I woke with a gutful of what felt like fear, not sure whether it was triggered by too many beans, too much CNN or the onset of coronavirus.
No, I don’t think I have the virus, but even those lucky enough to avoid it might be feeling the effects, too: Going to bed with a head full of online stories and CNN, trapped at home with no break from your own cooking, unable to invite anyone in for coffee or food, worrying about family and friends, grocery shopping and the IRA. And that’s if you don’t have a loved one or friend who is sick, an elder stuck in a nursing home, know medical staff trying to save people in the hospital or test them in the field, grocery workers trying to keep shelves filled and panicky customers checked out — all of the rest suddenly struggling or desperate in this misery.
I am 70 and a regular worrier about my own health. I am experienced in social distancing. I am also good at fooling myself. It took a minute this morning to realize that my throbbing pulse and shallow breath were not the insidious virus itself, just too much news.
I never thought I’d see a pandemic. I never thought I would have to talk to neighbors from six-feet away, be afraid of ordinary errands. I rarely watch daytime TV and I never thought I would tune in every morning to see that 700 or 800 people died the day before in New York. I still struggle to understand that it is happening worldwide.
I get emails daily from friends about newspapers collapsing after losing last vestiges of advertising support. My last trip to The Range in Bernalillo, for takeout in mid-March, was the day that owner and managers had to lay off 500 employees from it and its eight other food businesses.
And I am still incredulous. I am, after all, a white male who got his polio shot in the 50s, didn’t have to go to war in the 60s and managed to end up with a newspaper pension in 2015 despite being one of the last people through the door without a college degree. Thanks to Obamacare, I was able to buy good health insurance after I retired. Several weeks ago, my health care provider REACHED OUT TO ME, checking on me at home because I am “high risk.”
I also live in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains. My risk can’t be as high as someone living in an apartment building in Queens. Each day now, as I walk out under blue sky, wildflower-covered public land stretching before me, I remind myself that social isolation is another privilege.
I took in mixed messages this morning as I tried to push down my fears and get my head lined out.
I watched New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on CNN.: “Tribal nations could be wiped out by COVID-19,” the underline as she spoke.
I listened to Andrea Bocelli sing “Music for Hope” on YouTube, the tenor walking without sight to an outdoor microphone in a seemingly vacant Milan, finishing his free concert in English with “Amazing Grace.”
Cowboy looked out the window, eager to get out and about. I watched a band of Placitas free-roaming horses blow one of the few stop signs in our always quiet, but now even quieter, neck of the woods.
I rewatched an Andrew Cuomo, the New York governor, saying the world is much smaller now, airplanes able to carry contagion from one continent to another in hours. He said he hoped COVID-19 will lead us to new and helpful understandings, that maybe will we grasp globally the damage we inflict on the environment, the economic and social disparities we conveniently overlook.
Bocelli said he believes the recovery of Milan and Italy from COVID-19 could be the “engine of a renaissance that we all hope for.”
After all this sickness and death, I hope for it socially, economically, environmentally and politically. It would be pretty dumb to deny we are all in it together.
I have to believe in something beyond coronavirus.