Large package of toilet paper

The best self-care: giving to others.

Are you coronavirus-ed out? Have you had your fill of worry and fear and depressing news? Are you tired of suggestions about what to do as you shelter in place, and reminders to practice self-care?

Me too. It’s why I wasn’t going to write anything about pandemic life. What can I say that hasn’t been said ad naseum?

But here I am, so obviously I’ve reconsidered. I realized I didn’t want to be the writer who doesn’t write at a time when there’s so much to say.

My life these past two weeks isn’t much different than it’s been for the past three-and-a-half years. My gut disorders have kept me sheltered in place pretty much every day. I love my solitude, so isolated life is easy for me.

The biggest change was that my husband Michael worked at home last week. Good news–we didn’t strangle each other! The only surreal thing was that a few times he’s run out at the crack of dawn when stores opened to hunt down toilet paper (which I use at a rate of about ten to fifteen times the average. No exaggeration.) Twice, he came back empty-handed, but this morning he scored big–eight rolls! That should last me a good two days. (OK, that was an exaggeration. LOL.)

Did you ever think, in this land of plenty, we’d be hoarding toilet paper? And then discussing it on social media, no less?

Now that our TP shortage has been remedied, I’m OK.

But maybe you’re not OK. Many people are not at all OK. I feel their pain acutely, which makes me not OK. It’s a vicious cycle.

I get overwhelmed with wanting to save the world and feeling helpless that I can’t. I wish I had a few million dollars to spare so I could really make an impact.

But that thinking is a trap. I can’t save every person in need, but can I take the edge off this disaster for one person?


Instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I’m going to identify what I can do. That will make me feel better. It’s a win-win.

I’ve decided that the best self-care I can give myself is to give to others.

I’ll share my plan, not to appear generous, because there are many, many others whose generosity makes mine look like the Grinch’s. I’m sharing to hold myself accountable, and hopefully to generate ideas of small things we can all do.

Here’s my plan:

I ordered disposable diapers online and had them mailed directly to a local food pantry. I saw a Facebook post from this particular agency that gave me the idea. There’s another food pantry I want to do this for. (I’ll call ahead to see if that will work for their limited hours, and I suggest you do the same.)

I’m going to donate blood tomorrow. I used to donate at least four times a year, but when I got sick, I had so much to manage with my gut symptoms, I gave myself a pass. But my blood is healthy and plentiful, so it’s time to share it.

If I get that check from the government–$1,200 last time I heard–I’m going to donate it. (I haven’t yet decided where.) Michael’s income won’t be affected by the pandemic and I didn’t have an income to lose, so, financially, we’ll be status quo. If we’re OK now without that money, we don’t need it. But someone else surely does.

I have other ideas, but I’m going to start with these because I’m more successful when I set manageable goals.

If you are hurting, know that people do care. You may feel invisible, but I know you’re there and I’m wishing the best for you.

What about you? Do you have small ways that you’re helping in these uncertain times?

BTW–Have you seen my new page? Ten Signs You May be a People-Pleaser.



  1. Debbie Kirsch on March 22, 2020 at 11:25 AM

    Karen, those are some terrific thoughts. Thanks. It’s ridiculous, but Im beginning to be worried about TP! I probably use almost as much as you do! I had to be at 2 different places for prescriptions this week, but couldn’t find any TP either!

    And EXACTLY as you noted, my daily life now, is sadly not much different than it has been. I spend about 98 per cent of my time alone, so I’m used to it. I miss church the most, but I was able to go to Mass live stream, with a wonderful priest,Fr Scott Vanderveer, at St Patrick’s in Ravena.

    You’re lucky to have Michael to talk to.

    I’m having a virtual lunch with my 6 buds who we usually gather together with at Panera’s, ,every Sunday after various church services. I hope it works.

    • Karen DeBonis on March 22, 2020 at 8:14 PM

      I’m hoping this week, more critical items will be restocked, now that people have stocked up. Hopefully you’ll get TP before you need it! It truly is a blessing to spend my days in glorious solitude, knowing that I’ll have someone to talk with every evening. Of course, now with Michael home… I’ll have to compromise. Take care, Deb. I hope your virtual lunch was delicious!

  2. Ruth Bilodeau on March 22, 2020 at 1:21 PM

    Thanks Karen, you are an inspiration, as always!

  3. judy lawless on March 22, 2020 at 2:18 PM

    What a great idea, Karen! We are still in quarantine and have been blessed with help from Jim’s daughter in getting groceries in for us. I was also blown away when an acquaintance in our small town also offered to pick up groceries at the grocery store, or a meal from the one local restaurant that is open! There are so many good people in the world. I will figure out how to give back once we are released from home. Thank you for your suggestions.

    • Karen DeBonis on March 22, 2020 at 8:03 PM

      There really are many good people in the world, Judy. I’m so glad a few of them have come to your assistance. Stay well!

  4. Gail Boenning on March 22, 2020 at 6:28 PM

    Hi Karen,

    So much of your letter touched common threads of thought.
    I too am already tiring of suggestions, advice, and reminders about Coronavirus. What more needs to be said?

    My life is pretty much the same–except my husband and son are home. They went out fishing together this afternoon and it’s nice to have a quiet house.

    How is your dad doing? He’s in California, right?

    I like your spirit of giving and contribution. I haven’t donated blood in a long while. I’ll give a call tomorrow and see what’s up at our blood center.

    Well wishes to you and your family–for health and TP. 🙂


    • Karen DeBonis on March 23, 2020 at 1:42 PM

      This was your son’s first year of college, right? How unfortunate to be interrupted like this, but how nice to have a father-son bonding opportunity. My dad’s in NC now, in preventive quarantine, so he’s doing fine actually. I just made my blood donation appt for Wednesday. You all stay well, too, Gail!

  5. DONALD S RAMPOLLA on March 24, 2020 at 11:03 AM


    Regarding toilet paper shortage –reminds me of one of the opening scenes in Moscow on the Hudson where Robin Williams waits in the snow in a long line for what turns out to be toilet paper, and is so proud when he arrives home with his treasure.

    Regarding your great ideas on helping. In most religious traditions helping others is considered good self therapy. Of course the idea seems to be honored mostly in the abstract. The New York Times and Washington Post (among many other sources) present many suggestions on how to help. Just Google “How can I help people during coronavirus”. This produced almost 4 billion hits.

    • Karen DeBonis on March 24, 2020 at 11:30 AM

      Four billion hits means four billion people are looking for ways to help. That’s over half the world’s population. We need to remember this when we get discouraged. Thanks for your comment, Don!

  6. Cathy Valentini on March 25, 2020 at 6:58 AM

    Thank you Karen.

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