Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures: stay home and rest, especially at ANY sign of illness.
This poses an incredible challenge in a culture that is built on staunch individualism and on muscling through, no matter what.
Since birth, implicitly or not, it’s been impressed on us that our worthiness, our ability to make a name for ourselves, our value as a productive member of society depends upon our being tough enough to “just do it” no matter what we’re feeling, no matter what our common sense says, no matter what our body needs. When we have been trained so well to go against our own intuition for fear of being seen as weak and vulnerable, for being labeled a quitter and pressured for giving up, making the choice to stay home now at the slightest sniffle—or for “nothing”—feels like lunacy.
This is what unprecedented times call for: CHANGE. And in order for our attitudes and beliefs to change, for our behaviors to change, for our view of our own self-worth and potential impact on those around us to change, we need to keep the end in mind.
Our current “end” to keep in mind is that we are being asked, each and every one of us, to consider the larger implications of our actions. If we push through now as we have been conditioned our whole lives by our culture, our institutions, and our families—no matter how well intentioned—things will be worse for all of us, as Italy and other nations hardest hit, can attest to.
Hearing people say we’re all interconnected is one thing; to really truly act that way is another.
Our choices—your choices—matter.
As COVID-19 continues its spread, none of us knows if we are carrying and spreading the virus until it’s too late. That’s why the closings and restrictions feels so… well, restrictive. The freedom we know and love and depend on to do as we please—especially as Americans who are steeped in the inalienability of this right from birth as core to our identity—has limitations right now. In this culture that prides itself on being certain in all circumstances, we are being asked to step back preventatively in the face of something absolutely uncertain. A virus; something we cannot touch, predict, or even see.
It is more than a little unsettling. (For a brief stress reducing exercise please click on my video)
Navigating this uncertainty we’re all facing isn’t all that different from facing a life-limiting illness—we do what we can to fight the disease that may take our life, and we set our sights towards putting a plan in place for how we want to live the time we have, given what we know from moment to moment. All an important part of this planning are: getting our affairs in order with an advance care directive and living will, declaring a healthcare proxy, power of attorney, and an executor; considering our legacy and how we want to be remembered; reflecting on what our wishes are for the last months and weeks and days of life.
These are all conversations we can be having now, even during the COVID-19 crisis. I might even say especially now when for many of us the uncertainty of illness and death has never felt so close. We do this not so we’re in control, though it helps us sometimes to feel that way. We do this in order to bolster our resilience, so we are more prepared for whatever comes. We do this to support our loved ones so they aren’t left trying to guess what it is that we want.
And we do this to create space for the joy of living that continues to travel alongside the discomfort and disorientation of the unknown.
Christy Moe-Marek is a certified End of Life Doula, and an Anamcara End of Life Practitioner. She can be contacted through https://www.tendinglife.com