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There's Only One Thing Standing Between Me and Full-Blown COVID Rage


July. 13, 2020

My girlfriend (now wife) had come in the door slightly distraught. She explained to me that one of the teenagers playing basketball in the back alley had told her that she looked good in her dress.
The way I remember it, I slapped down my kitchen towel, stormed out the back door, and yelled at the kid that he had made my girlfriend feel uncomfortable.
By comparison, I am starting to forget how many times Ive blown up at someone during the last six months under COVID-19.
Im not an angry man , but Im becoming more so, as I amass an ever-lengthening spite list that includes but is not limited to: a complete breakdown of governmental leadership as it relates to the coronavirus, a complete breakdown of governmental leadership as it relates to police brutality, the shitheads at the HVAC company who left my family without hot water for three weeks and tried to stick me with a bill after incorrectly installing a new unit, any jackass who wont wear a mask because they believe its a patriotic right to endanger their fellow countrymen, the never-diminishing stack of dishes in the sink, the rotten egg smell coming from the shower drain, the fucked-up gutters in this goddamn house that Im in all the fucking time.
Im doing my very best to stay sane, but it is difficult. Although I firmly believe that my state of sanity would be far less tenuous if it wasnt for one saving grace.
Daniel Tiger.
Not an anger management specialist. Not a public health expert. Not a politician. Not a friend. Not my wife. Not even our toddler-aged son.
Daniel Tiger.
For the unfamiliar, Daniel Tigers Neighborhood on PBS Kids is a show that the network describes as an animated program for preschoolers ages 2 to 4 which builds on the pioneering PBS series, Mister Rogers Neighborhood.
So instead of Mr. Rogers as a host, you have Daniel, a small tiger in a nuclear tiger family with a diverse cast of friends that range from a persnickety owl to an excitable kitten to also characters that are human.
Like other childrens programming, it is fine, but maddening after the 16th viewing of the same episode in as many number of days.
Close-Up Of Roaring Tiger Against Black Background BusinessInsider USA Images
Unlike other childrens programming, Daniel Tiger has a message with actual substance: Be kind to your neighbors, your friends, your family, yourself, and, yes, even the shitheads at the HVAC company who left your family without hot water for three weeks and try to stick you with a bill after incorrectly installing a new unit.
Our entire family walks around the house singing Daniel Tiger jinglesthe shows primary lesson-delivery systemand these songs are now so embedded in my grey matter that they run independent of whatever thoughts have mounted my mind and wont release. Its like having a split personality where one voice is a demonic doomsayer and the other is a free-spirited optimist.
Yes, this is weird.
But if Im truly paying attention to the meaning behind these Daniel Tiger jinglesif Im really listening to what that little red-sweater-wearing Panthera tigris cub is singing in his high-pitched voiceI, somehow, feel just a little saner.
Daniel Tiger Lesson of Sanity #1: If You Feel So Mad That You Want to Roar, Take a Deep Breath and Count to Four.
Season 1, Episode 4: Daniel Gets Mad
Daniel wants to go to the beach. It rains. That makes Daniel mad. Because we can all relate when outside forces demand we stay inside, CANT WE?
Daniels mother, ever an fount of poignant advice, encourages Daniel to recognize his feelings (Its okay to be angry.) and then center himself with breath and perspective.
Ive listened to Insight Timer meditations that are far less helpful than this short burst of melodic advice. I wish I could say that I remembered this jingle when I was on the phone with the HVAC guy, but I didnt.
No tiger is perfect.
Daniel Tiger Lesson of Sanity #2: Enjoy the Wow Thats Happening Now.
Season 4, Episode 10: Daniels Blueberry Paws"
Daniel visits an ice cream cart and orders a blueberry popsicle. He then undergoes an anxiety-fueled paralysis of choice as he ponders which other sweet frozen treats he could have ordered. As he rues his decision, the blueberry popsicle melts, until his mother reminds him to enjoy "the wow thats happening now."
Experts and regular ol' people alike have talked about how important a sense of gratitude is during the coronavirus. Ive tried to feel grateful. But for me gratitude only builds appreciation in a grander sense. Gratitude doesnt help me live in the momentit makes me more appreciative for moments past.
Enjoying the wow, well, thats not only being appreciative of something Im doing, thats also choosing to ignore all of the other things Im not doingor think that I should be doing.
Yes, this even includes watching more Daniel Tigers Neighborhood with my son.
Daniel Tiger Lesson of Sanity #3: Grown-Ups Come Back.
Season 1, Episode 3: Daniels Babysitter
Throughout COVID-19, Ive witnessed adults behaving like children. A different HVAC guy told me that he likes to wear a mask as little as possible because masks are uncomfortable. People on the Nextdoor account I foolishly joined are tattle-telling on their neighbors not following the rules of shelter in place. People are throwing temper tantrums at Costco.
I have to remind myself that the world is undergoing collective trauma. Not everyone has the appropriate coping skills to survive tough times without reverting to some infantile reactionary state (myself included). Not everyone has Daniel Tiger.
Even though this episode deals with the D-man wondering if his parents will ever return after a date night, I think that the message is just as applicable to the current state of the world.
At some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, us grown-ups will again return to acting as such.
We will come back.
Daniel Tiger Lesson of Sanity #4: If You Have to Go Potty, Stop and Go Right Away.
Season 1, Episode 11: Daniel Goes to the Potty
This episode is a classic in the DTN canonthe Twilight Zone equivalent of Eye of the Beholder . Any parent whose child likes Daniel Tiger knows this episode. And I mean knows.
When my friends ask me why I still havent seen Tiger King, I tell them its because Ive been so burned out from watching this episode every damn day with my son that I cant bring myself to watch another serialized tiger-centric show.
During shelter-in-place, the responsibilities of working from home and parenting from home at the same time have often forced me into forgoing basic human requirements, such as bathing properly, taking breaks, and, yes, going potty.
As Daniel Tiger Im sure will tell you when hes older: That email you want to send can wait until after you take a piss. Because, buddy, it's not that important.
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