A week ago my mom fell. She’s 85 and doesn’t blame anyone or anything. It just happened. But it hurts like nothing she has ever experienced. She fractured two ribs in her back as well as part of her spine – two of the ”thoracic transverse processes” that stick out on either side. She goes from bed to bathroom with great pain, great difficulty and a lot of help. If you have ever broken your own back, you will have a clue how she feels.
Just two days earlier we had been enjoying the spring flowers at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond with Rise and Eppie. You never know what’s around the next bend.
Nor did we expect the coronavirus. We are extremely fortunate to be in an area that, up till now, has no known cases, and thank God Mom is essentially quarantined anyway. Her community has imposed a set of protocols similar to many retirement facilities of this kind, seriously cutting back on group activities and limiting visitors to the degree that’s reasonable, feasible and sensible. Even so, we are, like everyone, aware and concerned and doing everything in our power to minimize the risks.
Hearing about Google and Apple and other tech companies having their employees work from home makes me wonder about the people who can’t work from home – the nurses, the plumbers, the truck drivers, the shopkeepers – the unsung heroes of our age who keep the lights on and make sure we all have food to eat. The number of people, things and systems we take for granted, the variety of interconnected parts that have to work together for society to work as it does, is mind-boggling. For all its problems, as many things as possible considered, I am more grateful than ever for the incredibly smooth way of life we enjoy.
Hearing about people staying at home makes me wonder about how many are getting to know the people they live with in new ways, or rediscovering books and board games and actual conversation, or working out underlying issues that were easy to escape when we led our fragmented lives in utterly separate zones. Years ago a neighbor who homeschooled her kids told me that when you are around the same people all the time, you can’t wear a mask, you can’t put on your happy face and get through the day and take off that face when you go home. The people you are with all the time see what’s there, the good and the noble, the ugly and the tired. You had better learn to get along.
Finding the right balance in this thing is the trick, and I am grateful to my friend Marisa, who shed light on the phenomenon from her country, Italy, which was hit earlier than we in the States were. She described how they are handling the government restrictions imposed on them, such as staying at home most of the time. “In doing so, compared with the hectic lifestyle we, as Italians, and in particular as people from Lombardy, have always had, we are now experiencing/discovering a new way of living (probably we needed it).” How blessed am I to be friends with a person who sees things this way! She adds, “Let’s take the positive from the negative. Our thanks to our health workers who are doing a terrific job. Good luck to the whole world!”
Let me return to “probably we needed it.” Probably we needed to improve relationships with the people we care about (and now we have some time to do that). Probably we needed a reminder of what’s important. (Probably we all needed to wash our hands more anyway!) Probably we needed to take stock of all that’s good. Probably we needed to get a better perspective, a fresher look at the amazing world that we forget is so amazing. Please don’t misunderstand: Nothing’s perfect, never has been, never will be. Challenges, disagreements and conflicts are ever with us. I’m not saying there isn’t plenty to improve upon. But coronavirus aside, I get tired of all the complaining that things are sooooo bad. Maybe it takes a crisis for many people to get a glimpse of just how good we’ve had it, just how well-thought-out and well-executed many systems are, just how wonderful most people are — even if occasional glitches and/or troublemakers get all the attention. Maybe we don’t need a complete 180 but instead, a healthy balance of sincere gratitude, personal integrity, some steady, thoughtful, reasonable tweaking, and a focus on what’s actually important.
Thank you, Marisa.