“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” – Winnie the Pooh
Oh to be a three years old again! Sitting in a small theatre, watching a life-size Winnie the Pooh and Friends dance across a stage. It was the first musical theatre show I ever saw and I was in love with that yellow furred bear. The gentle kindness.Yep, I think that’s what I love the most. You read that right. I still love me some Winnie the Pooh because age doesn’t discriminate.
He made life so simple! Love your friends, honey, and be kind to everyone because kindness is the key to happiness. Which is something we all need to remember right now.
I’m writing this from quarantine while I wait for my test results. After coming into direct contract and developing symptoms of COVID-19, I self-isolated. It’ll take five days for the results, and I have one more day to go. Am I worried? Nervous? Freaked out? Uh, I should be a puddle of anxiety, stress, and fear but I’m feeling oddly calm.
What’s really strange? I’m normally an anxious person. I worry about everything! Big or small, my brain latches onto a problem and blows it up into an apocalyptic nightmare. That sound coming from the ceiling above my bed? Obviously it’s a murderer clawing his way through the drywall. The cooking instructions on the back of a frozen pizza box? If it’s wrong, I’m going to get food poisoning and die a horrendous death. Sure it’s only cheese, sauce, and bread but big pizza is a greedy corporation! Who knows what they’ll do next? They are outta control I tell ya. Outta control!
A virus that’s causing a global pandemic and shutting down entire countries? Nah, it’s all good. I’ll stay home, watch “the Youtube” and rest. I can’t do anything about it now so I’m not going to worry. Worry is a choice! I just rolled my eyes at myself. When did I become so even-tempered? Will wonders never cease.
I’m immunocompromised which puts me in the high-risk category of this outbreak. If this infection gets me, if it has gotten me, I could be in serious trouble. Healthy people will get mild cold-like symptoms, feel horrible for a few days, and recover. People like me? It’s like tossing a smoking cigarette on a dry leaf. All it takes is a light breeze and sparks go flying. Next thing we know, a thousand acres of land has been torched and it’ll take decades to recover.
I should be afraid, but I feel an odd sense of serenity. Accept the things I cannot change and this is something I can’t change. There’s a chance I’ve already been infected. Then again, there’s a chance I’m experiencing my annual run of bronchitis and the timing has been purely coincidental. Either way, all I can do is rest, drink plenty of fluids, and hope for the best.
That’s not to say fear isn’t a natural response. I know many of you are afraid right now. We’re facing an invisible enemy and a mighty foe. How can we fight something we can’t see? How do we simply trust the experts, scientists, and doctors who are looking for a cure or treatment? How do we relinquish that kind of control when our lives, the lives of our loved ones, are on the line?
This sense of helplessness is horrendous but perhaps I, and people like me, have a small advantage? Our bodies have betrayed us, and we have been living in this state of helplessness for quite some time. My immune system can’t fight off infections which means something as simple as the common cold can kill me. I’ve buried friends because of what you call, “The sniffles.” I’ve ended up in critical condition because of an infection you might treat with orange juice and a nap. This fear? This uncertainty? This panic? Every day, with or without a global pandemic, this is my life and it will always be my life.
Did I ever think my chronic illness would give me a small advantage over someone who’s healthy? Not in a million years! Most days, I envy your ability to be carefree. Today, I’m grateful for an illness that has mentally prepared me for this moment.
Does that sound strange to anyone else? Yeah, it’s a weird one Mr. Grinch but weird makes life interesting.
You want to know what else is really interesting and incredibly amazing? We are such an adaptive species! No matter what life throws at us, we adjust and find ways to carry on living. Being immunocompromised is hard, especially during cold and flu season, but I’ve gotten so used to it that the precautions I take are second nature. I don’t worry, I don’t panic, I simply adjust and carry on because we are stronger and braver than we realize.
Life is scary right now, and living with the uncertainty is hard to handle but you’re stronger than you seem. You are braver than you seem. There are people out there right now who are smarter than we know and they are working tirelessly to find a cure, to stop the spread of this virus, and find a way to prevent it from coming back.
How lucky are we, to live in an age of science and technology? How lucky are we to have doctors, nurses, front-line health care providers who are willing to put their lives on the line to help those in need? How lucky are we to have each other?
That’s the key, isn’t it? Being there for each other in times of crisis and in times of peace. The best way to fight this feeling of helplessness is to do what you can to help. Do you know someone in isolation? Give them a call, so they don’t feel alone. Believe me, that call means more than you know. If your neighbour can’t leave their home, drop groceries off at their front door. Practice social distancing (as much as possible) so we can flatten the curve and give our front line medical staff a fighting chance. If you have extra supplies, consider donating it to community clinics because they’re running low and they’re helping some of the most vulnerable.
Take one minute to thank those who are taking care of the sick and those trying to stop this virus from spreading. Doctors, nurses, first responders, lab techs, imaging technicians, the cleaning staff (that’s a thankless job). I’m leaving some of you out and I’m sorry! Practice gratitude, compassion, and patience with those who are serving us at the check out counter or those delivering our food.
Sure, it seems so trivial, but we can’t put on our armor and march into battle because we can’t see our enemy. So, instead of focusing on the things we can’t do, let’s focus on what we can do! We can be kind. We can show compassion. We can help those who can’t take care of their own basic needs. Let’s help each other in a million different ways but first, we need to stop the panic from taking control of our basic human decencies.
The stories of hoarders and people reselling supplies at grossly inflated prices? Taking advantage of the sick, weak, and vulnerable? Fighting over baby formula and not caring if another child dies of hunger? That’s not us, at our best and when this is over we’ll all need to deal with the shame, guilt, and fallout. We’ll all need to forgive ourselves, each other, and do a lot of work to repair relationships and trust.
Stop! Please stop hurting each other because we need each other if we’re going to survive, not only this pandemic, but life as a whole. None of us can go at it alone. We are in this together. We need to help each other; not hurt each other. Please! Please! Please be kind!
Please remember, you are braver than you believe. You are stronger than you seem. You are smarter than the fear. We will get through this if we help each other.