Monday, April 13, 2020

We Count

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As the current pandemic holds us prisoners in more ways than one, I find that my days are now filled with counting...

I count the days since we’ve self-quarantined, and the days until the virus will peak, and then hopefully die.

I keep track of the count of the number of positive cases—in our towns, our cities, our nation and the world. 

I count the days before touching something that’s been delivered to our home. 

I count the number of seconds when I wash my hands; or when I let the disinfectant dwell on my surfaces. 

I count the rolls of toilet paper we have left in our home. 

I count the cans of soup, corn, beans, tuna left in our pantry so we can ration more efficiently. 

I count how many more days until we would need to step out and buy more groceries, possibly exposing ourselves to the virus. 

I count the distance between myself and a stranger, making sure it’s at least 6 feet. 

And after every essential trip outside the home, I count the days—3, 5, 12, until day 14—before I allow myself to get a full sigh of relief for reaching the maximum incubation period of this virus without feeling ill. The cycle repeats every time any of us leaves the house. 

For an anxious person like myself, these are torturous—even debilitating—times. 

But I know all this counting is done from a place of privilege. The neuroticism has to be tempered by a dose of gratitude... 

I still have supplies to count. 

I have running water to constantly wash my hands with. Not everyone is as fortunate. 

I can rely on others to shop for our family so I don’t physically enter the stores that have now felt like land mine-laden real estate in my mind. 

I, with my husband and child, can afford to stay home and not put ourselves at risk unlike the healthcare, emergency, and other essential workers who have truly stepped up and become our heroes. All of them, I’m sure, can’t be bothered to obsess about the incubation period. There is only every day to count and be thankful for. 

On the flip side, this pandemic has also forced me to stop counting certain things...

I’ve given up on counting how many pounds I’ve gained, or if I’ve eaten too many chips or cookies today. 

I can’t be bothered with obsessing over how many more gray hairs I see on my head, wondering if I’ll ever dye my hair again. 

I couldn’t care less about how many people in my social circle annoyed me today, especially on social media; I see clearer than ever who matter and who don’t, who I’ll miss most and who I can do without. 

I certainly couldn’t keep track of how many times I’ve cursed, either out loud or in my head, whenever I see or hear people deny science in understanding this virus, and refuse expert knowledge to guide them in conducting daily life. In such instances, I do my best to soothe my rage and fears with deep breaths and prayers recited ad infinitum. 

In the end, it’s all a personal decision as to what we each choose to count and not count, what we still consider to have real weight during this time when we are all fighting for our lives and sanity. 

However, I do hope it becomes clear to each of us that one thing we can’t put a limit on—one thing unequivocally worth keeping track of—is the question of how we can help and be there for others today, no matter how small the effort may seem. This, after all, is what truly defines our humanity. Let no virus or pandemic strip us of that.