When I first read the CDC guidelines about who is at highest risk for severe illness with Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), I admit to feeling both scared and pissed off. In fact, I am pretty sure I uttered a short and pithy phrase I won’t repeat on this blog. (Suffice to say that it contained several four-letter words, and none of them were “love.”)
I’m one of those most at risk for serious complications from COVID-19: I’m over 60 (that factor has now been raised to over 65, but I’m so close it makes no difference). I live with the chronic illness Lupus plus a small alphabet-soup array of other autoimmune conditions. I have lung issues from back when I was seriously ill in my 20s. I also have some heart-muscle damage and an arrhythmia that causes my heart to occasionally decide to do some jazzy improvising like, “Bada-bada-bada-bada-Bing Boom! Boom! Boom!”. And I have a “compromised” immune system. (I prefer to say my immune system is “sensitive,” but that’s probably splitting hairs.)
I’ve lived well for decades with my own particular and challenging health, and truly, as I wrote in my memoir, Walking Nature Home, I’ve learned thrive. I’m generally healthy: I don’t get sick often; I’ve never been hospitalized; I don’t take any medications. I walk or hike or ride at least five miles a day; I eat well; and I’m strong enough to heave a full bucket of wet horse manure into the dumpster, and to generally be stubborn about doing things myself that I might be wise to let others do for me (which sometimes annoys The Guy!).
Still… the CDC is right: I am at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. So I am following the guidelines: I wash my hands so often they are cracked and soak up lots of lotion, I practice social distancing and avoid crowded places; I am sheltering in place and staying home except for essential trips to town (for groceries) or to nearby open-space preserves (for Vitamin N, time in nature, which is as important to me as food). I keep my surroundings clean. And now that The Guy and his dog, and the horse-herd have all headed back to their spring home, I live alone.
I won’t let the COVID-19 pandemic degrade the quality of my days. I refuse to succumb to fear, or turn my back on the world. I read the news, but I don’t obsess. I’m not hoarding toilet paper or anything else. (If I was going to hoard, it would be chocolate, green chile sauce, and Stranahan’s whiskey!) Despite my concerns about the virus and finances and what will happen with book publishing and whether my friends and family will all weather this–my brother has asthma, one niece was exposed and fortunately tested negative… Despite all that, I refuse to panic.
I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of this. People are dying; scores upon scores are ill. Heroic first-responders, medical providers, and other healthcare and spiritual-care folks are stepping up and into the metaphorical line of fire every day. Grocery store cashiers and stockers, delivery folks, and all manner of others are going about their work so the rest of us can shelter safely in place. I am heart-broken about the deaths and illnesses, the displacement of lives and jobs and education for so many. And I am grateful for all of those who are working and volunteering, who are living in the Light of courage and compassion and simple kindness.
We can all do that, especially the simple kindness part. We can smile, say hello (from a proper distance or virtually); we can check on each other and really listen through the fear and anxiety and outright paranoia. We can support local businesses, sew masks, donate supplies; we can offer to help those who are stuck being homebound. We can go about our days with generosity and goodness no matter what.
Because we need to live in the Light as much as we can. Panic and hoarding will not help; acting as a community and helping each other will.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his inaugural address in 1933, the depths of The Great Depression,
This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
And the only way to work through that fear is to unfreeze ourselves from our collective panic and reach for each other’s hands (keeping our proscribed social distance!) and offer support. Listen, sympathize, offer help, sew masks, wash our hands, don’t go out if we’re sick, smile, get outside, buy groceries or books or whatever is needed, shovel a driveway, walk a dog…
And say “thank you.” Thank you for your service, for being my neighbor, for delivering my mail, for stocking the shelves and staffing the clinics. Thank you for comforting my friend, testing my niece, transporting sick people to the hospital, for burying the dead…
Remember too, to nurture yourself. Do what soothes you, eat good food, get enough sleep, look for beauty and moments of joy. Notice and take heart from the coming of spring: the birdsong, flowers blooming, the first bees and butterflies; life continuing despite all.
Thank you all for being who you are, and for whatever you do to live in the Light in these frightening times. Blessings from me to each of you…