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In a world gone mad, life has become alien and out of control. Every day, the hurdles steadily get taller, a little more challenging, a little more painful. As my world spins on its disjointed, lopsided axis, my thoughts drift to unique and crazy escapes, and how the hell I can get through all of this sh*t with my mind, and sense of humor, intact.

This week, I am an unsuspecting, unwilling contestant on a Pandemic Edition of the TV show Wipeout. Remember that one, back from the ancient days of the 00s? Back when ‘pandemic’ was only an idea, a creepy theme in a Stephen King novel?

Well, themes really do come true.

Now that fiction is life, these challenges have become real. And scarier than ever.

Will I make it through this? Will I complete even one single challenge before I am knocked off my feet and tossed away like an afterthought? I make my way to the starting line, and survey what awaits me today.

Challenge 1: The Mask-Mashup

Ahhhhh, I’ve got this one. I can squeak through with barely a scratch. This whole thing isn’t going to last long, so I can get away with wearing my winter gaiter when I go out. Wait . . . it’s a warm day, and fleece isn’t going to cut it; it will bake my neck and face like an Idaho potato. No good.

I look around, grab a cloth table napkin and tie it around my face. There. I am now the Masked Bandito. I flourish my imaginary sword. Oh, no; the napkin slips off, it won’t stay. Sigh. Okaaaaay.

Down but not out, I unearth my dusty sewing machine. I hate to sew. My mother sewed. I am NOT my mother. Yet. See what this has come to? Sew, or be vanquished. I churn out a homemade mask, slip it over my ears, and realize that while I’ve conquered this hurdle, there is another one right behind it. How To Understand Other People Who Are Speaking Through Their Own Masks. Whaaaat? What’s that you said? Duck! I narrowly miss a Sucker Punch, and escape through the back door of this Challenge.

Challenge 2: The Grocery Run

Grocery shopping? How can this possibly be hard? I’ve done this several times a week for years; I could navigate those grocery store aisles with my eyes closed. This ain’t nothing; bring it on.

Wait. You mean I have to wait? You won’t let me into the store until the mass concentration of humans inside the store has been reduced? I have to wait out here with all my competitors glaring at me from above their masks, gunning for my blood? How cruel!

Ahhhh . . . . my turn, finally. Sprint to the antibacterial wipe stand. Wipe cart. Follow the lines marked on the floor. Stay six feet apart! Six floor tiles, minimum! You’re too close! Wait, you can’t go that way! You’re going Up the Down aisle! What kind of looney-tune are you, can’t you read directions?

A-ha. Thank God for toilet paper. But . . . there is no chicken. How can there be NO chicken? The meat cases are always brimming with a huge selection of whatever you want, whenever you want. But . . . not anymore. This is America now. Well, WTF am I going to make for dinner? Which brings me to . . .

Challenge 3: What’s For Dinner Again?

Welcome to the new world of Family Dinner Every Night. Moooooooommmmmmmm! Do we HAVE to have this again? You know I don’t like broccoli/potatoes/green beans/fish! Why are you so CRUEL to me?? How the hell does one dodge the teenage whining (you are not TWO! Grow UP!) while somehow making a palatable meal from the fixed amount of groceries you were able to buy in one trip, because you can’t go to the grocery store more than once a week? This challenge will sink me for sure, if I can’t get my act together. But wait, it gets worse . . .

Challenge 4: Your Teenager’s Hormones

Who could ever have guessed, but Hormones plus Pandemic brings Moodiness to all new heights. How are you today? Grunt. How’s your school workload this week? Eye roll. Do you have any Zoom meetings today? (This one gets them going): Mom, you should have SEEN how many kids showed up in their pajamas, with bedhead. Don’t they even CARE that the rest of us have to look at them like that?? Ewwww. Overly dramatic sigh. Eye roll. And you’re making THAT for dinner again?? Goddddddd. One really needs bulletproof armor to get through this challenge.

If you still have energy left, you limp along to:

Challenge 5: The Quarantine-15

If none of these hurdles has got you down, this one will tank your confidence for sure. In your efforts to soothe your frayed nerves, you’ve indulged in too much Ben & Jerry’s and inadvertently saddled yourself with an extra load of pandemic pounds. Hey, pal, carrying this extra paunch doesn’t exactly make you more nimble when trying to clear these hurdles! Put the spoon down and back away. Slowly. You’ve got this.

Challenge 6: Family Fatigue

It’s a new day. But the same four walls. And the same four people. And no escape. Did I ever in a million years think I would miss my crazy old life, running here and there, scheduling everything for everyone, barely a second in my day to think about myself? Never. But do I miss that life? That answer is a resounding YES.

Not that I’d ever go back to exactly the way it was; I would like some kind of happy medium. But when all I have to focus on is the annoying way my spouse loads and reloads (and reloads) the dishwasher, the sound of my family chewing at the dinner table (chewwwwing, ugggggh), the steadily declining mental health of my isolated and lonely teenagers, the fact that I just want to see my friends again, and go OUT, and that I can’t see to the end of this effing obstacle course, this challenge is higher and nastier than the Warped Wall at the end of American Ninja Warrior.

In fact, I’m done with this Wipeout set. See ya! I’m headed over to Ninja Warrior, where I can attack that damned wall with everything I have, and slam my fist down on that finishing buzzer in all my rage and glory.

I am effing DONE with this, people.

Heather Shaff

Heather is a book designer based in Boston who, when she’s not writing or taking care of the fam, can be found racing her bike, enjoying nature, or just daydreaming.

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