“No one could ever get into this sacred place that only I’m allowed in.” – – Australian Olympic Gold Medalist Cathy Freeman.
It began rather innocuously at my workplace. I had been out of the office (my peers and I schedule appointments for a health care organization) and came back one day to a Skype chain with people cracking wise about Covid-19, and a single person telling everyone to knock it off, this is serious. More jokes, and then once again “you shouldn’t be joking around about this.” My observation has been that one of this person’s favorite sports is controlling others. And so I have avoided said person as best I can. The Skype chain happened early last week, long before we began fielding calls from panicked patients who were sure they had Covid. My initial reaction to this person’s repeated admonishments was rather ho-hum. And to my credit I did resist the voice in my head that told me to go to her desk and start singing “My Corona.” The efforts at control by others have not snowballed impossibly, but they have increased. After all, fear is a pretty normal response to what’s going on in the world today. I was pleased to note that my reflex response was to go deeper inside.
Each day this week, I’d say that most of the calls I’ve taken from patients have been around Covid-19. There are of course procedures in place to deal with anyone who thinks they need to be tested, whether it be having the person talk to a triage nurse or to refer the person to various websites to do an online screening. As I’ve said to several times as I transferred callers to our overworked nursing staff, “I’ve tried to refer them to the website but they just don’t hear me.” So part of my job has become to honor the fears of patients, real or imagined. Many of my callers symptoms have absolutely nothing to do with Covid, but they will not be swayed. It has been a major exercise in neutrality for me. Yes, I recognize how serious this has all gotten, and I still prefer to let it be.
Right now it seems to me that the focus of my work ought to be maintaining a calm voice in the storm. It has not been difficult. My brother died last summer. Both of my parents died in the nineties. My sister and her husband both died in the two thousands courtesy of alcoholism. The closest friend I’ve ever had died when he was twenty-four and I was twenty-six. Seven people who used to come to my AA group at West End died by overdose and/or suicide in 1991. I could go on and on. Nobody gets out alive. I am sixty-three years old and supposedly in a pretty high risk group for Covid. Social distancing? I had that down pat before it was a “thing.” Sometimes I genuinely isolate and other times I just enjoy my own company. Running, reading and meditation don’t interest me as group activities. Using these or Reiki, or practicing the Medicine Buddha systems as solitary activities allow me to bring some peace into my world. I am not arrogant enough to say that the peace is mine. I just know where to find it.
I’ve felt largely unaffected by Mr. Covid other than observing the world fall apart. Maybe I’m whistling in the dark. I genuinely am looking forward to the other side. But is there a way to do this without pain? If I get a hangnail it strikes me as cause to call 9-1-1. Other than that, I’ll joke about anything I care to, thank you very much. Today I felt impact in the form of my young boss making an effort to move me toward working at home. I live in an efficiency unit and last year when I inquired about moving home, I was told that my apartment was too small. I can move into a larger unit but my lease is nowhere near done so it will cost me five hundred dollars to break it. So much for working at home.
I actually heaved a sigh of relief when the work from home plan crumbled. I don’t mind change as long as I don’t have to be inconvenienced. So what happens today? My landlord called me and said they would waive the five hundred buck fee. A few hours later my boss told me that they would allow me to work from my efficiency apartment. Sometimes the chaos that precedes creation is just a pain in the ass. My current dilemma is that I don’t have a desk that would support two large computer monitors and I don’t have spare cash to be tossing around for a new one. (Hey, help if you can point me to one or somebody who wants to unload one.) So this is the consequence of Covid-19 for me so far. My great nephew has a soon to be one year old daughter who was born prematurely and has a compromised immune system. She may indeed be at risk. It is said that “only the elderly and ill” are in jeopardy. Ignacio’s beautiful comeback to that was “your only thing is my ‘everything.”
I reserve the right to refuse someone entry into my sacred space because they want me to be afraid with them. That is not compassion. I may not share your fear with you, but I may choose to allow love to flow through me, and it is up you to accept it or not. I will not argue your choice. Something I’ve heard ringing in my mind repeatedly has been “it is time to shine.” Now is an opportunity to practice being loving. As Richard Bach said in “Illusions,” “. . . laughing on the way to your execution is not generally understood, and they’ll call you crazy.” My worst case scenario in the coming days is grieving the loss of some laziness. I’m not looking forward to a new computer set-up and the miracle of finding a desk. The rest I have no control over, other than singing “Happy Birthday” as I wash my hands (maybe I’ll try “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.”) and other precautions. And so it goes. If nothing else, I hope reading this made you smile. And now back my shine . . .