floating somewhere in the East China Sea, away from his wife and young son and daughter — might have offered up similar suggestions:

Routine, routine, routine!
“Develop a routine quickly and stick to it….This means giving yourself breaks, permission to relax, and times when you’ll focus on work.”

Exercise.
“In order to be mentally alert you need to be physically alert.”

Eat healthy.
“If you eat badly your serotonin will drop and you will go into depression.”

Start something new.
“Keep your mind active… With no commute, you’ve just cut down on a load of non-value added time. You can use it to take up a new hobby.”

Keep talking — and joking.
“Conversation is really important, it keeps you and your friends informed. Laugh at anything. At this moment when stress is high, it’s really important you don’t stress the little things.”

The other reason Henry Payne has been on my mind is that this pandemic is pretty scary stuff. Probably the scariest thing I remember, really. But my grandparents’ story reminds me that the world has faced things like this before — global crises like when Henry went to war, and my grandmother raised two young children on her own. There was fear and anxiety, isolation, and an undeniable sense that their world had changed. But they found ways to cope. All of our families found ways to cope back then. And we will too. It’s what we do, right?

So stick with a routine. Exercise and eat healthy. Keep your mind active. Keep talking, and hold on tight to that sense of humor until we see it through.

Take care.

©2020, Jen Payne. With quotes from the BuzzFeed Article “These Royal Navy Submariners Know A Thing or Two About Isolation,” Tom Warren.

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