When coping with the pandemic, cling to any joy you can find

The RV is parked as the sun rises at Badlands National Park.
The RV is parked as the sun rises at Badlands National Park.

Editor’s Note: This is a preview of USA TODAY’s newsletter Staying Apart, Together, a guide to help us all cope with a world changed by coronavirus. If you would like it in your inbox on Tuesdays and Saturdays, subscribe here

This week, I’m going all in on positivity. 

Yes, I’m still elevating and icing the sprained ankle I wrote about in Saturday’s edition, but I’m trying to be a glass-half-full person, as difficult as that is for my anxiety-riddled mind. But, hey, I’m not walking my dog in the middle of Washington, D.C.’s heat wave, my husband is learning a few more skills in the kitchen since I can’t cook and my dog is being extra-cuddly (your pets always know when you’re hurting, physically or emotionally). 

I’m currently trying to pay that happy energy forward: Browsing for baby clothes for my forthcoming niece or nephew (I want to buy them all), sending wine to a friend and organizing Zoom parties for family birthdays. 

The news is bleak, but anytime we can find some happiness for ourselves amid a pandemic, that is a huge victory. And if we spread it around to the people we love, well, there’s nothing better right now (except for a COVID-19 vaccine, but the scientists are working on it). 

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Tabitha Brown, Rickey Thompson and Donté Colley are among the Black creators bringing positivity to social media.
Tabitha Brown, Rickey Thompson and Donté Colley are among the Black creators bringing positivity to social media.

Today’s joy

Amid the protest for racial justice and a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting Black communities, many online Black creators are trying to fit joy into their lives (and the lives of their followers and fans) however they can. 

My colleague Anika Reed spoke to a few of them about how they’re finding joy amid, you know, everything. 

Tabitha Brown cooks and calms. Rickey Thompson dances like he’s a ’90s pop star. Kerry Washington does yoga to reflect.

Brown’s Southern accent soothes and delights as she gives motivational pep talks and guides fans through recipes sprinkled with her signature phrases “like so, like that” or “’cause that’s our business.”

“I think my content has a responsibility to bring light every day, whether it’s in laughter, whether it’s in inspiration, whether it’s through food,” she tells USA TODAY. “I want to be helpful to people.”  … 

“There are studies that show that social media can be quite traumatizing in terms of being exposed to racial trauma. At the same time, people still find joy in the midst of pain,” says Angel Dunbar, developmental scientist and assistant professor in the African American Studies department at the University of Maryland. 

“Black people have done this for millennia. If people can find humor during slavery, we can find humor now,” she adds.”It’s helpful toward improving mental health, but also decreasing bad things and increasing resiliency.”

Read the full story (it’s really wonderful) here, and hopefully feel some joy today

The RV is parked on blocks in order to stay level.
The RV is parked on blocks in order to stay level.

Today’s safe travel tips

When Carly Mallenbaum told me she and her boyfriend were planning to rent an RV and drive from California to New Jersey so they could safely visit family amid the pandemic, warning bells went off in my head. Considering that travel of any kind elicits heart palpitations for me, I had to wonder if even a self-contained road trip was really safe, and if, um, the couple really knew how to live the RV life. 

I shouldn’t have worried, of course. Carly and beau made it safely, visited safely and returned safely. She wrote about her experience as a novice RVer, and the things she really wished she’d known before venturing into the unknown. 

I’m someone who has laughed, cried, sung very loudly, been car sick quietly (when I was sitting in the back, which is a much rockier ride), seen pink sunrises, viewed orange mountains, passed by hundreds of bison, made countless PB&Js and listened to hours of podcasts while riding along in a 25-foot RV across the country a few weeks ago with my boyfriend. 

Here are a few of her tips:

  • Bring a toolkit. Bring allen or hex wrenches. Bring duct tape. Bring scissors. Bring rubber bands and zip ties. Bring plenty of towels that you can use as noise buffers.

  • Use leveling blocks! Like Legos? You’ll love stackable leveling blocks that you can place under your vehicle’s wheels in order to level out your parking spot. Buy a set (Home Depot, Amazon and plenty of other sellers offer blocks) before you embark on your trip. If a level (which should be in that toolbox you brought) determines that your RV is not flat, determine which wheel(s) need a lift.

  • Map out your trip so that you get to your overnight parking spot before dark. It’s very challenging to see camping spot numbers and even harder to determine whether you’ve parked safely (and level) in the dark. Also: You don’t want to wake up and be unable to recognize your surroundings. Waking up in a new place each morning is jarring enough as it is!

  • Sample schedule: Wake up by 5 a.m. Make coffee. Drive inside the park to a place with a gorgeous view. Enjoy the sunrise and wildlife with few other humans around. Go to sleep. Wake up already in the place that other people are waiting in line for. Go on a hike. 

Read the full story here. 

Today’s reads

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID coping: Cling to any joy you can find

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