I am overwhelmed right now. I know I am not alone. I hear it in the voices of my friends, family, colleagues, patients. We are all feeling it.
I am overwhelmed by this virus. There is so much to learn, so much to teach. Every day the information changes. Who is credible? Who is just shouting the loudest? It can be hard to sort, but it must be done. As I figure it out, I need to pass on the information in the most compassionate but clearest way possible, despite the naysayers.
I am overwhelmed by our numbers. In my small county of about 40,000, we had two cases on March 22, ten on April 1, seventeen on May 1. We seemed to be doing ok. Then we climbed from 76 on June 1 to 196 on July 1. And as of July 8, we are up to 346. That’s 150 in a week. That more in one week than we had in 3 months. And it is not just from testing more. Our hospital, COVID-free for weeks, is now seeing more and more COVID-19 patients not only in the ER but needing admission and serious treatment. The numbers are heart-stopping.
I am overwhelmed by quarantine. It’s not just that I love to travel and very much miss it. It’s that necessary travel is becoming difficult if not impossible. My Florida family is going to have to figure out how to get my daughter back to college in Vermont, while Vermont now requires quarantine from anyone traveling from certain hot spot areas. Florida is, of course, on fire with coronavirus. And as much as I really just want to go to a restaurant and actually eat there, I’m not about to take that risk. Let’s not even talk about my hair! I want to drive down to visit my parents. I want to hug my elderly patients. I want school kids to feel safe to see their friends in school next month. I want our teachers not to burn out from having a doubled workload. Some of them will have to teach in person and online in the same semester for the same class. Teachers miss their kids. It’s why they became teachers – the love of kids.
I am overwhelmed by our economy. So many jobs have been lost. So many who are working are now working harder only to find that their pay has been cut. More than a few businesses have not or will not survive this time. For some, they were teetering on the edge of viability and may not have made it with or without a shutdown. For others, they were hanging in there just enough to provide a good living to their owners and employees, and this downturn was enough to close their doors. Summer jobs for students were all but non-existent in many areas. Colleges are having to rework their budgets completely. Churches, synagogues, and mosques that can no longer have in-person worship and struggling to pay their visits when giving levels plummet. I could keep going.
I am overwhelmed by the lack of coordination in our systems. This is not just our government. I’m also talking about our health systems. Why are we not more coordinated from national down to local levels on how to handle this crisis? While different areas certainly have different needs based on demographics, case rates, healthcare infrastructure, etc., we need to come together on developing a playbook that we can all follow. Why must each hospital have to reinvent the wheel when so many are going through the exact same thing? And where are our tests? My small county is still woefully short on tests. I should be able to provide that for my patients and staff, but I cannot.
I am overwhelmed by selfishness. I’m sorry, but that is the only word that seems appropriate for some people right now. No, masks are not a perfect solution. But is it really all that difficult just to participate in a societal attempt to quell this horror that we are all living right now? Just put it on. Carbon dioxide is not building up to dangerous levels. If you put the top of your mask under your glasses and press it tightly to your face, it will not fog. You do not even have to wear it for very long, just in public indoor places. I do not feel sorry for you if it is uncomfortable. Believe me, I am far more uncomfortable than you are. Some of our politicians are doing a wonderful job. Others are acting with regard only for their own self-interests. If leaders are selfish, how can they expect society to be any different?
I am overwhelmed by generosity. Seeing neighbors helping neighbors is heartening enough for me not to lose faith in humanity. So many people are stepping up with phone calls, grocery deliveries, and other small acts of kindness that can make all the difference. While we can’t hug, we can still smile. I see it in your eyes, even when I can’t see your face.
I am overwhelmed by hate. Racism is simply beyond what my brain can understand. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to pretend to be immune to implicit bias. I’m sure I can do better in many areas. But to hear story after story now of people being targeted for no other reason than the color of their skin is sickening. A white man stopping his truck for the sole reason to run down a black child and beat him on the head is evil incarnate. On the heels of that story was an interview of a white woman who actually said, in a calm everyday tone of voice, “I absolutely believe in white power.” I’m sorry – what? What world am I in?
I am overwhelmed by love. A wonderful man in my community, the picture of compassion for his fellow human, especially disadvantaged children, has just emerged from a year of being near death. If you don’t believe in miracles, you need to meet John. I just found out a few days ago that, not only did he survive a life-threatening illness, but he is now out of prolonged rehab and in his own apartment. However, because he was basically written off for dead, he has nothing – no clothes, food, bedding, cookware, etc. Almost in an instant, the community rallied around him and started providing the basics. He still has a long road ahead of him, but to see the family of his friends and neighbors wrap their arms around him, fill his refrigerator, and help get him on his feet is as much a miracle as I have ever seen.
I am overwhelmed by grace. None of us is perfect in this. We are all just doing the best we can. Whether we are experiencing this time as filled with anxiety or filled with opportunity, all we can do is all we can do. When we mess up, we need to forgive ourselves and try again. Forgive each other. Grudges are not helpful. If God does not hold grudges against us, how much more should we be able to let it go? Yes, this is easier said than done. But if we can all find a little grace for ourselves and our neighbors, we will find a bit of an easier way through this overwhelming time.
Image credit: Diana R. Twiggs