Yep, that’s me, geared up for the weeks and months ahead.
And, while protecting myself (and potentially others) is paramount, it’s just one of my many coronavirus strategies. This post is my sharing what I’m learning from my pandemic experiences in Italy and what I believe are the most important things I can do for myself. Those things are not just to stay safe and healthy, but to stay sane as well.
We’re in this for the long haul.
Please don’t hurl fruit, vegetables, and expletives at your computer screen when you read this. And, remember that if you’re on the other side of the Atlantic from me, you’re at least three weeks behind me on the curve.
I’d like nothing better than to believe that “this” all will be safely in the rearview mirror in a couple of months. Until just a few days ago, I’d held out hope that we’d be able to surmount this invisible contagion and get on with our lives. I’d hoped that this was a major, inconvenient pothole that could be fixed. But, the more I read of what is currently happening with second wave infections in Asian countries that were assaulted first, I realize that this isn’t going to be a quick fix. This article in The Guardian is a sobering reminder and cautionary note of the dangers of thinking a quick fix is at hand.
“Asian countries that started to feel tentative hope that their responses to the coronavirus pandemic were bearing fruit are now facing possible second waves, brought by a rush of panicked people racing home to beat border closures and quarantine orders.” — The Guardian
Maybe a “game-changer” will miraculously appear…
If so, I’ll be the first to do cartwheels (or at least learn how to do them for the first time). By “game-changer” I mean a solid therapeutic treatment for coronavirus that can be: 1) Ramped up quickly. 2) Have widespread application. Or, I’ll take a vaccine that can somehow defy odds and be fast-tracked in a way we haven’t seen before.
Meanwhile, I slap my head in frustration when I read the stories about states and cities in the U.S. that think they’ll escape any real effect because current stats are low. I think about Sweden, one of the holdouts in Europe implementing lifesaving restrictions. I’d encourage you to read the article in The Guardian: “‘They are leading us to catastrophe'” Sweden’s coronavirus stoicism begins to jar.”
“We are seeing signs of a higher doubling rate than Italy, Stockholm will soon have an acute ICU shortage, and they don’t understand that by then it will be too late to act. All of this is very dangerous.”
Why anyone would come to believe, with the increasing mountain of evidence, that they are somehow exempt from the effects of this contagion, is beyond me. Why anyone would resist expeditiously implementing coronavirus strategies seems downright insane and criminally negligent.
Okay, I realize that I’ve hopped up on my soapbox and gotten “preachy.” So, I’ll stop and just share with you my personal coronavirus strategies in the hope that you might find something of use!
1. Be tenacious. Hold on in the face of adversity.
At times I feel like I’m holding on by fingernails. I’m used to quick, or at least expeditious, fixes. This crisis is different and I know now, more than ever, that I have to keep hanging on and be ready to have my view of the world and life dismantled. I have to hold on until a new reality and new dynamic emerges. THIS, I believe is the most foundational of my coronavirus strategies.
2. Gear up for battle.
I’d thought by narrowly escaping the draft when I turned eighteen that I’d never remotely approach the likes of war. But, this is a war. It’s a war against an invisible and still largely un-understood enemy. So, in my coronavirus strategies, I’m learning to get used to behaviors and practices that are inconvenient but necessary. This is not only for staying safe, for protecting others (these days, I believe we have to adopt the vantage point that we could be asymptomatic carriers) but also for peace of mind.
I invite you to study the feature photo for this post. I’m wearing the one, yes one, mask given per family by the Treviso Comune. Four days ago I ventured out at around 10 a.m. to a small tent in front of the Duomo to take our one mask. Since then I’ve researched and implemented ways of sanitizing and reusing this mask for continued use. It’s made of a felt-like material and has three different ear slots to accommodate a variety of face landscapes.
Then come the surgical gloves. Three years ago I bought two big boxes of these, thinking I’d use them for house chores. Little did I know that they would become hot commodities in the last few weeks.
Lastly, come the rigors of donning outside shoes when I leave our front door within our condominium building. We keep our trash bins (compostable, metal and plastic, paper, and non-recylable) in a cantina (i.e. storage room) in the basement of our building. Every evening I head down four flights, fully armed, to empty trash and also to place bins outside our building for collection.
The same rigors apply to heading out to the grocer which (thankfully) is just across the street.
Back from the above described tasks is careful disrobing of shoes at the door, gloves, and finally the singular mask. All before scrubbing my hands.
This will be my way of life for the foreseeable future.
3. Park your impatience in long term parking.
This one of the coronavirus strategies is really tough. Our society has conditioned us for years to expect swift resolution. But, in the face of this pandemic, I’m realizing that’s simply an unrealistic expectation. No amount of wishful thinking has and is changing this situation. I’m afraid that we, as a species, are being asked to step way outside of what we know and what we expect from life.
Maybe the “game-changer” will show up tomorrow or in a few weeks, but I have to be be prepared for a prolonged wait.
4. Limit news and media consumption.
I’ve learned to not fall prey to believing that round-the-clock vigilance and consumption of the news is one of the effective coronavirus strategies. Finding fact-based, hard truth reporting is, in my opinion, the best use of one’s media time, provided it’s limited. There’s plenty of jockeying for political attention and favor, so I realize it’s hard to dodge all that.
Still, do the best you can, and set limits. Give yourself time away from hearing and seeing the constant onslaught of coverage. For me, a brief morning check-in, and a more in-depth day’s summary around 7 p.m. are sufficient. Not more than an hour in total per day is my goal.
5. Remember that I am not a doctor or an infectious disease specialist.
The internet is a powerful thing. It’s also incredibly dangerous in that people can convince themselves through researching several articles that they are onto something that doctors have overlooked. Understandably, as a culture, we expect quick medical fixes. We’re impatient (I am, at least). It’s far too easy, in my opinion, to think I’m some kind of exceptional Sherlock Holmes of medical cures. I neglect remembering that doctors go through years and years of rigorous training and information assimilation to be able to advise and treat people.
Maybe the vast number of brilliant medical minds have been overlooking cures or treatments that have been staring us in the face. If so, what does that say? Or, might these great minds be cautious for good reason, understanding the eagerness of the larger populous to take matters into their own hands?
Take the treatment for malaria that is in test trials. I do hope and pray that there is some good news on that front. BUT, if people rush prematurely to this as a hail Mary we could be in for some big problems. What many people zoom past is that this drug easily can be overdosed and fatal. Have you ever mistakenly taken an extra dose of a medication, forgetting that you’ve already taken your daily dose? Well, with this malaria medication, twice the normal daily dose can be fatal. Think about that. Also, remember that people with compromised liver or kidney function are not advised to take it, nor are people over sixty-five. Even for healthy individuals, use is limited so as to not cause liver or kidney damage.
That’s the little that I’ve learned. And, it’s enough to tell me to leave this to the experts and wait.
6. Seize the time to be constructive.
In the face of this pandemic, it’s far too easy to be frozen in fear, in inaction. This has been a painful lesson that I’ve learned about myself: I usually wait until I have green lights that all is okay. In this coronavirus crisis, I could be sitting on my sofa for weeks and months, doing nothing. What a shame that would be.
The big lesson I’m learning is the fallacy in believing that some kind of tangible, buoyant force is supposed to lift me up in order for me to be productive and successful. I’m learning that going ahead and acting in faith is essential, in spite of a sense the world is either on hold or falling apart. So, for me, I’ve been continuing to reach for my paintbrushes, to squeeze out some paints, and to approach my latest canvas. Currently, I’m tackling a large canvas with increasing vigor and confidence that I didn’t know existed. It’s a scene of Venice at night (might there be some symbolism there?).
7. Accept that material changes to life as a result of this crisis might end up being bigger than I’ve imagined.
Of all my coronavirus strategies this is, hands-down, the hardest one to swallow. I don’t want to have my ideas of how life is supposed to be and will be dashed. But, every night when we go to bed, we ask each other what life will be like when this is all over. With each passing day, with more news that we’re in this fight for the long haul, I’m having to surrender, to drop my ideas and entitlements to what I think life is supposed to give me.
On one hand, that makes me angry as hell. On the other hand, it is an enormous relief—one that brings a fleeting glimmer of hope that something new might be revealed that otherwise would remain hidden.
8. Treat yourself to the little things that bring you joy.
Don’t laugh. I’ve always been in love with Bug Bunny. As a young child, I loved his sass, his irreverence (and Bugs did a lot of hilarious drag, like in the hillbilly episode). Just weeks before the coronavirus crisis smacked us down, I’d gone to my favorite underwear shop, Intimissimi, and bought a couple of pairs of Bugs Bunny briefs. Daffy Duck was another option that I failed to snap up. I hope they still have him when stores are open again. But, in the meantime, I don Bugs a couple of times a week.
And there’s pizza. I normally avoid carbs, pasta, and pizza at all costs., But, I’ve given myself permission to indulge in pizza delivery from a great place just a few doors from our entrance. Sure, I get a stopped up nose, as usual, but I reach for my Zyrtec D anyway with all my other allergies cranking up. This is no time to be so strict with my diet.
9. Lean on friends and family.
That includes our cat family of three. Olivia, featured above, is just fifteen months old, and a complete lovebug when she’s not being a terror (as most young cats are). We thank the heavens daily for Olivia, Oscar, and Francesca. Watching them endlessly chase the red dot of the laser device also keeps us laughing.
And FaceTime and Skype have become more than invaluable in keeping us connected with those we love. Accepting that we may be months away from physical embraces of our dearest family members and friends is a hard pill to swallow. So, in these times, connecting with them, albeit electronically, is one of our most important coronavirus strategies.
10. Love what is right in front of me.
Yes, this is the view outside our bank of windows in our fourth-floor city center flat. How can I possibly bitch and moan when I have this view greeting me every morning? Normally, the streets are buzzing with life and activity, and now it feels like a ghost town. But, it’s still beautiful. And perhaps I have a golden opportunity to view in a way that normally I wouldn’t.
This brings me to the importance of today, the present moment. If this pandemic is teaching me anything, it’s reminding me that I just have today. My job is to grab it and reside in it. Not in past regrets nor in future imaginings or fears. Life only exists right here and right now.