world

A Love Letter to All in the Time of COVID-19.

 

I’m no expert. I had a 26-year career in nursing, three of which were spent working as a public health nurse in Southern New Mexico, where I still live.

I dealt with much smaller outbreaks of infectious disease, and learned much about epidemiology and containment of outbreaks in our community, with the CDC’s assistance. So, I do have a general background and understanding of the basics of infectious disease control.

This coronavirus, or COVID-19, is asking something of the world. I believe it is a messenger of sorts. It is asking us questions. It is asking us to wake up out of our digital sleep and accelerated lifestyles, and to think about a lot of what we do out of habit. It asks us to see others as ourselves and to please stop judging, condemning, and blaming. And, to get our heads out of the sand.

It is asking us to trust life. To let go of control. To slow down and be still.

And to listen.

In my conversations with others, I’ve heard reactions ranging from divine acceptance to conspiracy theory (the belief that the government of China made the virus to infect and control us and the world economy), to downright panic and fear-based, survivalist behaviors such as hoarding supplies and firearms.

And, for the first time ever, I’ve seen hippies stop hugging. Gatherings have taken on a new meaning: gathering emergency supplies and food. Shelves are emptying in stores. Toilet paper is in high demand and unavailable in many places. People may have to learn to live without it.

Save a tree. Wash your butt. Phone calls between friends are on the rise because we are isolating and we miss human contact. FaceTime may become more popular than ever. Namaste’s at a distance are the new hello. I cannot go visit my mother in the Midwest, who lives in an adult independent-living facility because it is closed to all outside visitors.

My mom is approaching her nineties and has dementia. She keeps asking me when I am coming to visit. I hope I will see her again. That is an unknown. I will be FaceTiming with her in the meantime.

How can we, as humans, embrace the silver lining in all of this, and learn to love what is and just be with it? Finally, something is giving us permission to slow down, stay home, tune in, take time to really wash our hands, to stop buzzing around like busy bees, and just be still. We are also being asked to to be considerate in new ways and take care of ourselves and others.

This may look different. I live alone at the end of a dirt road on a fairly large piece of land that I worked with my hands over the years while raising my family, my animals, and my gardens and fruit trees. I was a back-to-the-lander in the late 80’s and through the 90’s, and lived in a tiny home for the first four years: a renovated school bus, a rolling home.

I chopped wood, carried water and grew organic fruits and vegetables. We had an outhouse. My tiny home was heated by a wood stove. My children were raised on whole foods and homemade bread, and played outdoors a lot. So did I, and I still do.

The only real change for me is that I will make less trips into town. I will see less of my friends in person. I will start growing my own produce again. I will rest and be still. Wait this out and enjoy the new cadence this brings to my life. I have less pulling on me, less perceived social obligations, and not much going on. I may have to cancel upcoming travel plans as well. It is a wait and see time.

This pandemic gives all of us permission, or a legitimate excuse, to cancel just about anything. I cancelled a doctor appointment because it was a simple follow-up and not totally necessary. Let someone else who may really need an appointment have mine. I will stay home and wait my turn for the virus to find me.

I live in the high desert where it is sunny more often than not. I can go out my door and walk on a trail that leads to a national forest, which leads to wilderness, and eventually to the Continental Divide Trail. I suppose I could just walk to Canada or Mexico on trails or dirt roads right from my home, and not see another human if I walked at night.

My point is that there are very few people here, so I am not at great risk for contracting anything because of my low-exposure risk. I am fortunate right now to have economic security for the time being, meaning I do not have to go to work somewhere. Which is not the case for many others, I know.

From what I’ve heard and read from the CDC,  the virus will eventually work its way through the world’s human population, and it could take a couple of years. So, I will be still and wait my turn. I will eventually be exposed one way or another. It is really a question of when, not if.

And, am I healthy enough at age 61 to withstand the virus’s invasion in my body? Probably. Will I make antibodies and recover? Probably. That is the question for most of us. It is not completely avoidable. We can run but we cannot hide.

We can try to help our already-overtaxed healthcare system handle what comes by slowing down the spread of the virus over a longer period of time, which in turn may keep the number of deaths lower. This is primarily the goal of the efforts that are taking place in our communities to reduce contact with large numbers of people. I am in agreement with this approach. We are all in the same boat. No one is immune.

I am recalling past times of chicken-pox outbreaks where parents actually wanted their children exposed to get it over with because of the inevitability that it would hit them at some point.

The COVID-19 virus is similar, according to the experts, in that it is a new virus, meaning that no one is immune until they have contracted it and built antibodies to it. There is no natural immunity to it. If one has not been inoculated with the virus, one has no immunity against it. It is an infectious disease and there is no cure or vaccine for it. Yet.

It must run its course through the human body and the human population. It is an entity in itself. Like any other life form, it is an opportunist, and has the drive to survive and replicate itself. So, the phrase “you can run but you can’t hide” does seem pertinent here during this pandemic.

To me, just the sound of the word pandemic has a panicky feeling to it. Perhaps a less-charged-sounding name for it,  like “Love thy Neighbor virus” or “Consciousness-raising virus” or “We’re All in the Same Boat virus” would take the edge off, but then no one would take it seriously.

Personally, I find it to be a relief that most children will be spared severe illness or death from it. That is a mild comfort, but it is still a very serious situation. And perhaps it is exposing what needs to be healed in our current healthcare system.

Pandemics refer to worldwide contagious outbreaks of disease. But the other dis-ease going on is the socio-economic impact this is already having, and the uncertainty of the long-lasting effects on the stability of the world as we know it.

How many of us recall a life before the age of modern high-tech world we’ve known since the internet began? I recall sitting around a fire outside with friends, playing music on our instruments and singing together. I remember getting together for potlucks at friends’ houses where the children would all run around and play together.

I remember going on weekly hikes with my girlfriends where we carried our babies in baby-carrier packs on our backs with cloth diapers and snacks tucked in under their little bums. We spent time outdoors playing as children. Some of us traveled in foreign countries without cell phones or medicines. It was a different era. We didn’t get instant news about events on the other side of the world.

Our lives were more contracted, closer, quainter, and mostly quieter, and time seemed to go by more slowly. We had to wait for things. There was a lower level of instant gratification and less external sources of validation. No social media except for those handwritten letters from pen-pals and those end-of-the-year high school yearbooks. The world hadn’t become so global yet. We are in a different world now.

I wrote this as a reflection of my thoughts on this current crisis, which I liken to a hypothetical alien invasion by a non-benevolent species, an invisible invader. No big spaceships or phaser-blaster-zapper alien killing machines. A silent invasion. Will it bring us together as a global people or will it separate us even more than we already are?

I cannot help but hope that it is the former — that people will see themselves in others, that we will grow in understanding of our preciousness and of the gift that  life on this planet truly is. That we are more than our money or our status or our looks. That we are more than just our bodies and minds. That there are silver linings and lessons here. We just need to notice them to find them.

Basic lessons in hand-washing and hygiene, and preventing the spread of disease are easy to get. The deeper lessons of compassion, love, and trust in our survival, and gratitude may not be as obvious for some.

Duty. Sacrifice. Selflessness. Empathy. Going without common luxuries (toilet paper, anyone?). Increasing self-reliance and resourcefulness. Humanity and compassion for others. Prayer. All of these lessons and gifts are ours for the giving. They are within us.

How many of us will die from this virus? No one knows, but most of us will still be here after the pandemic is past and we will carry on with living. Humans have an incredible capacity to survive. Will our healthcare system in the US finally collapse? Maybe. But perhaps new specialties will come out of it, like Triage, for instance. All of this is truly out of our control, and we all must know this at some point.

How can we take our experience in this current time and turn it into something for good and have it be everlasting to benefit others? I believe that the God of my and your understanding, if you believe there is a God, or the Universe, the Great Spirit, the Source, the Creator, loves us and allows us to be shaken up to be wakened up, to sift out the grit from the fine.

Or even if you are an atheist, this is a time of upheaval and great change in our world. We’ve seen it coming for some time now. Most of us have pulled our heads out of the sand. The crown of the head, the corona, is known as the Crown Chakra. It is wide open, folks.

Mother Earth has quite an itch and she’s been scratching the surface. We’ve all seen it — fires, drought, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. Yet, still we fight and we hurt each other and the planet and its creatures (even inadvertently) and we separate ourselves from what truly matters. We all do it from time to time. Some of us most of the time. And some are truly innocent.

This is an opportunity for us too, not just the coronavirus or the media or the governments to capitalize on. It is time to take the time to understand what is really important. Love is at the core. I feel it in my heart. It is time to love one other, love our lives, our families, our communities, our planet and its creatures, and to love this life as it is. Because really, what are we here for?

We are all here now.

Namaste, fellow humans and souls.

Love,

A grandmother, mother, daughter, aunt, sister, cousin, friend, human, soft animal, soul-being.

***

Cindy Rogers is a lifelong lover of nature in all its forms. She feels most at home in remote places, in or near wilderness. A retired nurse, now entrepreneur, Cindy lives alone on a small ranch in southern New Mexico where she raised her family for over 33 years. She is an active grandmother of five, and an outdoor-enthusiast, finding her most-creative inspirations while out on the trail. Nearby trails beckon her on many days, and she never tires of exploring the world around her on mountain bike or on foot. A seasoned world-traveler, and self-proclaimed artist and “gypsy-soul”, she has penned several handwritten and illustrated travel journals, which her daughters say they will fight over when she leaves them behind someday. This is her first submission to a publisher of creative works.

***

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