It has been very interesting, to say the least, to see my friends’ and family’s responses to being shut away in their homes for months. We each have our strong opinions about the pandemic, and we love to share them.
I’ve noticed that many people have started to divide themselves and others into exactly two groups: those who care about social distancing and masks and those who don’t. We adopt this unhelpful dichotomous thinking for many things (politics, to name one). I’m going to venture to say that there are not exactly two groups of people based on responses to the pandemic. Each of us live along a spectrum of how seriously we take it, how much we truly understand about it (or know that we don’t really understand it), and the lengths we will go to prevent outbreaks.
Just this month, my family and I relocated from Florida to Texas, where my husband will start his medical residency (I’m so proud!!). While we were still in Florida, we felt comfortable visiting with our friends in person because we knew we wouldn’t see them much longer, and we also weren’t taking too many other risks. Upon our move to Texas, however, we were confronted with the very difficult decision to visit all, none, or some of our many family and friends who remain there from our childhood (my husband and I were both born and raised in Texas). This turned out to be the biggest challenge we’ve faced so far during the quarantine since we are both pretty introverted and we didn’t really have anything we needed to be doing outside of the home anyway. Do we wear masks? Do we ask them to wear masks? Do we let them hold and kiss our 11-month-old daughter? Do we first shut ourselves away for two weeks because we might be carrying it ourselves? Do we see anyone over 65? What if they’re 64? Will people think we are paranoid because we’re following the rules too closely, or irresponsible because we are seeing anyone at all right now? Our daughter’s first birthday is coming up. Do we throw her a birthday party?!
Every single one of us has made sacrifices during quarantine, whether externally or self-imposed, and we’ve all taken risks of varying degrees, too.
The last thing we need to do is judge others for how they are handling the pandemic. Under times of crisis, though, this seems to be the first thing many of us do. Maybe we do this as a way to validate ourselves for how we are handling things. Whatever the reason, jumping to a conclusion about someone else’s actions isn’t appropriate or helpful. We don’t know what they’re experiencing. We might think we have each of our relatives figured out, but we don’t. During the six weeks it took us to finally find toilet paper at a store, I was angry at the people who had “panic bought” all the toilet paper and soap (and I know I wasn’t the only one). Then someone in my life proudly told me that she had stockpiled enough toilet paper to last her and her husband six months. What hit me at that moment, aside from anger and resentment and blame towards her for my lack of toilet paper, was the recognition that her husband was older and frequently ill with various diseases. I then realized that maybe she had a good reason to buy all the toilet paper. She really wasn’t going out anytime soon for fear that she might lose her partner to this virus, and that’s not a fear that I can understand.
What I’ve realized now is that whether her fear was rational or not doesn’t matter. That would be a judgement. And she doesn’t belong to the dichotomously split group of people who “are too paranoid” about COVID-19. We are all confused right now about how to respond, how much to worry, how to care for ourselves, and how to find a balance between risk and responsibility. The people currently alive on this earth haven’t gone through anything like this together yet, so we’re having to figure out a lot of stuff as we go. We can, and arguably should, look to history to help us with this, but that’s another post for another day.
Here’s the kicker: none of us want to be sick with anything, and all of us want to be happy and visit with friends and family and do the things we love. I think the most powerful thing we can do right now is to remember our common ground. On that note, as a mom/wife/daughter/granddaughter/sister/friend, I have many people in my life who I care about deeply, and so do you. I do implore you to take the measures to stay safe and keep each other safe (wear masks, wash/sanitize hands, avoid large groups of people) since we are seeing a new and very serious uptick in COVID cases this month. That’s not a mutually exclusive thing from living our lives; they can easily overlap. I actually found this article helpful in determining how I can reasonably reduce my risk of unknowingly transmitting the virus while still living my life.
Stay compassionate, friends!