As a follow-up to the previously published article entitled We’re All In This Together: Facing the Coronavirus Crisis, I am offering additional ideas that have emerged since I wrote the original piece. I have chosen to remain at home, not because I am symptomatic, although I am in a medical and chronological high risk group, as a 61-year-old with asthma and a cardiac condition, but so that I can assist in what is now called “flattening the curve.” A simple explanation is that the fewer people out and about, interacting in close enough proximity to spread the disease, the lighter the load on the health care system.
Consider that hospitals typically treat people with acute and chronic conditions and ERs see those who pass through the doors with heart attacks, strokes, gunshot wounds, and other injuries, which in and of itself call for medical professionals to be at the top of their game. Add to that a steady influx of patients with symptoms of COVID-19 and it is a recipe for disaster.
Except for going to my job as a psychotherapist, where I keep my distance from patients and co-workers, using handwashing and cleaning of surfaces, being conscientious of coughing or sneezing, and then spending a bit of time with my son, daughter-in-law and seven week old grandson, I am ensconced in my safe cocoon at home. The same protocol I use at work, is what I engage in behind those closed doors.
I miss socializing in person with friends but have come to accept that it is not worth the risk. I am an extrovert who has learned how to experience solitude, without it becoming isolation. I call, text, email and IM on Facebook with kindred spirits who I would have seen up close and personal. I have heard from those who consider themselves introverts as being in their happy place knowing that they have encouragement to stay home.
I am heartened to see that even though it is a financial hardship, many businesses in my community and in the expansive world, have temporarily closed their doors. They are putting the wellbeing of their customers/clients before any potential profit. In my circles are professional musicians whose gigs have gotten canceled. There is little margin for loss of income so some of them are live-streaming concerts and requesting donations.
The uncertainty of the growth and spread of the virus and the toll it will take when counted in lives and livelihood is immeasurable at the moment. Some fear the worst. Others attempt to discredit what they consider media hype and have a cavalier attitude toward it. Everyone, regardless of which side of the political spectrum they stand, are impacted by the choices made by the administration.
I was watching a Facebook Live hosted by motivational talk show host Mel Robbins ,who along with her family has chosen to self-quarantine. They have what they need by way of food and supplies. She, her husband, two daughters and a son (all teens) will be sequestered under one roof for the first time in a while. One daughter, whose college classes were cancelled, was not happy about the edict from her parents that they were to stay home, and she walked out near the end of the broadcast to get together with friends.
Their 14-ear-old son sat with mom and talked about how he and his friends were handling the extended break from school. They were finding creative ways to have fun as they communicated via games and social media. He pointed out that his generation was more familiar with that means of staying in touch. Mel asked him if he was glad that his parents explained the nature of the situation and he acknowledged that he was, rather than remaining in the dark. A suggestion is to explain to your children at the level of their comprehension. By the end of the broadcast, I felt somewhat comforted and reassured that I was doing the right thing by remaining self-contained for a bit.
Fear can be viral, too. When I feel it beginning to rise, like water in a bathtub with the plug still in, I take a deep breath and up the amps on my relaxation skills. I remind myself that we, as a world and I as an individual, have gotten through severe conditions and trying times. Although not everyone has a connection to a spiritual faith, I find that it helps me to tap into it. I have what I call ‘God-versations,’ with what in 12-step parlance is The God of My Understanding. I ask for guidance when I feel stymied and comfort when anxiety and uncertainty raise their intimidating heads. I think about the statement “Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. There was no one there.” – Author unknown
I write (as I am doing here) about the experiences, allowing it to be real and still manageable. Denial of the reality of the situation will not benefit anyone. Having the kind of intimate and heartfelt conversations I am accustomed to having in person have simply gone online or via the telephone. We encourage each other with the reminders that we have the resilience to get through this. So far, blessedly, no one I know has it.
As in any time of crisis, we are called on to be at our best, but sometimes fall into being at our worst, with hoarding items, and ignoring the needs of others. Certainly we want to take care of our families, but at a time like this, all differences fade away and we all have the same need for health and survival. We are all members of the human family. There is no room for selfishness.
We can, to the best of our ability, help neighbors by dropping off what they need at their door. We can send email messages to nursing homes who are not permitting visitors. We can use this time to clean, organize and purge in our homes. We can remain as calm as possible and be mindful of what energy we are putting into the collective soup pot before stirring.