I spent the last week thinking about going back to Michigan – and realized that along with analyzing the ton of information from infectious disease and pandemic experts, I also need to think about my thinking.
We had been planning on leaving right after Easter, a week from now, but I kept thinking about all the “what ifs” of traveling 1,340 miles by car while the pandemic seems to be getting worse everywhere from here to there. Will hotels be open along the interstate – we got word that friends of a friend were the only couple in a hotel on the way from Texas to Illinois? Do I want to trust that I won’t get infected by staying in a hotel? Can two mid-seventy bodies sleep at a rest stop well enough to be safe driving for the second (or third) day? What are the chances of getting infected when we used toilet facilities and buy gasoline? If we have a medical emergency or accident will we get treated (and do we want to get treated) in an emergency room that is at capacity with COVID-19 patients? What if we are infected when we leave and one or both of us develop a fever and cough while on the rode? Will we be able to continue to share driving when sick or do we spend a week in a hotel room recovering? What if we wait until the end of April or May – the experts are predicting that many places (including Florida) are going to peak about then? Will we be able to leave later if we don’t leave now?
I horded pieces of information in various sections of my brain and worked to put them in a row of logic so I could end with an equal sign and a conclusive decision. When I reached that point I would tell Jim of my decision and see if he concurred. And then I would listen/read some more and start the process again to make sure there wasn’t a fatal (figuratively and real) flaw in my reasoning. I would talk with Jim some more and we would reach a consensus. And then I would… As of today we are staying until the end of April and then make a new decision. A few other couples in our complex are also doing something similar.
Parallel to this decision making process is a voice the breaks through saying, “I want to go home.” Sometimes it threatens tears. Most of the time I look around at the blue sky, palm trees rustling in the breeze, orchids blooming in trees at each end of our lanai, hear birds singing and think, “How can life be any better than what I have in this moment?” What will I gain by “going home?”
This is when I realize I need to do some ‘thinking about my thinking.’ Thinking is like any other skill we learn; we need to practice the skill and continually think about how we can improve our performance.
I realized that “I want to go home” really meant I want to go home to a time when everything was normal and the threats to my well-being and life were pretty much understood as a normal part of aging. I want to go home so I we can go to breakfast at the Wooden Spoon, see my kids, grandkids, and that precious great-granddaughter, have friends over for supper, get together with our card club for a pot-luck and card playing, and go to my favorite fabric shop to buy a few pieces for a couple of new projects. When I think about my thinking in this way, I realize that it is impossible to go home. Not in a way that allows me to go back to the way I left home last October or even early January.
Cleaning up the clutter of my thinking has left me with sadness. I miss so much of the life I used to have. But I don’t have to go down the rabbit hole of believing that my life is ruined, that we don’t deserve this, that everything is lost. That is not good thinking, not based on facts. Yes, our life has changed and our world will be different when we reach the other side of this pandemic. I am curious and look forward to seeing who I am and how we live after going through this crisis. It could be a wonderful chance for our young people to take charge and make our world a better place. But I hope they remember to think about their thinking as they work for a better world.
And let’s keep those rainbow roots watered.