The Virus that Ate the Future - part II

Only Birds Fly without a Mask

Six months ago I published my essay, “The Virus that Ate the Future”, “I want to Fly Like an Eagle”. In it, I wrote about my struggles with losing the ability to make plans in anything but the shortest of time frames. I felt like Covid-19 had eaten my tomorrows and left me with nothing but the bones and feathers of a hoped for future.

Now, 20 essays later, I want to check in with all of you, my readers, and see what you are experiencing. I feel like I have soldiered on rather bravely through the spring and summer with only occasional bouts of despair. The weather helped. Being outside in the warm sun, sitting with friends in an outdoor cafe, even if we were socially distanced, helped a great deal. I didn’t feel so isolated.

Autumn has arrived with a terrifying swiftness and winter with its push indoors feels like it is just on the other side of October. The days seem to be shortening here in Northern Europe with an ever increasing cadence. Soon it will be dark when I get up for work, drive to work and drive home. Daylight will be something I see mainly from my office window.

I am thinking how I will get through the winter. I am wondering how you are planning to deal with the virus as it imposes continued limits on your lives?

When I was competing regularly in five and ten kilometer races, I had a strategy for keeping up my pace when faced with a steep incline. I would shorten my stride, look down and concentrate on keeping a steady rhythm. “Just keep a steady pace and you’ll reach the top”, was my internal mantra. I think that is what I will be doing these next few months.

When we are faced with a pandemic that is so outside of our control, it doesn’t work to try to wish it away or minimize its virulence. Too many people around the world tried that, including some political leaders, and it has resulted in tragedy.

This virus is currently an immutable fact of life. It cannot be bullied away, it cannot be lied away, it cannot be voted away. It is apolitical, impervious to falsehoods, or anyone’s authority. It is the ultimate equalizer. It demands our respect simply by its existence.

Recently one of my friends flew to the U.S. with his crew to pick up a new aircraft. On the way over he was on an American Airlines flight. Every seat was filled. He wore a mask all the way to his destination. He said it was really uncomfortable to spend ten hours wearing a mask and exhausting to having to constantly remind himself to not touch anything he absolutely didn’t have to touch.

Once at the manufacturers pickup site, the crew began its check flights to make sure everything was working before they took off for the long trip back to Europe. During their test flights the plane experienced a rapid, uncontrolled pressurization and subsequent depressurization due to a problem with the valves that regulate cabin pressure. The crew had about 15 to 20 seconds at their altitude to put on oxygen masks before the symptoms of hypoxia* set in. My friend made the wry comment that it seems these days you just can’t escape wearing a mask anywhere.

Covid-19 has caused humans to put in place a set of rules that we do not like but must follow if we are to have a reasonable chance of surviving. In the meantime, the virus owns our future.

I am seeing an increase in clients with anxiety issues. They do not have the safety valve of the future. They can’t count on their children having a normal school year. They can’t see aging and ailing parents. They can’t attend weddings or funerals of their loved ones. They can’t plan family vacations. They feel super glued to the present.

I do not try to sugar coat their predicaments. I don’t say, “Oh, this too shall pass”, because I don’t know when or even if it will end. Instead, I encourage them to learn to meditate. I encourage them to pray if they have a faith path. I encourage them to write, paint, read, take on-line classes. I teach them techniques to sleep better. I encourage them to eat well and exercise when they can. I encourage them to look inward and explore who they are and what they need in this life to feel stronger, more resilient. I encourage them to appreciate the people they love.

These are things I am doing myself. I want this virus to be over. I want to have the armor of an effective vaccine in my body. But until that happens, if it happens, I can only change the things that are here in my present life. Sometimes my heart just aches at the thought that I can’t be with my son whom I haven’t seen in almost a year. Thank goodness for Skype, Zoom, Chime and all those other video platforms, though I do wonder sometimes if virtual connection will lose its effectiveness as this virus drags on?

We are in unprecedented times. No amount of downplaying it will change what we are experiencing. In fact, denial has more potential for causing heartache and loss than looking honestly at the facts. I have wondered during these past six months of restricted movement and disconnection from many of the things we took for granted, if this virus was nature’s way of making us slow down and take stock of how we have been living? Is this virus a way of saying we will have no future if we don’t pay attention in the present to how we are treating the earth and each other?

As my subtitle says, nature has made it clear that birds don’t need to wear masks to survive but we do. I still want to fly like an eagle.

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What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts about this virus. I am interested in how you are coping with it and how you feel it affecting your future. What have you discovered about yourself during this Covid time?

Be safe. Be well. Love the ones you are with even those that are hard to love. Life is short even when there isn’t a pandemic.

*hypoxia is a deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues. It can cause a flight crew to lose consciousness. It can also result in death if the oxygen starvation lasts too long. All flight crews are trained in recognizing the symptoms. In the situation cited here, there was a change made to the operating procedure for testing pressurization in an aircraft. The flight crew is now required to put on their oxygen masks before the testing begins rather than only if a problem is discovered. This seems to me to be a good practice in a pandemic as well.

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