I can argue you need to listen to me…
As a physician in Seattle, the original US epicenter of Covid19
As a Mama to an immunosuppressed, high risk child
As a human, just like you, who can waiver between gratitude and existential terror
This global pandemic is scary.
And there will be catastrophic loss on too many levels. For that, my heart bleeds.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay to be fearful AND it’s not okay.
We must bring balance to the two paradoxes of human existence:
Our brain’s deep biologic desire to look for threat continually which is exactly how we’ve made it this far to begin with (note to self: there aren’t any self-help books on how to look for the negative, we got this one down!)
Our primal need to find beauty so we can survive and make meaning out of our suffering.
We can and must hold both right next to each other.
So, the next time you feel sure the world will spin into darkness and we will never recover, honor that you can also provide an alternate, just as probable story to your mind and heart…(In fact, since the history of the world has proven that it has yet to end, I’ll argue my alternates have more historical evidence than the apocalyptic, late-night musings!)
This alternate story says…Just maybe, just maybe…
This virus is exactly what the world needs.
Could we imagine a time ever in history when the entire world was united against the SAME enemy? No division of religion, race, status, we are all frightful. Could we imagine that at the end of this, we would feel more united and alike than different? That we now understand why fear causes us to flee, brings out the best and worst in us, why the need to survive casts a light on the essential truth that unless we protect and bring up all, we all will fall?
Could we imagine that this phemonemally unique time in history brought on the first “rest” this beautiful earth has received in the modern era? That with the halt of carbon consuming travel, factory output, moving from one place to another, we can see the sky more clearly and hear the birds sing clearer for a bit and maybe, just maybe, we’ll see that taking a “rest” for the earth, in even milder ways, is actually within the realm of the possible?
Could we imagine that in this age of physical distancing, we have understood at our core, in a more primal way, the quintessential need to connect with other humans? That at the end of this, we may never take a hug, a sweet evening with friends or even a handshake for granted again?
Could we imagine that by giving all families a chance to stop and connect with each other, especially in a time of anxiety, maybe, just maybe, we will recognize what really matters? Maybe we’ll see that slowing down won’t hurt us. In fact, it’s the only thing saving us right now.
I’m holding these and other stories of beauty fiercely close right now. Late at night, when I can hear my heart beat louder in the darkness and I wonder if my son will be cocooned enough, when I wonder if I will be exposed at work or if my patients will fall prey to this virus , when I wonder if life will ever feel the same again, I send love to my frightened mind. It’s just doing it’s job, trying to protect me. And then while my mind spins in the cocoon of my love, I also feed my heart with a different vision, one that will allow me to keep loving and wishing, and being human.
What can you imagine the next time your mind starts spinning? Because all I know for sure is that the only way we humans have made sense of suffering and then went on to thrive is by finding beauty and meaning in the darkness. We must say there are many stories here and listening to just one is not only not useful, it is harmful. Now, more than ever, humanity has the need and obligation to see all that is possible. And that is my best medical prescription for the day.