Tag Archives: Coronavirus Quarantine

February is the Cruelest Month

T.S. Eliot says April is the cruelest month (The Wasteland), but February has my vote. I thought I would get a coronavirus vaccination this month but, like millions of others, discovered it will be much later because my state botched its vaccine rollout. The isolated seniors with whom I check in each week despair. We need hope.

Adding insult to injury, I was so excited to see primrose blossoms and daffodil shoots in my garden that I nearly cried when frigid weather blew in. Now my garden is buried under ten inches of snow. Dreams of an early spring were an illusion born of February’s desperation. The long pandemic winter continues. This is depressing.

Like the seniors with whom I speak regularly, I need a way to keep from going crazy. I could call my strategy “Plan B,” but I passed “B” a long time ago. This one is “R” for “reframing.”

Reframing is a mental exercise similar to changing the frame surrounding a picture. Although the picture itself remains the same, we experience it differently depending on the frame through which we view it. Whether our focus lingers on a dark red barn, a white moon, or a pale blue sky depends on the framing. The first example below draws the eye to the German words along the edge of the print while the Madonna and Child become almost secondary. In the second (click arrow below), the viewer is riveted on the Madonna sheltering her child and feels the protective comfort she provides (Madonna of Stalingrad drawn by Kurt Reuber in trenches of WWII). Same picture, different frame, different experience.

Something similar happens when we mentally reframe a difficult situation. A roadblock becomes a challenge; a mistake becomes a learning opportunity; a pandemic becomes a season for reassessing values, changing our life, building resiliency.

As the first pandemic year turns becomes a second, reframing helps us not only survive the pandemic but celebrate the good we have brought from it. Reframing helps us go forward with hope.

First, the fact that we were resilient enough to survive a year of the pandemic is worth celebrating. We made it. Yes, there is more ahead, but we survived. None of us imagined what the year would be like, nor that constraints on our life would last so long. The muscles of resiliency we strengthened last year will grow even stronger in 2021. Reframing the pandemic to celebrate our resilience and perseverance helps us keep going. We can do this. (See Resilience in Many Forms)

Second, the past year has been a season of growth. We read, streamed, cleaned, cooked, began new hobbies, and learned new technology skills. In 2021 we take that to a new level. There are more books to read, movies to watch, skills to expand, and cuisines to explore-and plenty of time to do it.

In the early months of the coronavirus, we sorted pantries, closets, and garages. Now we can do it all over again and peel away another layer. Stuff that seemed essential last year no longer does. Cull paperwork. Rethink a room. Simplify our space. Redo storage and closets. Add a houseplant. Throw away that ugly chair. (See Open My Window, Birds Still Sing)

February will end. The snow will melt. Spring will come. Government logistics are already improving and vaccine supplies increasing. We will emerge from pandemic isolation eventually. I promise.

We have made it this far and proven our resilience. Surviving coronavirus with our sanity will not be easy, but we can make it easier by reframing our experience. Looking across my desk to the snowy garden beyond my windows, I live in hope.  

Finding Calm in the Coronavirus Storm

Each night as I try to fall asleep, I can’t help but imagine dying of coronavirus pneumonia in a hospital without my family. I turn my mind to God and fall asleep.

Each day, I think about the reality that people I love will certainly die in the next three months. Who will care for their families? Will I be one of the grieving or the dead, or both? The grief around us will become overwhelming as it is now in other parts of the world. As someone said recently, the freight train coming towards us in the U.S. has become a bullet train. I push the thoughts out of my mind and go about my day.

Several times each day, I imagine the people who are sit at their kitchen table wonder how to pay their bills and rent, buy groceries, and care for their loved ones after suddenly losing their jobs. At other times, I think about the thousands of homeless people and refugees with no way to wash their hands and clean their belongings frequently, and no way to self-quarantine to stay safe. How terrifying that must be. I say a quick prayer for them.

At other times I think about those who risk their lives and their families to work on our behalf, among them medical personnel from doctors, nurses, Certified Nurse Attendants to custodians; grocery and delivery workers, utility workers, first responders; government and community leaders; military personnel; transit drivers; Meals on Wheels providers; nursing home staff; reporters; and factory, farm, and warehouse workers. I am awed by their courage and commitment to the common good. With an aching heart, I lift a prayer on the wind.

I think of those who must still go to work because their bosses require them to do so, those who cannot afford to stay home, and the 70% of workers whose jobs cannot be done from home. These are brave people, whether they consider themselves brave or not, for whom I am unspeakably grateful and afraid. Be with them, God, and with their loved ones.

I don’t have children at home who need my attention, steadiness, love, and assurance, and for whom I need to be an referee or instant teacher as we remain in quarantine. It’s only my husband and I who will get cabin fever, feel bored, anxious, or irritable. Fortunately, we have a steady source of income and haven’t lost jobs. As an epidemiologist said recently, streaming Netflix while sitting on our sofa doesn’t feel like we’re doing anything to save the world, but we are. Not spreading the virus saves loved ones, caregivers, the world.

I know I am not alone in these feelings. I invite you to pause and pray for all of the people above, some names known to you but most unknown. Pray each day in your own words or with no words. If you are not a praying person, use the guided meditation below.

Breathe slowly several times. Settle your heart. Hold person or group in your mind. Imagine a gentle breeze of peace moving over and around them. Imagine them growing calm, then filling with wisdom and insight. Imagine a path opening before them through a forest and that the Holy One who created the universe will hold them and care for them as they walk that path, no matter what comes. Let that same peace and confidence and courage enter your being, as well. Breathe. Open your eyes and continue your day.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Be at peace. The Holy One who created the universe will hold you and care for you in the days ahead, no matter what comes.

Woman with wind-blown hair standing on beach near sea gulls

Coronavirus: How to Keep Yourself and Others Well

I could be your sister, mother, friend, wife, neighbor, or stranger. As I stand on the beach, I look absolutely healthy. You’d never know my heart and lungs are fragile and my immune system compromised. Multitudes of people who look equally healthy are also at grave risk from the coronavirus. We live, work, play, party, and volunteer among you. If we are going to survive the coronavirus, we need everyone to take it seriously.

The coronavirus doesn’t care about party affiliations or Presidential preferences. It doesn’t honor national or state borders. It latches onto hosts regardless of wealth, age, gender, or race. Even if it doesn’t make you ill or kill you, it let’s you carry to others like a bee carries pollen from one flower to another. It doesn’t care whether you take it seriously, think it’s ordinary, or consider it a hoax. It’s coming to your neighborhood no matter who you are and what you think of it. Take it seriously. Now.

Our communities need us to be responsible, thoughtful, and kind. This is not the time to try put others at risk by flouting medical and scientific precautions, even if you currently think they’re overblown. Within a mere two weeks of the first two deaths here, the coronavirus went from being invisible in my small community outside Seattle to killing 40 people in their 50’s – 90’s. Scientific modelling shows why we need to change our behavior. The White House, Congress, state governments, and other nations took important actions in recent days. Now it’s time for each of us to do our part.

Here’s some of what we can do.

  • Stay home–stores, bars, restaurants, offices. Don’t even go to private parties with friends. I know that sounds draconian but we can pass along the coronavirus for two weeks before we even have symptoms. Each person we infect will unwittingly infect others. Recognize our responsibility to others beyond ourselves and act accordingly.
  • “Think of yourself as one transmission away from being in the same room with someone who is high risk,” says Dr. Steven Pergam, infectious disease specialist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Consider ourselves part of a mass community shield for the elderly and others who may have less ability to fight off the virus.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and family. If they’re wise, they’re already in self-quarantine. They’d love phone contact with outside people, particularly friends and family. If you’re not an at-risk person (I am), offer to shop for them, pick up prescriptions, or get their mail. If they accept, leave what you get them at the door so you don’t inadvertently carry the coronavirus inside their home.
  • Don’t hoard toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or food. Buy what we will reasonably use in 14 days and leave the rest for others. Remember, we’re in this together.
  • Be kind. Tell the people in our life that we appreciate them–co-workers, clerks, employees. Tell our family and friends often that we love them. This is a time to remember that we “do not know what the day will bring forth” and that some of the people we care about may not be accessible to us very soon. Stay in touch. Many parts of life have been cancelled. Love has not.
  • Pay particular attention to the people and world around us: notice clouds, trees, spring flowers, smile lines, the flavors of a meal, a small hand in ours, laughter across a board game, raindrops running down a window. Use this crisis to notice how precious and extraordinary life is.

Every human being is connected to the human race from before our birth. Our belly buttons remind us that we did not come into this world on our own. We are part of a larger community that is both gift and responsibility. We honor or desecrate that holy connection by our choices in this crisis either honor or desecrate that sacred relationship. Please choose prayerfully and wisely. All of us are depending it.