I hope this post finds you and your loved ones safe and well.
I’m grateful to report that the only inconvenience I’m experiencing at present is damp, chilly weather that has kept me from taking a walk over the weekend. This should be my greatest problem in a pandemic.
It even hailed for about ten minutes on Sunday night, pea- to marble-sized chunks of ice that flung out of the sky, hammering our kitchen skylights and bouncing on our deck. As a trained weather spotter, I dutifully reported in to the National Weather Service office in Taunton, Mass., and the guy who answered could even hear the racket over the phone.
Nature has been teaching us a lot of hard lessons lately about unpredictability, risk, and our precious, fragile lives. When I wake up in the morning and take a deep breath, I’m grateful that my lungs fill easily, painlessly; that my temperature is normal; that Al here at home and my adult daughters in their respective cities are all well.
But sleep does not always come easily or consistently. I woke too early Monday morning from some kind of dream about COVID-19, wondering why Prince Harry and Meghan would move to LA right now. Doesn’t Canada have a better health care system? (Of course, with their wealth, health care costs are not an issue.) Just one measure of how too much news is penetrating my brain.
So I have been trying to figure out a way to cope with this pandemic and fears about my family’s health, for the long haul. I cannot keep riding the anxiety roller coaster, one day feeling calm and absorbed in my work or other activities, the next, waking up to remember we’re still stuck in this unfolding horror story and imagining the worst.
It’s simply not good for my health. When I first developed scleroderma more than 35 years ago, I was coming off a divorce, anxious and stressed and depressed, pumping far too much adrenaline into my system for too long. I have no proof, but I believe that months of fight-or-flight response triggered the onset of my disease. Research indicates that my hunch is a good one.
So, here’s where I’m at, as the pandemic continues its inexorable spread:
I have a great writer’s imagination. It is not helping me right now. I have to trust that I will be able to deal with whatever COVID-19 dishes up for me and my family as best I can. I can’t anticipate it, because there is no way to know what may or may not happen. I’ve done my due diligence research about local resources and what first steps to take if one of us gets sick. I’m following our city’s response team briefings, as well as our governor’s, and reliable media resources. I listen to Dr. Fauci and am very grateful for his presence.
I need to go on a COVID-19 news/social media diet and restrict my reading, watching, and listening to certain times and time limits during the day. Still struggling with that one, but I find myself adjusting to the awareness that the numbers are just going to keep going up for a while. I can’t change the reality of our present crisis. I can only do my part to follow the public health guidelines. So staying informed is important, but the value-added of each additional report about the latest scary detail is not adding to my understanding or well being.
Meditation really helps me to calm down. So does writing. So does listening to my favorite music. So does visiting online with family and friends, or writing longer emails to people I haven’t seen in a while, or calling on the phone. Walks are a necessity, as long as the weather permits.
When I have time in the evenings, I’m removing old childhood photos from Herwitz family albums to be digitized, and musing about how little we know about how life will turn out. One of my favorites is a portrait my father took of me and my mother when I was about 15 months old. I’m staring into the camera with an annoyed glare, probably tired of the photo shoot, as my mother holds me in her lap. There’s a bandage on her finger from where I had bitten her—a story she loved to tell, to rib me.
I’m usually smiling in most of those childhood images. But in that one photo, there’s a feisty determination in my eyes that gives me encouragement. It’s a quality that has served me well in learning to live with scleroderma—with an emphasis on live. It’s as if I’m telling myself, across the decades, that I and my loved ones will find our way through this, too.
God-willing, we all will. Stay home, stay safe, and keep washing those hands.