How Now Shall I Live?

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Sunset over Western Hills. Bob Trube, 2020

I’ve gone through a range of feelings as the pandemic has moved into a new spike in infections in Ohio and elsewhere. From conversations with friends, it seems like all of us are going through similar fluctuations. I share about my own journey not to say how others should respond, because your situation is not mine.

I find myself really frustrated with reports of coronavirus parties and others engaging in high risk activities voluntarily and then getting sick. You know the feeling when a couple kids who were acting up and keeping the rest of the class from going out for recess?

I struggle with feelings of futility. I’m enough of a data geek to see that our state’s infection trends are following those of states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. I’ve tried to warn others. Our governor has said the same thing. It feels to me that all this falls on deaf ears.

I grieve for many businesses who have tried to do the right things but with rising infections are going to take a hit whether or not there are stay-at-home orders.

I sense the desperation in all the social media posts that tout treatments and cures and vaccine progress. We are desperate for things to go back to the way they were.

I’m saddened by what seems to me magical thinking that for months has been saying this will go away. It will go away when it does. Likewise for those who are saying it really isn’t so bad, or they don’t need a vaccine. It seems to me a “choose your own reality” effort, and I hope this doesn’t result in a serious infection or super-spreading event.

I’m dismayed by all the self-appointed experts who think they know more than people who have dedicated their lives to studying epidemiology and public health to prepare for pandemics like the one we are facing. I watched our own state health director driven to resign her office after vicious, racist statements, attacks on her character, and threats on her and her family’s lives. I was especially angered because she came from my home town, overcoming an incredibly rough childhood.

I marvel at the inconsistency of many companies preferring to have their staff work at home while we seem determined to send children to school. At the same time, I am saddened by spouses (often women) resigning jobs to oversee at-home education. I realize there are no easy answers for all this, which frustrates me as well.

I could go on, but you get the idea…probably because you’ve been there, or are there.

All this was swirling around in my mind recently when I went for an evening walk. I’ve done this often to clear my head after a day’s work, and the news of the day. My thoughts turned to Matthew 6: 25-27:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

It reminded me that my fretting about all these things, real though it was, was needless. I was fretting about things largely out of my control. I needed to acknowledge it, and let it go. My worrying was very unlikely to change anything. It wouldn’t add to my life. It wouldn’t change others. God alone can do that.

It reminded me to live in the moment of God’s care. I was breathing, walking, taking in a gorgeous sunset. We’ve made it through four months of basically shelter at home. I’m blessed to share it with my wife of 42 years. We’ve enjoyed socially distanced visits with family and friends outdoors. We’ve gone out painting together. I have meaningful work I can do at home. I’ve enjoyed so many good books, and written about them. We’ve done drive-by birthday celebrations and stayed connected with church, choral, and artist friends on Zoom. There is so much good for which I’m grateful, and life is better when I remember this and live there.

I don’t know how many more months of this we have to go through. I am realizing this one is out of my control. I’m probably better for realizing that what others do, intelligent or irrational, is also out of my control. Perhaps the only thing I can do is extend a kind word and listening ear when this whole thing is getting someone else down, and to enjoy with others what is still good in this life, in this day. Given that we are in an “at risk” population by age, we will continue to choose low risk activities, social distance and wear masks, while continuing to learn to be creative with those. It’s really OK. Each day has its riches–a conversation, times when a painting actually works, a passage in a book, flowers in the garden, a sunset, a cloud formation, or even working up a sweat pruning trees and weeding flower beds. Perhaps I still have much to learn from the birds.

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