Doing the difficult thing is not a common human trait. In a world of no-fault, of a diminished sense of responsibility, of participation trophies, and of good enough is good enough, we are all now being asked to undertake the challenging. We are being asked to take responsibility for staying well, for staying apart, for following social guidelines, and for being, to a certain extent, selfless.
If there ever was a time to be a realist, this is it. The mind-set of “It can’t happen to me” is fatal. The best minds in the country are baffled and uncertainty does not rest easy on our collective minds. Older people with co-existing diseases are a pandemic’s natural targets. But the sheer randomness of young, seemingly healthy adults being victims is beyond the current understanding. Randomness does not rest easily on our minds, either. The best we can do is follow the dictates of the doctors and research personnel who are trying to save us. We in Ohio are fortunate in our public officials. Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, have demonstrated outstanding leadership from the very early days. Not all states have been so lucky. So I am grateful for that.
Almost as soon as the topic of physical health came to the forefront, the issue of mental health was broached. Most of us are pack animals … we seek out and enjoy the company of others. Isolation feels unnatural to us. Isolation in times of high stress feels like the very essence of our support systems being dismantled. Despair and fear can’t be measured with a thermometer but that doesn’t make them any less deadly.
I’m not an expert on anything, least of all on mental health. But it seems as though dwelling on negative thoughts is not productive. I’m not saying it’s reasonable to live in a state of denial. We’ve all heard the facts and the facts are horrifying. For my own peace of mind, though, I’m working on dealing with those haunting facts by focusing on the positive. On gratitude. Some of the things for which I’m grateful include:
• Dr. Stanley Fauci who has maintained a no-nonsense, honest, level-headed demeanor as he negotiates not only phalanxes of reporters who sometimes seem determined to pursue ridiculous lines of questioning, but also government officials whose responses have ranged from that aforementioned denial to smug arrogance to publicly ignoring if not scorning the very good advice he is trained to give.
• The corps of research scientists who are toiling away, looking for a vaccine. And for their colleagues who are trying to figure out how the disease operates and how to stop its lethal spread. These are nameless soldiers in a very real war whose vital work is being conducted anonymously. For every Dr. Fauci or Dr. Birx, there must be dozens whose identity we will never know.
• Again, Mike DeWine and Amy Acton
• Friends who care enough about me and each other to comply with social distancing, responsible behavior, and who find ways to convey their friendship in absentia.
• Especially grateful for those who are caring for me after my total shoulder replacement. I’m lucky to be impacted less than most because I’m on six weeks of no-driving, no-motion, no-nothing while my new shoulder and I get acquainted. I could not do this alone. For someone to have the generosity to open their home to me, in my present handicapped state, is humbling.
• For food and shelter and the means to afford both
• For the incredibly brave healthcare workers around the world who are risking their lives to save others. The thought that these heroes do not have adequate equipment to do their jobs is hard to grasp. Our editor Melody Vallieu’s daughter, a nurse in an ICU in Chicago, is on the front lines every day. My neighbors’s granddaughter, a physician in Arizona, is calling everyone she knows trying to find masks. The hundreds of local healthcare providers who continue their humanitarian work in the face of frightening statistics cannot be thanked enough.
The rest of us aren’t charged with such heroics. We are asked solely to stay home, keep social distancing, and act responsibly. It’s a small enough task. And the very least we can do.