Hope vs. Fear
In 1413, four French thieves were captured and charged with stealing from the sick and dying. Legend has it these four men went from village to village and robbed those who had succumbed to the Bubonic Plague. Upon their capture, a judge offered leniency if the four Frenchmen would share their secret to staying healthy. Their answer? A powerful mix of herbs, spices and essential oils that today is known as an oil blend appropriately referred to as, Thieves.
I rely on Thieves when I travel. I douse myself in this powerful spicy smelling oil which sometimes gives the added advantage of an empty seat next to me on Southwest as most fellow passengers prefer to distance themselves from the strong smell as much as possible. As far as I can tell, this oil works wonders, although I’ve never tested its full powers- until now.
We are all acutely aware of the crisis facing our world today. This coronavirus is like nothing we’ve ever seen or really could’ve ever imagined. Fictional books have been written and movies have been made about life-threatening outbreaks that threaten the entire human race but we never actually thought these sensationalized plots would become our reality. And yet, unbelievably, it has.
I’m surprised at my reaction to this virus. I tend to be pretty easy-going. After my crazy cancer, it takes a lot to rattle me. But y’all- this coronavirus has rocked me to my very core. I find myself constantly refreshing the news feeds on my phone. I check my email obsessively. I flip between the news channels as if I’m searching for the answer to this confusing global pandemic. And still, I’m feeling confused and anxious and scared. Actually- I’m terrified. And it’s that fear that scares me the most.
As I sit at my computer writing these words, I’m feeling like our country as a whole is holding its breath while we wait for the other shoe to drop. We know it’s coming- but what exactly is “it”? We are feeling unsure and uncertain. We don’t know who to listen to or which authority to trust. We’re fearful and confused. And it’s because of a silent, invisible, unknown silent enemy that is threatening our lives.
This coronavirus is taking me back to those feelings of being in remission. For me, remission meant uncertainty and waiting and fear. I wanted to feel safe with the medical experts but struggled with trusting others with my own life. My anxiety then, as it is now, is crippling at times. I like to be in control but I’m reminded how little I actually have. So, during this time of national waiting and watching and hoping and fearing, I’m choosing to go back to my tried and true crisis-navigation method- tequila and baby steps. When things seem overwhelming and the path forward unknown, wine helps a little, but tequila helps a lot.
Baby steps help the most.
We all know tequila only goes so far so during the sober daylight, so I have to do the work to intentionally shift my focus from the future to the now. I divert my eyes downward to the ground beneath me at this very moment and forcefully will myself to take one small baby step forward. And then I take another. And then another until my legs feel stronger and my soul calmer. And that is when I can once again begin to slowly shift my focus back upward.
I wonder when those Frenchmen were dousing themselves in their herbal concoction if they felt secure in their protection from the fatal plague or if they thought- well, sure as shit hope this works because if it doesn’t, it’s been nice knowing ya. Did they feel confident or were they just desperate thieves who had nothing to lose?
We all have way too much we could lose: our families, our friends, our lives. As much as I wish I could be more like the renegade in this moment of our history, I can’t approach this silent killer with such confidence or rebellion. Because I’ve been through this before, granted with a different enemy but with the same threat- the loss of life.
The other night, we were at the coast with some friends. The stars filled the night sky and the bonfire was crackling. The cool sea breeze was blowing the smoke from the flames towards the large lawn where the kids were playing Wiffle ball and trying to keep the plastic ball away from our yellow-lab who thought this was a game all for himself. The adults sat by the fire with freshly refilled glasses of wine while we marveled at the beauty of the night. We were acutely aware of the good that surrounded us. Sounds too good to be true, right? Apparently, it was.
Our magical evening was interrupted by my Godson’s voice. He had run inside to grab some water when he heard the sports headline: All NBA games canceled. This sports-crazed ten-year-old ran outside and yelled the news as more of a question of disbelief. As we grabbed our wine glasses and ran inside to see the news for ourselves, we exchanged brief, knowing looks that seemed to say- shit just hit the fan. This just got real.
The following morning, as we were recapping the current Coronavirus news and the impact it was starting to have on all our lives, we compared the previous evening to 9/11 or Princes Di’s death or Kurt Cobain’s passing. Everyone could tell you where they were when they heard the news. And the night the virus hit ESPN was it for my Godson and it was it for us as well. Except, unlike 9/11 or Princess Di or Kurt Cobain, it hadn’t been the shock that shook us- it had been the growing faraway threat that finally became stunningly relevant.
Yesterday morning, I was talking to one of my closest friends on the phone while I went on my walk/jog around the lake. We were talking to each other as only close friends can- not really saying anything but instead asking rhetorical question after rhetorical question, trying to make sense of the new way of life. I was just getting ready to deep dive into my fearful analysis of what this could mean for all of us before she stopped my words in their tracks by remarking, “You know, this has been kinda nice.”
Kinda nice? I pulled my phone away from my ear to double-check I had the correct friend on the other end of the line.
“Kinda nice? Dear friend, what about any of this has been, kinda nice???” I asked.
“Well, this past weekend, instead of running a million miles an hour, the five of us slowed down and played games and watched movies and just hung out together. And it was kinda nice.”
Humm. Not the doomsday convo I was wanting to have. My mind was kinda blown.
After we hung up, I sat down on my favorite rock by the edge of the lake. I hadn’t thought anything about this time of crisis had been nice in any way. I had been so focused on my fear that I had neglected to open my view up to anything other than the negative.
I suddenly found myself searching for my- kinda nice. The sunshine beaming down on my skin felt, kinda nice. The bluebonnets surrounding me looked, kinda nice. The puzzle I’d done yesterday with the kids had been, kinda nice. And, when I thought about it, I realized that just being alive on that day and in that moment was really nice.
As I finished my jog and slowed to walk the final stretch of road towards home, I looked down at my feet. My body was tired. My mind was tired. My heart was tired. But I knew I had to get back home and I knew the only way to do it was to take one step at a time- even if the step was small and even if it felt like I wasn’t covering much distance. I knew my tactic to cover the final stretch of road towards home was the same I’d need to navigate through the doomsday negativity and fear I’d been holding onto so tightly- I’d have to take baby steps.
One of my favorite song lyrics is from Lynyrd Skynyrd: “Take your time. Don’t live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass.” I get it. We want answers. We want to know what the hell is going to happen next. We need to understand what the future holds. But, as anxiety-producing as this may sound, we may just have to loosen our grip on life and slow down a bit. Maybe that means turning off the news and turning on some great music and having a dance party. Maybe it means calling an old friend. Or maybe it means focusing on your- kinda nice.
This may not pass quickly so let’s take our time and remember that these troubles will pass. We will have to rely heavily on faith, on love, and on hope.
Our anxiety is elevated but our trust in each other is higher.
Our need for information is all-encompassing but our faith in the unseen is ever-present.
Our fear right now is powerful but our hope is stronger.
These troubles will pass. Let’s dab a little Thieves on for protection and lean into hope and faith and love because without these three lifelines, our lives wouldn’t be worth the fight we’re all going to put up together. Because our kinda nice is what makes this life worth living.
Stay safe and stay hopeful.
In love and hope,