My nephew from New York, who teaches at a private school in New York ,reached out to me as we are both navigating the dramatic changes in our lives. He asked if I would like to do a shared writing project together. This is our first effort and we are glad to share it with you.
The Horrible Limitations of Being a Seagull
You’re not dying, and you feel horrible about it.
The sun is shining, the food is plentiful, and the wifi isn’t even password protected. You turn on the news to see the world all but burning, yet you look out the window at the waves gently lapping against the manicured beach, a seagull lazily skimming the surface for an afternoon snack. A gentle breeze—did you leave a window open or was that the air conditioning kicking back in?—raises the smallest of goosebumps on your forearm. The dull thwacks of a ping pong rally penetrate your subconscious; you decide that the seagull had the right idea and head for the mini-fridge.
There’s privilege, and there’s guilt, and there’s the combination of the two that you’ve felt your whole life. This is something more, though. A chest-constricting, palpitation-inducing darkness that makes your old uneasiness look like the preadolescent bad dream that it was. You’re in the big leagues now, kid. And it’s time to stop thinking of yourself as a kid.
Actually, as long as you’re going to be mature and take this whole thing on directly, you should probably drop the transparent distancing technique of the second person and own up to that aforementioned privilege. Stop hiding behind the “you”. When the world’s problems can be likened to tiny ripples in the not-yet-boiling water in the pot on the stove that will soon house the pasta that your children will eat for dinner yet again because they can not be bothered to try anything new this month, the second person is appropriate. When that pot of water has been forgotten about for over forty minutes despite the pressing red coils of the spiral beneath it, and the lid is rattling as the air bubbles gurgle, push, throb, higher and harder than anyone in their right mind would allow them to, the second person is unseemly.
There is a virus snaking its way around the globe; it is killing people, destroying economies, generally wreaking havoc and destruction everywhere it goes and against everyone it touches. The people who are theoretically in positions to stop it are ineffectual at best. The person holding the most levers that could maybe, possibly, hopefully slow the damn thing down is a selfish, disgusting lout whose most pressing instincts leave him consumed by the twin evils of profiteering and blame abdication.
Some of the chapters in the history books seem to be as bad as this; one or two were probably worse. But make no mistake about it: this is no time for cowards to hide behind the second person.
I’m not dying, and I feel horrible about it.
I am thriving over and above and in addition to, survival itself. Living in the Care Center of a continuing care retirement facility called Kendal at Oberlin (Oberlin, Ohio) I am safely ensconced in a lock down due to Covid-19. At 68 years old with degenerative disc disease and a past history of MS, I live in the Assisted Living area. I am younger, more mobile, and mentally alert than many of my neighbors. P is 102, Q is turning 100 next month, while others are between their mid 80’s to 9O’s. In one direction my hallway is filled with the most independent of us, and down the other side and turn left at the T intersection, some are nearly blind, totally deaf, in early stages of dementia, post stroke, socially disinterested, and/or owning a host of other ailments. Powered wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers are the norm.
Ohio has a governor who was proactive in establishing restrictive guidelines early on. He was determined to do his best slowing down the transmission of the virus giving hospitals a chance to accommodate what is potentially becoming an overwhelming crisis. Nobody goes in or out of here unless vetted daily (staff and service vendors) and visitors are only allowed for loved ones in a terminal situation. The first two days of fluid protocols were tough. Initially we couldn’t eat together anymore, (trays delivered to our rooms) then we couldn’t leave at all for our usual groups or committees or walks outside, and then the no visitor edict came down from above, applying even to spouses who live just on the other side of the closed doors. Keep your six foot distance at all times and wash, sanitize, and wash your hands again.
After adjusting to my lack of freedoms, I discovered I am simply grateful. Grateful to be cared for and very grateful for cyberspace through which I am able to contact my family and friends. This gratitude is amplified by knowing there are millions affected by this virus for whom the pandemic is already both a health and an economic disaster. The ripple effect of lost jobs as more venues are shut down, as students of all ages are staying home with their families, as lost plans of future expansion are rendered null in this new world- is staggering. The financial effects may last even longer than the rising and falling statistics of contagion we are daily stunned by.
How protected I am. How newly aware we all are that the potential for death and radical change is always present. Now this awareness has a new name in the package of a small virus, insisting that we are all interconnected, and that draconian changes in our lifestyles in major ways can possibly save, not just you and yours, but eventually, all planetary creatures.
May more of us find ways to support surthrival for everyone, everywhere.
* The prefix “Sur” means: over, above, in addition.