Update from Italy: Miss Anxiety and Farm Wife

Miss Anxiety and Farm Wife head home in the evening after a full day’s work on the old Quarantine Farm.
Photo by Marcel McCarthy on Unsplash

What are your character strengths? How can you use these strengths in your current situation?

I’ve fortunately had plenty of time in enforced quarantine to consider this very question. (Currently on Day 25 of 35.) Over the past six weeks or so, I have named some of these qualities and attributed them to discrete characters, so that I might recognize them when they step forward, or call them forth as needed.

Meet Miss Anxiety. She is young at heart yet world-weary, very emotionally in touch, but not well regulated. She has a lot of energy that often spirals out of control into possibilities and worry and imagination and foregone conclusions that have no basis in reality. However, Miss Anxiety is creative, and when she is not skating the knife edge of worry, she is very empathic, and checks in with everyone. She wants to know everyone’s stories, how they are doing, both to provide succor as well as benchmark her own anxiety (normal) and wine intake (actually seems moderate, compared to many). Miss Anxiety needs a lot of guidance and a firm managerial hand. Left to her own devices, she fritters away the day in worry, kinetic frustration, and helplessness; however, she is quick to identify any invisible peers out here on Anxiety Island.

Now comes Farm Wife, who derives from my Inner Finn. Farm Wife demonstrates an enviable industriousness, smoothly moving through a litany of chores to keep a quarantined family afloat: laundry, dishes, meals, showers and baths, folding and putting away clothes; mending, repairing, making yeast, improvising recipes she finds online. When her chores pause, she paints with the children or makes tiny sweaters out of worn ribbed red tights for her vintage Pooh Bear. (Miss Anxiety loves these brief pauses in the chore list.) She whips up pantry crumb cakes, cast-iron skillet tarte tatin, tortillas frescas de harina, pancakes, French crepes, lentil soup.

Farm Wife loves to manage Miss Anxiety. She can put her right to work on a list of chores, and no need to provide feedback, thank you very much. This is fine as Miss Anxiety actually does not want to be a leader. She wants to be managed so she does not have to try to figure out how to do other important things, like breathe normally. When Farm Wife is in charge of the day, much gets done, everything runs smoothly, Farm Wife and Miss Anxiety fall into an easy accord of employment. Miss Anxiety is grateful for the leadership. Farm Wife likes Miss Anxiety’s energy and willingness to take direction. Perhaps Miss Anxiety’s best trait is her sense of humour, when she calms down a bit. Farm Wife’s humour tends to be earthy and abrupt; Miss Anxiety notices things that Farm Wife does not see, since her nose is always down on her list of chores for the day.

Together, Miss Anxiety and Farm Wife are a good team. Prior to the quarantine, I never would have put them together on any project, but their skills and talents are genuinely complimentary. I think they seem to like one another more too, which was not the case before the quarantine; back then, they barely spoke. But now they have to be together all the time, and they are both changing and adjusting as a result.

Do you have any characters in quarantine? Have you noticed anyone materializing in the mist to help you get through these days; conversely, any problem students who are starting to shine in adversity? I’d love to hear.