Making sense of a life turned upside down by COVID-19
I don’t know about you but life during the pandemic seems very backward to me. I usually hug the people closest to me but now that’s not smart. Learning more about a subject usually makes me feel more secure. Not so much with COVID-19. Finally, the protective actions I take protect others, rather than me and my family. That’s the key to our success — looking out for each other.
I’m having a hard time getting used to the new rhythm, a little bit like moving from a waltz to a tango. Suddenly, working with people means staying apart. Showing people that you care no longer includes a hug. Now, we maintain spacing and connect in other ways. Finally, wearing a face mask and social distancing don’t protect me, they protect you!
In these confusing situations, I can usually learn my way to a better place. A long time ago, a boss told me that if I was unsure about a decision, I hadn’t discovered enough about the subject. In other contexts learning more makes me feel surer and safer — not this time! The experts’ understanding changes as they learn more, plus they keep discovering new ways COVID-19 can kill us!
These conditions are freezing some people in place. One of my best friends is very smart and seems to come up with a new factoid every week. He knows the trends, episodes of risky behavior, and the latest science. All this information paints a terrific picture of the situation. Usually, that much information will also outline a clear path forward, but again, not this time. Instead, it freezes him in place.
It’s difficult for a responsible person to know the right thing to do in the midst of this turmoil. Still, hope is not a strategy, even though I see it all around:
- Hope for a quick cure;
- Hope for a quick vaccine (the world record to market is four years);
- Hope to contain the virus without testing; and
- Hope we have enough PPE to reopen safely.
None of these hopes provides a strategy to survive — and thrive — during the coming 18–24 months that it will take to make it to the other side of the pandemic.
We can only thrive through significant changes in our thinking. Usually, we take precautions to protect ourselves and our families. Now we take precautions to protect others. This thinking flies in the face of our independent spirit (and my rebellious nature). It also puts us in uncomfortable spots. After all, can I really trust you with my health? Or vice-versa?
It all came to a head for me two weeks ago when I finally ran out of reasons not to wear a mask in public. The first few times were physical and mental battles. The mask itself is hot, uncomfortable, and fogs my glasses. Wearing it doesn’t help me and following rules I don’t like is not a natural part of my makeup. Putting my mask on required a level of logic and maturity that I rarely reach. It took effort.
Yet, our collective success requires millions of people to go through some form of the same process. After all, this is still about looking out for the other guy. Most of us are not victims and it’s time to stop acting like we are. It’s time to care for those who bear the greatest burden:
- The 100,000-plus families that lost members to the disease (more than 500 in Wisconsin);
- Our more vulnerable populations at greater risk;
- Those who lost their job through no fault of their own; and
- People on the frontlines who protect, feed, and care for us.
In that light, we can all wear a mask, spend a little extra money to help those in need, and reach out to our neighbors. We can also be a little nicer and more tolerant.
Most of us will make it through the pandemic. We will go back to work, gather with friends and family, and eventually enjoy sports and concerts again. Life will eventually return to a place where we can all expect to be happy and healthy. How well we take care of each other will determine how fast we make it to that future.
Let’s make that as soon as we possibly can!
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