Becca: For Pandemic Christmas my mom gave me a YA Biography of L.M. Montgomery, the author of “Anne of Green Gables.” I was like, “Thanks, Mama, but I’m pretty sure her life was horrible.” Just what I need to be reading now: Montgomery’s first memory is seeing her mom in a casket, then her dad leaves her to be raised by gruff relatives; her best friend dies from the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919; she and her husband endure lifelong cyclical depression and are probably what would now be called bipolar; and, finally, her life appears to have ended in suicide. So, Nate, that’s what I’ve been reading for “escapism.” We need to talk about how to get through this pandemic, emotionally, because so many people are seriously struggling to cope. Tell me you’re reading a book on emotional health, trauma, and how to collectively survive apocalypse.

Nate: Actually, I’m reading “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which I had mentioned in one of our prior columns but from which I had gotten distracted. I found the early days of the pandemic to be the most difficult for me, since no one knew what to expect, and I really struggled with trying to figure out how to react on the Rockland City Council: Follow the state’s lead? Impose more restrictions? Offer financial relief? Reconfigure downtown? Etc. But then we all kind of grew into what I feel has been an appropriate municipal response. On a personal level (apart from anxiety over trying to figure out my public obligations), honestly I haven’t found the pandemic to be very difficult to bear. My software work has only accelerated, I generally don’t mind solitude, we live in a place where it’s easy to get outdoors, and I’m fortunate to share a harmonious household with my wife and our two cats. I do miss restaurants, concerts, and lots of other things, but not so much that it’s caused me great pain.

Becca: Oh, Nate, you’re much too happy of a person to participate in what I hoped would be our column on “Some Things You Can Do to Help Yourself Emotionally Get Through This.” This may sound cold-hearted, but one thing I find comfort in these days is that many others are struggling too. Not that I want anyone to struggle. But in a culture that typically wants us to act like everything is always fine, that tells us that to feel better, we just need to write in our gratitude journals more (as if that’s equivalent to true social equity), I find it mint-tea refreshing that the pandemic has made it easier for many people to openly discuss their despair, hopelessness, loneliness, fear and grief. Sometimes, simply naming a feeling, or sharing it with others, not even trying to change it, helps.

Nate: Well, I do know plenty of people who have found it more difficult than I have. I’ve generally tried to reach out to these people frequently (especially those who live alone). And taking walks together has become my standard means of socializing. Which I like a lot, actually. But I do fantasize sometimes, even in the midst of the pandemic, about living a truly solitary existence like an ancient hermit on a mountain seeking enlightenment. Do you ever feel that way?

Becca: Self-sufficiency is a myth. How do you describe enlightenment?

Nate: That’s quite a personal question, isn’t it? I might describe enlightenment for myself as dissolution of the ego and unperturbed being in the fullness of emptiness. I think I find it useful to work towards that goal with the knowledge that I will never reach it, and perhaps without even the desire to reach it. Do you have a personal vision of enlightenment?

Becca: Children before they are wounded. Beans and rice being the most incredible thing you’ve ever tasted. A good acid trip. Being gone down on in the middle of a hike on a mountainside. Dancing, mind free from thought. Noticing how breath fills belly. Red lipstick.

Nate: At least some of your answers are pandemic-friendly! Have you used any of them to help yourself get through the past year?

Becca: Um, no. Is lipstick pandemic-friendly? By the way, everyone should consider wearing two masks at a time now when inside — an excellent combo is a KN95, N95, KF94 or surgical mask (try Rankin’s, Renys, Ocean State Job Lot, eBay, Staples, etc., for deals) worn with a cloth mask. As for what I’ve done to help get through: stayed politically active sometimes, watched the entire YA “Emily of New Moon” TV series (based off L.M. Montgomery’s books), tried a variety of weed strains, and now I think it’s time for me to find a counselor. I’ve been trying to hike more, but isn’t it so seductive to instead lie frozen in bed feeling dreadfully, horribly, terribly awful?