“Practically perfect in every way,” is exactly how you want someone described who is giving you advice, especially in a time of crisis. While the beloved English nanny Mary Poppins was not, as far as I know, a medical professional, her no-nonsense, magical take on life provided us with several bits of great advice that we can apply in the face of the current Coronavirus pandemic. So without further ado, here are six great pieces of advice for us:
“Close your mouth please, Michael. We are not a codfish.”
While this may seem a bit of a stretch, this is a good reminder that if we need to cough or sneeze, to do it into the crook of our arm. Nobody needs you breathing your germs all over them (even if you don’t have COVID-19).
“Practically perfect people never permit sentiment to muddle their thinking.”
While we are not “practically perfect” like Mary Poppins, facing a health crisis is best done with a rational mindset. Surfaces need to be disinfected. Staying home unless absolutely necessary is important. Video calls with work and friends and family should replace in-person visits. And while any of these things (to say nothing of other important measures) might bring forth wistful thoughts of the way things used to be, daydreaming about the good ol’ days won’t help you do what needs to be done. Stay focused on the tasks at hand for the sake of your loved ones, and leave nostalgia for later.
“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way!”
Though we need to focus rationally on tasks that need to be done, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be kind. With everybody stuck inside, and schools and events and businesses closed, the need to take a deep breath, and extend grace and kindness to the people in your life is greater than ever. We will all be better equipped to handle the difficulties of quarantine and isolation if we’re kind to one another. When you can, buying gift cards or delivery from local businesses will help them stay afloat. A family member forgot to wash their hands? Remind them gently — let them know that you don’t want them to get sick, so it’s important. Which brings us to:
“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and SNAP! The job’s a game!”
Cleaning, sterilizing, staying home, washing hands over and over, trying to limit how much TP we use… these are not fun tasks. But they can be! Especially for those of us with kids (though this is helpful for all ages), finding a way to gamify the less-fun aspects of this ordeal can make a huge difference. Who can find a song that is exactly 20 seconds long, so we know how long to wash our hands? Can we extend bath time so that getting clean and playing with bath toys are both enjoyed to their fullest extent? Read more books, put together puzzles, have a little more screen time than normal — find a way to make the tough things a bit more fun, and suddenly it isn’t as much of a chore. After all…
“Well begun is half done.”
Technically speaking, Aristotle said this first, but Mary Poppins was right to pass this wisdom along. Taking precautions early on, and getting plans, systems, and routines in place mean that a lot of the remaining work of staying healthy becomes easier. Often, just getting started is the hardest part. And while this was true before the pandemic (e.g. starting a workout routine, or learning a language or eating healthier, or journaling every day), it’s especially helpful in close quarters and with higher stress levels.
“People with wet feet must take their medicine.”
Because we’re facing a massive health crisis, there are now steps that need to be taken, no matter how unpleasant a taste they leave in our mouths. We don’t want to be washing our hands every few minutes, avoiding touching our faces, staying inside for weeks, and anxiously trying to convince our older family and friends to stay inside so they don’t risk their health.
But that’s where we find ourselves, so that’s what must be done. Let’s collectively take our “medicine,” so that, sooner than later, we can get to the point where our caution doesn’t need to be as intense.
“Though we adore men individually, we agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.”
Mrs. Banks was the person who said this, not Mary Poppins, and she was talking about gender, rather than mankind as a whole… but I like this in a broader sense because I feel like a lot of time individuals can be rational and make smart decisions, but together as a whole, people make some remarkably bad choices.
“You know, you can say it backward, which is docious-ali-expi-istic-fragil-cali-rupus, but that’s going a bit too far, don’t you think?”
Hahahahaha! The closest I can get to spinning this as advice is to speak frankly about the complicated details, but I think that’s a bit too far of a reach. ;)
Mary Poppins is just funny sometimes. So maybe that’s the lesson — even in situations that require detailed, rational thinking and seriousness, there’s room for joy. There’s some comfort in that, I think.