As the COVID-19 pandemic looms on, it continues to teach lessons. As frustrated as I have been these last five months, I’ve also been in awe of the pandemic lessons I’ve learned. I’ve been hesitant to write about it all because this is such a hot button topic. Let me begin by saying this is not a political article. However, I think we would all be negligent to our own spiritual growth if we didn’t look at this pandemic for the lessons we can learn from it. Pandemic lessons for me have varied from adjustments in my food storage to learning how to serve and minister to others while social distancing. Today, I would like to talk about just one pandemic lesson—fear.
The other day, I called a good friend of mine to catch up and solve the world’s problems. We used to go to lunch periodically, but since the pandemic, we’ve been reduced to an occasional phone call. In the process of venting our quarantine frustrations, she asked me, “Do you remember when we were kids the whole ‘drop, duck, and cover’ thing? Do you remember everyone wanting to build bomb shelters?” Of course, I remembered. Even as a little kid I was smart enough to realize that ducking under my tiny little desk at school was not going to save me from an atomic blast! I also remember shaking my head as my mother hid bottles of water inside an antique wood stove turned plant rack for the imminent atomic attack.
We then talked about what the world (particularly the USA) has come to in the way of trying to put a Band-Aid on a broken leg. In our efforts to fix the problem, we have lost sight of all common sense. Don’t get me wrong, there is a real problem, and we should be doing everything we possibly can to find a solution. Unfortunately, our fear has replaced science and good old common sense.
After the telephone conversation with my friend, I read this:
“After 9/11, physical security became a national obsession, especially in airports, where the Transportation Security Administration patted down the crotches of innumerable grandmothers for possible explosives. My colleague Jim Fallows repeatedly referred to this wasteful bonanza as ‘security theater.’
COVID-19 has reawakened America’s spirit of misdirected anxiety, inspiring businesses and families to obsess over risk-reduction rituals that make us feel safer but don’t actually do much to reduce risk—even as more dangerous activities are still allowed. This is hygiene theater” (Derek Thompson, “Hygiene Theater Is a Huge Waste of Time,” The Atlantic, July 27, 2020).
Mr. Thompson’s point was that we are spending incredible amounts of money, time, and effort scrubbing down everything we could possibly touch instead of concentrating our efforts controlling how COVID-19 is actually spread—by air particulates.
It is the nature of mortal beings to be fearful. Danger that we can’t even see, such as COVID-19, can be terrifying. As individuals, how can we fight something we cannot see? The military developed night goggles for this very reason. They couldn’t fight what they couldn’t see. It is simply unreasonable to think that we could all run around all day with microscopes to analyze the things we touch and the air we breathe in order to protect ourselves from this deadly virus. Instead, we find ourselves running around with antiseptic cloths to disinfect everything we touch.
Fear is real. This is a really good pandemic lesson. That means we need to learn how to control our fear before it begins to control us. This is not an easy goal. I will admit in the early days of this pandemic, I disinfected everything in sight. Then, to avoid the smirks and mocking from my husband who knew before I did that I’d gone a bit over the edge, I began to do my disinfecting after he went to bed at night. However, as the information about how this virus is spread became more evident, my disinfecting efforts became less frequent (more like once a week) instead of burning the midnight oil every night. It became clear that social distancing was much more important to keep us safe. It was important for me to adjust my thought process in order to keep fear from making me put a Band-Aid on the broken leg.
I’m still working on controlling fear. This may be the most difficult pandemic lesson for me to learn. My biggest fear is that either my husband or I will get sick (with anything; not necessarily with COVID-19) and die alone in a hospital due to quarantine restrictions. Frankly, this thought immobilizes me with pure terror. I’m working on it. Fear is real.
Difficult Discussions; Difficult Decisions
The pandemic lesson of fear has made me reevaluate several times over the last five months how “safe” I want to be. My husband will be 78 in September, and I will be 66 in December. The longer this pandemic goes on, the larger the percentage of “the rest of our lives” we flush down the toilet. How safe do we want to be? At some point, we have to weigh whether it is more important to hold a grandchild on our lap versus being alone until we die. We want to protect our grandchildren from getting COVID-19 from us, but in that process, are we depriving them of the experience of having grandparents? If we resume contact with our grandchildren, are we being selfish? These have been real discussions we’ve had in our home.
Every summer, I hold “Granny Camp” for our grandchildren, which includes a week’s worth of activities and the cousins getting together. It was a difficult decision to cancel Granny Camp this summer. In a couple of weeks, we may get together outside in a park for a social distance picnic as an alternative. This was a difficult decision for our entire extended family. We all want to protect our families, and we respect each family’s right to protect their children the best way they know how—and none of us really knows how to do that. Again, we can’t fight what we can’t see. We just have to listen to information we have been given, evaluate our circumstances, and try to use science, knowledge, common sense, and spiritual inspiration to rule our decisions instead of pandemic fear.
If anything good comes out of COVID-19, it will be the pandemic lessons we learn. I hope we are paying attention. The Holy Ghost is here to guide us and protect us. He will help us through each and every day until this ends—if we will only listen—so that we will learn the pandemic lessons.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.