As of right now, most people I know are choosing to stay home to flatten the curve of the spread of coronavirus. And that is the bravest choice they can make.
In a sense, I’m speaking to you from the future if you live outside of LA , NYC, or Mass. If you are in the Bay Area or Washington state, I am speaking to you from the past.
Only a few days ago LA had more confirmed cases than NYC. Now we have half. The numbers, of course, aren’t accurate because our testing capabilities are subpar – but that, my dear ones, is another story altogether.
The difference is that LA already lends itself to isolation. We don’t have great public transit, and the city is so spread out. Rents are cheaper and not as many people have roommates. And also, we chose to take it seriously quickly. Perhaps it is our proximity to Washington state, the first place in America to get hit hard, or perhaps it is the fact that Angeleno’s love to cancel plans and stay home anyway. Either way, it’s working here. We are flattening the curve. Our numbers are growing slower than in other areas.
Now that we are all online, all the time, we are seeing crazy things by people who refuse to take this seriously by going out – this woman’s tweet about taking her sweet time eating at a Red Robin sparked an avalanche of criticism.
Ava Louise, a 22-year-old Tik Tok user in Miami, sparked more criticism when she licked a toilet seat this week to prove how brave she is.
But it isn’t brave, not even a little. Not even at all. Here’s why staying in right now as much as you are able – whether you are being asked to by your local officials or not – is actually the bravest thing you can do.
One way humans cope with fear is denial, a refusal to accept your current circumstances. That’s exactly what going out & taking risks with public health is right now. There’s a saying in recovery that Fear stands for Fuck Everything And Run. And that’s what licking a toilet seat is. It’s running away from our responsibility to our vulnerable population, to our woefully unequipped healthcare system, to all, really. By staying in we are forced to face the fact that life isn’t normal right now, and that we don’t know when it will be. It’s not easy to face reality when reality bites. But it always catches up with us eventually.
Doing Your Part
Maybe you can’t see why you, young, healthy, you, perhaps in an area that hasn’t been badly hit yet, need to stay home to help. But it’s the only thing you can do, and according to history, it works. The last time we had a legitimate pandemic was the Spanish Flu of 1918. Social distancing worked then, and it will work again too. Even if bars, gyms, restaurants, entertainment venues are shut down in your area (or presently maybe) like they are in LA, it’s still pretty easy to not do your part. According to Instagram, my sister had a bunch of her young kid’s friends over yesterday to play. This alarmed me a little. But today, she has taken them down to the beach to visit my 70-year-old aunt and 67-year-old mother. This alarms me a lot. It showed me that no matter what steps are being taken to reduce spread by closing businesses that people can and will find a way to be irresponsible. This has never been about the young and healthy not being able to overcome a bad flu. It’s about concern for your fellows who are not young and healthy.
Sitting At Home With Yourself Is Hard
Sitting quietly with yourself without as many distractions is hard and brave no matter what is going on in the outside world. As a person in recovery, it’s been very challenging. Many times I’ve been tempted to start smoking pot again to drown out the fear. The silver lining to my current financial instability is that I know my money will run out much faster should I choose to relapse. Sitting with yourself is hard. And constantly reading the news and social media is too alarming and stressful, and there’s only so many hours of TV any of us really wants to watch. Choosing to do all the things we swore we would get to if we had the time is so hard when we are all so stressed out. It’s a time of uncertainty, which is the hardest thing for humans. Beyond that, though, our modern world has not thus far lent itself to sitting quietly with all the parts of yourself. Thankfully, those of us in recovery have a leg up on the practice of sitting with uncomfortable emotions.
For those of you at home outside of what is unavoidable, I salute you. You are doing what is truly risky emotionally. You may be creating a whole new stay home routine for yourself. You may be reaching out to friends via FaceTime or FaceBook or finding various ways to look at each other’s faces. I have formed an isolation cell with two other friends who are also choosing to socially distance and self-isolate and we are meeting at my house twice a week to have meditation and check-in meetings, with lots of handwashing and lysolling things and no touching. If you have a few friends who haven’t been around people for two weeks and don’t plan to, you can do the same. You can also do the things that you were previously using the busyness of life to avoid because they are scary or not fun – like commit to daily meditation, learn a new skill, start querying agents for your memoir (just me?), deep clean your house, paint, learn to play guitar, or start doing morning pages. Or just sit on the couch and do nothing. I never thought I’d live in a world where I wrote an article claiming it was very brave to sit on the couch and do nothing, but here we are.
It is very brave to stay home, sit on the couch and do nothing. And try to have some compassion for the varying responses to this collective trauma that you see. That is my greatest challenge and gift right now. It’s so easy to be mad at the guy who hoarded hand sanitizer, for people who walk too close to me while I am walking my dog, at my sister. It is braver to choose to put myself in their shoes and know that we are all doing the very best we can right now, and also, that we all could be doing better. It is paradoxical that way. It’s like Philip K. Dick said in his novel Valis, “Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.”