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My husband and I must be the only two seniors who embrace sanity over panic. We live in a 55+ community, where many people have pre-existing conditions or simply don’t take care of themselves. To deal with their anxiety regarding the COVID-19, they feel they have to do something. They’ve decided to shop. When we went to do our weekly shopping, you would have thought that a five-force hurricane was offshore bearing down on us. Shelves were cleared of bottled water, milk, and toilet paper. I’m not sure why they’ve gotten toilet paper, but I guess for those of us who are spoiled Westerners, toilet paper is a necessity.
We walked through the store, shaking our heads. I hope those people are feeling more at ease. I doubt it.
The fact is, the mystery and uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus are terrifying to people. They go to their worst-case scenario: we’re all going to die. Dead people will be lying in the streets, and those of us remaining will trip over their corpses. Those frightened people won’t tell you how they feel, but at a subconscious level I’m pretty sure that the fear and panic reaches those extreme levels.
So how are my husband and I experiencing the threat? Well, my husband was diagnosed with a bronchial-lung condition, bronchiectasis, 25 years ago. That means the cilia in his bronchial tubes, those little hairs that keep junk out of his lungs, have disappeared over time. His lungs are damaged and continue to get worse, as he coughs on a regular basis. Yes, he’s one of those seniors with an underlying medical condition. He’s been told that there’s no treatment, no cure, but he won’t die from it. He’ll die from something else. Right.
But we figure we’re homebodies and don’t go out much. Except we do go out to eat occasionally. We were going to a diner that we go to infrequently, then realized people might be worried by his coughing. So, okay, we went to the restaurant in our housing development, where many people will recognize him and know his condition. And then, too, nursing homes are becoming more and more restricted, so I may be barred from seeing my hospice patient soon. And I have two small groups who are scheduled to meet in my home in the next two weeks; I wonder if participants will be willing to come to at least one of them. The other group has only three of us; one said we can sit three feet apart; the other has a challenged immune system.
And then there is the flight planned to Baltimore; I’m going on my own, but I could unintentionally bring home whatever “guest” might hook up with me. We can wait several months to go on a mini-vacation to the Tampa Zoo and the Dali Museum, although we’d hoped to go in April. And the 12-day cruise beginning at the end of May, starting in Israel—who knows what will happen?
The world will not come to an end if all these plans fall through. There are people who are sick with the virus, and some have even died. My concerns are minor compared to theirs.
But we have a lot of uncertainty. Rather than denying those feelings, we are acknowledging them, facing them directly and trying to maintain an attitude of “not knowing,” of curiosity. We may coast through this time, illness-free. We may at some point decide to stay home and enjoy the many interests that we have here. We may feel sad about lost opportunities or pray for those who do become ill. We know that we will die one day; we just hope it is later rather than sooner. We will appreciate life, one day at a time, as best we can.
We’re just not the fear and panic type.
P.S. We received an email last night stating that nearly all the facilities in our development including the gyms will be closed indefinitely. They asked residents not to steal the hand sanitizer equipment and sanitary wipes.Published in