We have anguished over the decision of when would be the best time to travel from our winter home in southern Florida to our summer home in southern Michigan. After talking with a friend who drove from Florida to Michigan a week ago, we decided that we could do it safely and we are ready. I have begun the process of packing up half-finished quilt projects to finish up north, have put away my sewing machine, and am starting to sort through and organize the small piles of papers and books, some to leave here and some to take with us. I’ve even begun the difficult task of deciding what clothes to leave and which to take north. There is a sense of peace in making order and getting ready to leave in a week.
My life seems to be characterized by a huge and constant sense of disconnect. I watch the news on TV throughout the day and see how communities are being devastated by the virus and people are loosing loved ones. I see the suffering of health care workers who aren’t able to physically protect themselves because PPE is in such short supply while at the same time have to help people die who are separated from families. Health care workers trained to save lives have to live with the knowledge that refrigerated trailers are sitting outside holding the overflow bodies, the bodies of someone’s loved one that can’t be claimed. I watch journalists trying to bring us facts of sickness and death in nursing homes around the country and wonder how they deal with the weeks of emotional battering they have endured from looking for and making sense of human suffering without having a melt-down on camera.
And I feel a disconnect as I live my life with just some frustrating inconveniences, that’s all, just some inconveniences like not being able to go to our favorite restaurants or getting together with friends to play cards and laugh and eat snacks. Inconveniences like not being able to get a hair cut, exercise at the gym, or go to my favorite fabric stores. I go outside and see blue skies, spend a little time in the pool talking with friends as I exercise at a safe distance from others, and no one I know is in immediate danger unless they choose to put themselves there. None of my inconveniences are life threatening, in fact they are only inconveniences to me because I want to do certain things – going without isn’t a matter of life and death. I think about how my life with all its inconveniences is a thousand time better than most of the world’s population on their best days. There is a disconnect, a lack of congruence, between my daily lived existence and the carnage that the COVID-19 virus is causing across our world. I sometimes feel like I can’t get my head around what is happening.
But I know that I am getting my head around it because I am in a constant state of fear, of fight or flight. I am so in tune to social distancing that watching commercials on TV causes anxiety because the people on the screen are way too close. I feel the dread of contagion, of death. This reaction makes me laugh, but I know my fear is no laughing matter. It is real and appropriate because I am old, my husband is old, and most of my friends are old, even our children are getting old. If we get sick there is a greater likelihood of dying than of recovering. Usually I don’t embrace fear because I make decision that keep me safe, but with this virus I am keeping my fear active because I need it to stay safe while a virus that isn’t understood or controlled is knocking at my door. I need to keep fear close and active so that I don’t do something stupid that will lead to panic. Only when our government produces more testing and tracking and isolating of those who are carriers will I start to let my fear relax.
In the mean time I am going to continue to socially isolate myself and take precautionary measures even if government officials decide to put the economy ahead of saving human lives. I have so much to say about this but most of it isn’t nice or appropriate to say out loud. So right now I will think about safely getting some necessary provisions and get out some of the quilt squares I have packed to take home. I want to cut them down an inch so that they are better proportioned for the wall hanging they are destined to become.
Please, please stay safe and put aside your own needs if getting those needs met endanger others. It won’t be forever and in the grand scheme of things even two years isn’t much over your whole lifetime. If I can live with inconveniences for a year or two at my age, so can you. And all of us, together, can become creative in helping those who have lost incomes make it through. Jim and I will be using our government check to support our local food bank. What can you do to help yourself and others? We can do this, together, but at a safe distance!