It’s been a weird month as I’ve watched COVID-19 draw closer to our area. I work for a hospital so information has been ongoing and helpful. It’s been much easier to sort through what my hospital tells me than navigating our news cycles. While it took time to understand this new virus, I have always felt more threatened by the reaction of people than the virus itself.

Some move into panic prematurely. Others ignore good information and common sense. My hope is that most of us fall somewhere in between those two extremes. I was encouraged to see most of my fellow grocery shoppers to have 10-20 items in their carts at checkout. They were calm and good-natured. There was the occasional cart filled to the point of overflowing, often with items that seemed more dangerous to one’s health than the virus itself. But that was the exception.

Difficulty reveals aspects of who we truly are. I have been reminded lately that I am impatient with what feels like hysteria. I loathe a lack of common sense. While those aren’t bad things, my responses can sometimes feel unkind. I’m thinking about that as I practice some social distancing. I’m considering what would be helpful to those feeling frightened or being dismissive, or at least better understand what is not helpful in those situations.

I also realize how important it is to have that circle of people who don’t need you to be careful, who allow you to be who you are. They don’t expect me to be perfect and can say to me what they are thinking and feeling. This is particularly helpful in times of stress and strain.

In my job, I am reminded daily of the fragility of life. Most people deny that and I understand why. But knowledge of that reality does help in times like these. I don’t try to convince myself that if I try hard enough, I can prevent a bad outcome. I know that bad things happen even when everything right had been done. Instead of being paralyzed, I try to embrace the moment I am in and the opportunities it presents. I try to practice gratitude. These actions really do make a big difference in my ability to stay informed but not be overwhelmed; to prepare without falling into a deep sense of dread.

I know the alarmists and the deniers are the noisiest at the moment. It can be hard to turn the volume down. Those of us working to stay calm are simply trying to do our part rather than be heard. Yesterday I spent time helping a friend then planting some flowers. Today I will take a hike. Tomorrow I will go back to work and help my healthcare system continue its important work. It’s a balancing act of doing for others and taking care of myself. Both are important, especially now.

This pandemic virus will pass, just like ones before it. The cost may be high, but does not need to be at the expense of our humanity or the care of our community. Be smart. Stay informed. Wash your hands regularly for a good 20 seconds each time and don’t touch your face. Be kind and patient. Take good care of you and those around you. Make sure those who are vulnerable have what they need. Stay home if you’re sick. Help those whose jobs are being impacted by closures or don’t have sick pay.

Isn’t this what we should be doing all the time anyway?

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