It is back. This need to check the data every day. To scan news headlines for what’s happening now in a world that seems hellbent on conflict and destruction.
It was gone for awhile, this need. I wanted it to stay away. Yet here it is again. Unbidden. Uninvited. Unwanted.
So I shift my approach to dealing with its presence. Instead of searching for data and world events, I read articles on post-pandemic life. I seek advice on how to step out into the world, without being riddled with anxiety and guilt, once critical mass on vaccinations is reached and restrictions can be safely lifted.
And then, I dip into one of my social media feeds and feel discouragement rising like the third-wave surge of sickness and death. How will we ever arrive at a post-pandemic world when there are those who believe wearing a mask is a sign of weakness? That following restrictions is sheep-like behaviour destined to transform one into a lemming falling over a cliff?
I turn off my social media feeds. I step back from the edge of the abyss where I feel myself getting pulled into the undertow of a debate that feeds my anxiety and drives me deeper into the data as if somehow, somewhere, some number will help make sense of it all and send this virus packing and stop this ‘us versus them’ debate.
One of my aunts, who lives in southern India, has only been out of her apartment once in over a year. She is tired. Anxious. Frustrated. Worried. When she phones, I can feel her loneliness ringing in my ears with every word she rattles off in her rapid-fire French about how limited her life has become through these months and months of Covid. “But what can I do?” she asks without waiting for an answer from me. “To stay alive I must stay at home but I am so lonely.”
Her two remaining siblings live in France as do the majority of her nieces and nephews. She cannot travel to visit any of us nor can we travel to visit her. “I have a dream to come and visit you one more time in Canada before I go,” she tells me. I tell her I want her dream to come true.
And so, together, we wait for the world to right itself. For vaccination counts to surpass the 75% mark. For sickness and death counts to plummet.
Three weeks ago my youngest daughter and her partner became statistics in the Covid case count. They are two of the over 146.8 million of the reported cases as of yesterday’s count. Fortunately, while they said they’d never felt so sick, they did not succumb to the virus as my cousin Linda did in Paris last spring. They have recovered and stayed on the life side of the ledger. Linda is one of the over 3.1 million who did not.
And here’s the thing. They are not ‘cases’ or a number on an ever-increasing count. They are my loved ones. Just as the other 146.6 million reported cases were someone else’s loved ones.
Which is why I will do whatever it takes to keep my loved ones safe. I will get vaccinated. I will wear a mask. Keep my distance. Stay sequestered with my beloved whose lungs, should he become infected, might not be able to withstand the viruses onslaught. We have only received the first vaccination and while the risk and severity are lowered, they still exist. .
And sure, there are those who would call me a sheep. Who would rally against my precautions in the name of their rights.
I get it.
Masks can be annoying. Keeping away from human contact challenging and depressing. There are still many unknowns. Still too much uncertainty and question marks and confusion over so many unknowns. And the unknown and uncertainty breeds anxiety. It feeds fear.
But certain things remain known. Masks work. Keeping safe physical distance works. Being vaccinated is a better safeguard than not being vaccinated.
The virus will not go away on its own. But if it can’t find enough hosts to keep replicating itself, it will eventually lose its grip and fade out. (I know that’s not a scientific explanation but it makes sense to me.)
Just as doing the right thing, whether I like it or not, makes sense to me too. It’s for the sake of myself, my loved ones and for all of us.
And in my world, doing the right thing is never the wrong thing to do.
Which means, I must do the right thing for myself today. I must lovingly wean myself away from diving deep into statistics, into watching news feeds for world catastrophes and natural and manmade disasters, from scrolling social media feeds urging me to cherish my rights over the right to life of all humanity.
I cherish my right to life. I cherish the right to life of all human beings on this planet.
And so, I breathe and say a prayer for all humanity.
May we find a way to survive this latest surge without tearing our humanity apart.
May we find a way to honour one another, to show tolerance and grace in the face of adversity and differing views.
May we all remember we do not have a guidebook on how to behave during a pandemic. That we are all struggling with the knowns and unknowns. We all feel the fear and anxiety. We all feel the constraints.
And may we all remember, we all want to live in our own way.
May we all live to tell the story of our survival.
This post was inspired by an article in the New York Times shared by David Kanigan at Live and Learn. Thanks David!