Fear, Uncertainty, and Determination

An introspection on entering the age of pandemics and social distancing.

I am afraid.

I am, of course, afraid of getting sick. Probably the same amount of fear I usually have about being sick – I don’t tend to get sick, and the rare times I do, I tend to recover in a reasonable amount of time, so I believe I’m likely to be on the mild end of things. But I built my life and my living on the assumption that I am well enough to do my work. Head colds and fatigue are bad enough. How can I continue to work, to help, to function if sickness is bad enough to keep me bedridden? But I do have insurance, and someone living with me to help me if things get bad, and I’m pretty fortunate in general. Plus, this is probably the most I’ve ever practiced good germ-containment hygiene in my life. So there is fear, but it’s a mild fear.

I am afraid for my livelihood. Not as much as some other people are right now, people whose jobs have already been eliminated or placed on an indeterminate hold. Not as much as I may have been in the past with a smaller reserve of cash and fewer long-term clients. But I’ve had cancellations and holds on large signed projects. I’ve had financial losses on travel and event expenses that were planned, which I won’t get back. I feel like I am in a good place for now, with current contracts and projects on my plate that should last through the summer, but I know that contracts are changeable and things could change any time. This is probably not any worse than it’s ever been before, though my living expenses are higher (even without the costs of my formerly vibrant social life). Still, I don’t know how long my fortunate status quo will last.

I am afraid for the people I know, the people I care about, and their loved ones. I am afraid, like my anxious mind always is, for the worst case scenario. I try not to dwell on this fear when it comes to their health, as there isn’t anything I can do about that besides encourage them to take care of themselves and hope statistics work in their favor. But it’s hard not to be afraid for the other hardships they’re about to face, or currently facing. People hurting from lack of work, or lack of contact. People overworked trying to take care of patients, or stocking shelves, or delivering goods. People exposing themselves to risk trying to make everyone else’s lives livable. People isolated from the world and losing their support networks, their sources of income, their coping mechanisms. My heart is hurting for them, and I just want to help, somehow.

I am uncertain.

I am uncertain what tomorrow will bring. It seems like every day we wake up to a new set of rules, of worries, of complications, of what Normal is… if you can even call it normal, when it’s constantly changing. I don’t know if tomorrow is the day where we wake up and we’re not supposed to go outside. Or if tomorrow another major law changes. Or more businesses have to shutter. Or critical infrastructure is overwhelmed. Or something happens to the processes which ensure life can continue while we’re all stuck waiting at home – food, water, refuse, electricity, healthcare, internet.

I am uncertain how long this will last. I know that everyone is. Things that are currently officially discussed in terms of weeks, we all feel in the back of our minds will more realistically be months. I am watching government policies change on a daily basis, state governments trying to balance oncoming economic uncertainty with an increasingly somber acceptance of how bad this could get. Decisions are made, with end dates that we know will get revisited, extended, pushed back to some unknown future. I wish for a date on the calendar where we will know for certain the worst is over and everything is ok and we can come out again. I wish we knew exactly how long we needed to hunker down for, but I know right now that isn’t possible. I realize, beneath it all, it was never truly possible. 

I am uncertain about what the future of western society looks like when we emerge from the other side. We’ve lived through disasters. and lockdowns, and sicknesses, and wars, but never anything that affected the entire civilian population so directly and completely. Our entire national vocabulary changed seemingly overnight. An unprecedented shuttering of nearly all major entertainment institutions within weeks. And everyone online, together, sharing the good and the bad and watching the nature of human interaction change right in front of us. What does consumer culture look like after this? What do gatherings and celebrations and ceremonies look like? What does work and worship and education and community look like? Or travel? Or socializing? The smallest business to the largest enterprise are feeling the dual effects of an isolating pandemic and a wildly vacillating financial marketplace. Who knows where we land?

I am determined.

I am determined to act in a responsible manner regarding my physical, mental, and financial health throughout this entire thing. Remembering one of the Four Agreements to always do your best, and remembering that my best is a variable depending on the time, energy, and resources available to me in that moment. I will nourish my body in a way that I haven’t been able to during the typical grind, with longer hours for sleep, fewer opportunities to drink, home cooked healthy meals, less caffeine, and daily movement on a more natural schedule. I will use my extra time to keep my physical and mental space clear, whether that is through keeping my space tidy, maintaining my gratitude practice, writing blog posts, sharing thoughts with friends, or tackling larger chores. I will use my flexible schedule to pursue self improvement when I have the energy to do so, reading books that have been collecting dust on my shelf, pursuing an exercise program I’ve been avoiding, and possibly diving back into other creative hobbies if we need to remain sheltered in place for the long haul.

I am determined to use the resources I have to help people in whatever way doesn’t hurt my own physical, mental, and financial health. This might be through money: buying takeout from neighborhood restaurants, donating to a person or cause that is hurting for cash, prepaying for future services, or just giving money to a friend for something they need. It might be though time: helping the organizations I’m a part of communicate with their members, lending my organizational skills to virtual events, stepping up to help with documentation or teaching or processes. It might be through sharing links and resources and memes and stories that help people cope with mental or physical stress. It might be writing blog articles, or posting workout motivation, or photographing the takeout I’m having, or highlighting good deeds people are doing. It might be through trying to help connect others when we are so disconnected.

I am determined to believe that we can survive. And I am determined to believe that, eventually, we will once again be able to thrive.

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