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Day 219 - My Post-Pandemic World

I live in Southern California. It is a lovely place to live. The weather is almost always amazing. I live 20 minutes from the beach, live in a beautiful valley in the mountains, am 30 minutes from snow in the winter and a couple of hours from the desert. I am very blessed to call this place home.

While I am not currently living in a large city, I have spent most of my life in urban areas. Choosing the later part of my life for a slower pace and less, well less of everything: people, traffic, society. This was not a pandemic crisis reaction but one that I had at 31 when I left Capitol Hill in Washington DC and relocated to the Navajo reservation. I have been searching for my own shangri-la ever since. And I think I have found it...

I will preface what I am going to say with acknowledging that I live in a pretty idyllic place. One that has not been ravaged by the virus, but has been largely affected by the virus overspray: people of out of work, businesses closing, the economics have hit our little town hard. I drove down main street last night and wondered which of the shuttered business will ever re-open and when.

This past two months has been interesting. To see how we as a nation, world and community deal with the a collective threat to our life and ability to support that life. To me, none of it has made much sense. Target can be open but it can’t sell clothes. Ice cream stores can be open but the library can’t be. Hair salons are banned but the airports are open. It just makes no sense. As do most decisions that are made out of fear and in a hurry. We didn’t have time to think anything through. To me, we all made decisions that if we would have spent just a little more time thinking about, we might have come up with a pandemic plan that made a little more sense. But time, when threatened with death, loses the reasonable fight every time.

Panic breeds panic. This last two months I have ridden the tides of “the sky is falling and we are all doomed” to the “just stay home and you will be ok” to the “oh my fucking God it is on the packages being sent to my home!” I have been instructed on how to use a hair dryer to “dry out” or “burn off” the virus in my throat and nasal passages. I have been told to wash my hands, wear a mask and gloves more times than I can count. I have been told to stay home. I have been restricted in my movements. And I bought into all of it, well some of it, because I was afraid.

I stayed away from friends. I didn’t go into the office. I kept my distance in stores and out in the world on the rare occasions I left my house. I did all the things...for awhile. I didn’t hug my parents and stayed away from them except to bring them groceries. I watched the news...daily. This was something I refused to do after living through 911 in Washington DC. I decided then that panic breeds panic and that I did not want to live in a panic state. I shut down my life to accommodate the hourly changes being reported and broadcast by people allegedly in the know.

Then I experienced an incredible fatigue from my hyper vigilance. I began to not be able to think about it anymore. I just couldn’t. Almost without thinking, I settled on things that I would do: wash my hands, wear a mask in public, limit my social circle to a few people that I know to be practicing good hygiene, go shopping only once every two weeks and stay away from mass gatherings. And I settled on things I would not do: hug, go to the beach, wear gloves (hand washing easier and more effective), go into my office. I came up with rules for living that I felt were things that I could emotionally and physically handle. I know some will judge that I didn’t do enough and others that I did too much. Regardless, I attempted to find a middle path through it all that was neither fanatical or fundamental. I do not like either encampment of people so it was important to me to not align with them even briefly.

I am not sure what the world will look like when this all draws to a it ever does. When will we know that it is over? When can we return to our previously oblivious state? I do not think we ever will...unless we choose to. To my way of thinking, something happened to the world, all of us, at once. That has never happened...the entire world was impacted by the same thing at roughly the same time. There is no comparison...because nothing like this has happened in our lifetimes. And comparing it to 1918 fails because we are a wholly different world today than 100 years ago.

But here is what I am going to do. I am going to try to be grateful for every day I have left on this planet. I am going to try to love everyone without judgment or need to control them. I am going to try to understand positions that rub me the wrong way and that shake me to my core. I am going to try to understand...really. My post pandemic world will not really look much different on the inside. I started off trying to love instead of hate, understand instead of being understood. I am going to continue to just try to accept what is without judgment or desire for it to all be different. The pandemic to me has been this global lesson to us all that we are not in charge. We do not have a lock on life. That it is all subject to change. That when things change too rapidly, we humans make decisions that are subject to critique and criticism later...there can be no other way.

I have maintained for some time now that there are no bad decisions. Life is really just a series of evaluating consequences. We do the best we can to see what is likely to bring pain and what is likely to bring joy. And as a species, we get wrong just about as often as we get it right. We do this because we are tied up in trying to always get it right and in so doing we get it wrong. There is no wrong and right for me. There is just minute decisions to be made about how I am going to do this thing called life. Pandemic or no pandemic. I can follow the rules, or break them. The consequences are mine no matter what. I can take advantage of the time I have been given at home or I can allow my solitude to drive me crazy and push me to extreme reactionary behavior that helps no one and likely hurts many.

To me, what matters most is right now. How am I handling myself right now. Am I adding to life or am I taking? Is there a balance? Does it need to be adjusted? Am I seeing what I can add to the beings I share this planet with or am I insisting that everyone accommodate me?

The pandemic will be a dark ring on our collective tree of life. It will be marked by the trauma we have all experienced together. Its effects will be seen for generations to come. We, as a world, are forever changed by what has just happened. For me, I am going to try to bring to the forefront of my mind that my reaction to trauma may not look like anyone else’s reaction and that doesn’t make it wrong, or right or bad or good. It is just mine. And since I would like to be afforded the opportunity to heal in my own time and way, I have to also allow others to do the same.

So I intend to give others a pass on their less than stellar reactions. The behavior that I might find offensive and troubling. I am going to do my best to suspend judgment because in the end, it doesn’t help. It just makes me feel inferior or superior and that is the lesson I am taking away from living (so far) through a global pandemic: we are all in this together whether you believe it or not. What I do or don’t do can and does affect you in so much as what you do or don’t do affects me. I can’t change the world or its inhabitants but I know that I can change me. I know that I can always do more to make my life less intrusive to others and that I can check myself to see where I can do more to love everyone...regardless of whether I agree with them. I can be matter what. Some days it may be easier than others but in a time of global crisis, kindness and understanding are but essential to how I want to inhabit this earth.

I am going to make sure that I do every day what this pandemic gave me...permission to be in the way of beauty everyday. To not let daily living and its attendant demands rob me of my birthright to walk alone in nature to still my wildly beating heart and restless soul. I shall continue to keep my distance and walk in nature to alleviate the suffering my mind brings to bear on all kinds of things over which I ultimately have no control. I will remain forever grateful for any time I get to spend in the great outdoors. I will use that time to see where I can add to life, mine and others. This, to me, is what living is all about...being mindful of where I end and you begin...and that, like the nature I walk among, is sacred.

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