I don’t feel as if I’m living history. I do feel cooped up, angry my 91-year old uncle is celebrating his birthday self-isolating and, when I awake at three in the morning, I even allow myself to feel afraid. But making history? No.
Except I recently went to Crystal Cove in the afternoon, midweek and saw the Sandpiper birds racing along the water’s edge, their spindly legs playing a perpetual game of tag with the ebb and flow. Forward, backward, sideways, they constantly avert contact.
I realized it is how we now are in the grocery stores, in the pharmacies, awaiting take out from our favorite restaurants.
We touch, at arm’s length, only the most necessary of items, and quickly retract once it’s in our carts. Waiting six feet apart in the checkout line some folks stop their arms midway, and turn their hands downward. Others forget and cringe as soon as they realize their fingers brushed away loose hair, touched cheek, nose, lips.
We now all recognize this innate action can suddenly can make us ill, even kill us.
I wonder if the shoppers wearing disposable gloves actually feel any safer? Or am I just rationalizing, jealous they were prepared and have items I naively never imagined I’d need. And by the time reality set in, everything was sold out.
Am I a living example of Darwinism in action? What else am I forgetting for my survival? Even if I can’t procure it, I should at least have known I needed it. The question nags at me at the most inopportune times, like in the middle of a work webinar on applying for unemployment. I realize the fact I can even write ‘a work webinar on unemployment’ illustrates just how ludicrous our current life is.
This invisible assassin is striking throughout the world, maxing our medical systems, forcing people to drop loved ones at hospital entrances because no visitors are allowed. Yet these are the same hospitals where babies are being born every day. So now, during even the most heartbreaking and the most wondrous moments of life, people are braving it alone.
We’re alone in our homes and in our society. And maybe the reality is we’ve been alone far longer than the cornovirus has been around. We’ve been living apart, disenfranchised, disconnected. Busy rushing, binging, texting. Only now, when we’re forced to consciously isolate, do we realize how much we need to be interconnected. Not just for our economy, and our lifestyles, but for our souls, our happiness.
Since all this started I have been throwing up prayers to a god who I’ve had a tenuous relationship with through the years. Right now, She really isn’t on my favorite list and yes, I’m sure my actions have landed me plenty of times on Her own eye-rolling list. But I am certainly wondering what this is all about in the big scheme of things. What happens when a virus that can’t be seen unveils its staggering power over the world? Will this uprooting of our lives actually fundamentally change our values? And will we, can we, emerge better for it?
Perhaps making history now offers a chance to get it right for the future.
If so, when this is over we’ll trust scientists, data, the medical profession, journalists. Maybe we’ll understand we need our neighbors and will actually elect real leaders rather than politicians who just feed us what we want to hear. We’ll know planning for the future is not frivolous – it’s responsible. And ultimately, we’ll cherish the profound gift of holding our loved ones’ hands in their times of need – whether they are on a death bed or bringing new life into this world.
Theresa Keegan is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Orange County. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Miami Herald, Newsday and NPR.
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