Tic-tac-toe game

Distraction in the time of COVID-19.

How are you holding up, dear friend?

Our lives are all in such different places lately that the continuum of potential responses to that question seems to get longer and more complex each day.

Some of you may be bored, reduced to cleaning out closets and old email messages. Others of you may be swamped, like my husband, who is trying to manage the needs of his staff and unit from home. Others are surely crazed with fear and worry and grief, either because COVID-19 has hit too close to home, or because you are on the frontlines fighting it.

Whatever your experience, I’m thinking of you.

As for me, I feel driven. Overwhelmed. On edge.

I’ve been doing a final read-through of the memoir manuscript I “finished” last fall, expecting to have a little tweaking I might want to do. I’m now on day four of dedicated tweaking–no other writing, very little social media, and, of course, sheltering in place. I’m up to chapter seven of twenty-seven chapters and I am obsessed with finishing.

When I get absorbed in a project, if the end is anywhere in sight, I want to ignore everything else, put my life on hold and GET. IT. FINISHED.

At first, tweaking was a good distraction from coronavirus news. But chapter seven covers the year before my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age eleven. It got to be too intense. I didn’t know if I was crying more about the memories, or about what was going on in the world today.

Then, yesterday, it hit close to home. I got the news that my friend who is infected with COVID-19 has taken a turn for the worst.

My emotions are so close to the surface, I can’t even watch or read happy and uplifting stories without crying because they remind me how much is at stake.

So I’m reaching out to connect with humanity. I need a distraction.

Sometimes we all need a distraction.

My son, Matt, is going stir-crazy working at home alone. I wanted to do something every day to let him know I’m thinking of him. So yesterday, I texted him some silly riddles and knock-knock jokes. They weren’t even funny. But sometimes what’s funny isn’t the joke, but how bad it is.

Here’s one:

I took the shell off my racing snail thinking it would make him faster. It only made him more sluggish.

(It’s OK to groan, really.)

It’s such a little thing, but I already know this will be a memory Matt and I will have forever. When I’m old, we’ll laugh at our attempts at comedic relief. It’s simple. Literally, right at our fingertips.

Next week, I’ll have more distractions to share–three essays coming out. Their deadlines so close to each other kept me driven at the beginning of my social isolation and I was glad to get them behind me.

What about you? Do you need a distraction? Do you have a distraction to share? If you’re hurting, I’m listening.


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

    View all posts


  1. Gail Boenning on March 31, 2020 at 5:13 PM

    Hi Karen–Thanks for your letter. What resonated most strongly was your concern for your friend and your effort to connect with Matt…delivering a little humor.

    • Karen DeBonis on April 1, 2020 at 10:39 AM

      Thanks Gail. Today, I’m planning an April fools joke, not that Matt will fall for it, but it will be fun anyway! Take care.

  2. Jack Herlocker on March 31, 2020 at 5:54 PM

    Hi Karen- It turns out we have projects to provide distraction. For me, it’s editing videos for our church — one asking people to sign up for electronic giving, because there’s no collection plate; another with Deb reading her kids book, so our church can broadcast something different for a daily distraction; and short video snippets of Deb that our pastor is compiling along with others for a streaming service that traditionally has been a group-participation event. Deb is cleaning (“Don’t we have people for that?” “This is the stuff they aren’t supposed to do.” “…Okay…”) and organizing and writing letters and calling people. So far no family or good friends with COVID-19.

    • Karen DeBonis on April 1, 2020 at 10:38 AM

      I’m glad you and Deb are keeping busy, Jack. Purposeful work is one of the best distractions, IMO, so keep it up! And I’m glad to hear you are well!

  3. Mary Neitzel on March 31, 2020 at 6:11 PM

    I think any way we get through that’s healthy and kind is a victory. I’ve sent pictures to friends we only see a couple of times a year, letting them know I’m thinking of them and giving thanks for them. Also catching up on devotionals and Scripture reading in-between work form home stresses. Hopefully, it’ll be a time of growth that will bear fruit for a long time to come, like your jokes with Matt!

    • Karen DeBonis on April 1, 2020 at 10:35 AM

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mary. I do think we will all grow from this horrific experience, it wil just take some time to figure out the lessons. Keep praying for us all, and stay well.

  4. poemsfromtheperimeter.wordpress.com on March 31, 2020 at 8:13 PM

    Thank you! Your slice of life is much appreciated, and best wishes for the recovery of your sick friend, and also to you as you read-through your manuscript and offer support to others : )

    • Karen DeBonis on April 1, 2020 at 10:29 AM

      Thank you – that’s so kind! This morning, I finished “Before the Storm” and before I get swept away by “The Storm,” I’m taking another distraction break. Hmm. I hadn’t thought about relevance of my section titles. No word on my friend. Thanks for you concern. Stay well.

  5. Pandemic Brain - Karen DeBonis on August 11, 2020 at 7:16 AM

    […] writers have struggled to practice their craft after COVID-19 hit. I had been fairly productive for several months, but lately, I’ve felt my enthusiasm wane. During this period of writing […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.