It's interesting how a thought from the ancients can be so timely today. I caught this quote at the beginning of Primrose Path, a 1940 romantic comedy starring Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea:
“We live, not as we wish to—but as we can.” - Menander 300 BC
Menander was a Greek dramatist and best-known representative of Athenian New Comedy. For me, his words perfectly summed up how so many people felt when they were ordered to shelter in place in mid-March because of an unseen life-threatening enemy. Most of us are still doing this more than four months later and will likely continue to do so until a vaccine is available.
Do you remember the lyrics of “I’ve Got the World on a String,” the song Sinatra made famous in the fifties? Recently when I heard him sing it again, one of the lyrics made me grab a pen to jot it down. The song begins with the words of the title and then, “I’m sitting on a rainbow, got the string around my finger ...” What hit me was the lyric that followed later: “Life’s a wonderful thing ... as long as I’ve got the string.”
I think what’s ailing all of us now is that we no longer have control of the theoretical string that used to be around our finger. Now a host of others in authority have taken control of it and we’re expected (literally commanded) to accept the fact that we have no choice in the matter until the Coronavirus is under control. And only God knows how long that will be.
Covid-19 is about endings and beginnings, and the only constant here is CHANGE. But acceptance has been hard, even impossible for some. As news reports have confirmed, to resist authorities in certain cities and states is to invite a lot of trouble into your life. Remember the movie, Network (1976)? What’s happening in our country today surely has a lot of people wanting to scream, “I’m mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.”
Forgive me for the length of this Bulletin . . . but I haven’t published one for four months and found I had a lot to say once I started writing. Welcome to the new subscribers who joined my list after I sent my last Bulletin in March (still timely; available online here). That issue offered all the research I’d done on the virus to that point, and I started planning new issues for the next several months. But as things got continually worse, I lost all interest in writing new Bulletins or working on my website in progress. Both were important to me, but it was hard to put my heart in my work when my life was changing day by day.
What follows is my Covid-19 story to date. It’s unique, just as yours is. But I think we can relate to one another’s experiences and perspective. All points of view matter.
Transitioning from “Normal” to a New Way of Life
March 11th was my last normal day before the Coronavirus became the most important and often only topic of conversation all over the world. I’d gone to Drury Lane Dinner Theater that afternoon to see American in Paris with friends from church. The next day a writer’s meeting I’d been invited to lead was cancelled due to fear. As this invisible enemy hit the world with a power like that of the fiery meteor that doomed the dinosaurs, I watched hours of news every day so I could be fully informed about what was happening and understand what I needed to do to protect myself and others. I took pages of notes on things I wanted to discuss in my Bulletins and journaled every day. On March 9 I wrote:
“I got angry this morning when someone on Fox News said the CDC was now advising everyone 60 and older to ‘stock up on supplies and stay home.’ One’s medical condition can’'t be defined merely by age!”
Three months later, there was still a lot of uncertainty about how we all needed to live to be safe, with much disagreement among the same talking heads we’d already heard too much from. No one likes to be told what they can or can’t do but, being prudent, I yielded to the will of city and state authorities, sewed some face masks, and was “social distancing” as instructed.
Now with all the heated rhetoric about the election and who’s right or wrong about opening up the country and schools or quelling the riots, I can’t stomach much news today. I rely on a few trusted voices on radio and cable TV to stay informed. When I do pay close attention, I simply can’t believe—or accept—what has happened to our country and our culture in just a few months’ time, especially in New York, Seattle, Chicago, and Portland, where city leaders caved in to the demands of “mob rule” by defunding the police and giving mobs free rein to damage or destroy businesses and federal buildings. It was heartbreaking to see so many lives being shattered—so many people seriously injured or killed by “peaceful protestors” who let themselves be hijacked by paid agitators, looters, arsonists, and others intent on eradicating America’s history by tearing down statues unrelated to the righteous movement that started it all.
I’m not discussing this further for obvious reasons, but I’ll say this: It’s gut-churning to see the results of belligerent mayors and governors whom many agree are violating the constitutional rights of their state’s citizens. I happen to live in one of those states. After I left home to make a life of my own, Chicago’s downtown “Loop” became my home and the place where I lived, worked, studied music, and met my husband. This was Harry’s city, and I’m glad he didn’t live to see what’s happened to it. I’m also glad I saw this once beautiful city in its entirety before all the rioting and destruction happened. I don’t expect to ever step foot in Chicago again.
Naperville has been my home since 1984, and it remains one of the four safest suburbs in the Chicago area, one that’s operating normally with respect for its police and other civil servants. I’m happy and safe where I am. I follow my city’s guidelines, mind my own business, and keep a low profile.
I hate to hear how many restaurants have gone out of business and hope people are able to support those in their area. It was exciting to have lunch and dinner last month with a friend in two local restaurants with outdoor seating. I pray for the day when all of us will once again be able to go back to church without fear, see a movie, attend musical events, plays, and museums, dine out, or simply picnic on the beach. I’m not into sports, but I have sympathy for all those in this industry, especially the players and fans who yearn to sit in the bleachers and cheer them on. I have no children, but my heart goes out to parents who are trying to decide whether or not to put their children back in school when told it’s safe to do so.
When the news is too upsetting, I watch uplifting shows I’ve taped, read, listen to music, or engage in a hobby. My home is a great comfort because here I’m in complete control—except for the dictates of Liza, the rescue cat I adopted last fall who now believes she’s Queen of this castle. Truth be told, if not for this eight-pound bundle of joy, I couldn’t be content, especially while in self-quarantine and cut off from church and my usual social activities. I thought of the cat I had for sixteen years as a sweet cat companion, but I soon realized that in Liza I had both a companion and a needed “comfort animal.” Petting her for a few minutes several times a day calms my soul. I simply can’t think about disturbing things when Liza purrs and looks at me as though I’m the most interesting person she’s ever seen.
Dealing with Covid-19 Challenges
Shopping for groceries was my first major Covid-19 challenge. Who will ever forget the world-wide panic for food, household essentials, hand sanitizers, and wipes? In disbelief we watched films showing people in grocery aisles fighting for the last package of toilet paper or bag of flour. Suddenly the simple act of shopping had become dangerous.
I used to shop weekly in my three favorite grocery stores whenever the spirit moved me. Now there were lines of people waiting to get into each of these stores. Two quickly made the first hour of the day open only to seniors, and I got up early to be one of the first ten people in line to shop at Trader Joe’s and Casey’s across the way. Shopping also took longer because we were urged to wipe down every item before we brought it into the house and then transfer food in plastic containers to clean ones. “Sanitize everything” became the rule.
This was when everyone in the food industry began to get creative by giving us the ability to order groceries or prepared food online for drive-by pickup. In April, I placed my first online order at Walmart, only to find that half the items I wanted were available only in the store. I vowed never to shop online there again and became a regular Amazon shopper when they started offering free shipping on orders of $25 or more.
The third of my favorite stores set senior hours in mid-April, but only after I literally browbeat the manager into doing this by pointing out how much money he was losing to his competitors because seniors like me were afraid to shop there. I whooped for joy a week later when I got an email saying senior hours would be from 7 to 9 each day. (Yep, the squeaky wheel theory works.)
Early on, Walmart had gained a reputation for being a death trap for seniors because few people were wearing masks, but I needed to pick up my prescriptions in May and didn’t want to ask anyone to do it for me. So I went early on a Tuesday morning since there seemed to be fewer shoppers on this day. I’d planned to don a mask and gloves, run in, dash around the corner to the prescription area, and get out as fast as possible. But once inside the store and seeing few shoppers in nearby aisles, I decided it was safe to shop as usual. I kept my distance from everyone and came home with several needed items that still aren't available to online shoppers. That’s when I decided I’d shop Walmart every six weeks or so because some things I need can only be purchased there. (I love shopping on Amazon, but it doesn’t have everything, or the best prices. Here, I’ve decided, I’m paying extra for convenience.)
Until last week, I was still of the mindset that I had to limit shopping to only one store a day during its senior hour. Now, because I consider my three local stores to be as safe as possible, I’ve decided to shop all of them the same day, regardless of whether I can do this in their senior hour or not. After all, my health is excellent, my immune system is strong, and I know what to do to remain safe. This decision will greatly simplify my life, reduce my stress, and save me hours of time. Sometimes we have to mix some common sense into the decisions we’re making.
While I will continue to adapt and change as necessary, I refuse to live in fear and am acting accordingly. Someone noted there are 366 “Fear nots” in the Bible, one for every day of the year, including Leap Year. Yes, I fear the Virus—which is good, because this makes me more careful. Remember that having a fearful feeling that prompts us to do something to defend against a danger isn’t the same thing as “living in fear.”
What’s been hardest for me is accepting the fact that my life and the world at large will never again be the same as it used to be—or even close to it. Being told in March that we could no longer safely shake hands with anyone—let alone hug them—was a shattering blow since I am by nature a hugger. But I’m getting hugs again from a couple of trusted friends, and each one has been sweeter than whipped cream frosting on a cake. My faith and the love and support I have from family and friends sustain me. I hope you can say the same thing.
My mind takes me to many places when I can’t sleep. Since March, if I’m not thinking about my own concerns I’m wondering how others are managing their Covid-19 issues.
Do you remember years ago when there was a huge telecommuting movement? Only some corporations then were allowing some of their workers to work at home. Ironically, Covid-19 suddenly made all workers homebased. Since few home-business owners in my network have sent me a report on how they’re doing, I can only wonder what your life is like now. (If you’re self-employed and unable to do business, I hope your state has given you the option for unemployment insurance according to the Cares Act signed by the President in March.)
So many on my subscriber list have become “electronic friends” I’ll never meet, but I care about all my readers. I hope all of you have had someone to talk to throughout your Covid-19 ordeal and have grown closer to loved ones because of it. In April and May, I felt called to make three or four calls a day to people I cared about, just to see how they were doing and to offer a listening ear and encouragement appropriate to their situation. I never ended a call without reminding them that God was in control and knew what we were going through. I also tried to end every call with some humor. As Charlie Chaplin once said, “Humor heightens our sense of survival and preserves our sanity.”
I wonder how many of you have been ill or lost loved ones. I’ve thought a lot about the nursing home situation that killed so many and prevented family members from visiting anyone there or in a hospital; worse, being denied the privilege of being with them as they lay dying. I think about all the weddings that were delayed or canceled after months of planning, all the funerals family members couldn’t attend, all the graduations and the birthday and anniversary celebrations that were curtailed or canceled.
It’s no wonder that a recent survey by the US Census Bureau in April found that 48 percent of Americans are feeling down, depressed, or hopeless because of the Pandemic. So many losses, so much grief and heartbreak, so many tears.
In the August issue of Turning Points Magazine & Devotional, Scott Hubbard calls tears “sparkling drops of emotion from the depths of our hearts.” It might comfort some of you to know that God saves our tears in a bottle. When I can’t control my tears, I remember this Bible verse:
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears
in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book”
(Psalm 56:8, NLT).
What Has the Pandemic Taught You?
Without doubt, Covid-19 has cost you and your loved ones in many ways. You're not only dealing with how to get through each day and week but worried about your family, home, finances, and how you’ll earn a living in the future. What to do next?
First count your friends and family as riches worth more than gold. If you need income, consider all your special talents, skills, ideas, know-how, and lifetime of experience. Look for ways to translate those assets into products and services others will need, not only in these upside-down economic times but for years to come. Now more than ever you need to focus on finding all the positive things in your life that you can bank on emotionally as we move forward to the unknown future destined to become our "new normal."
I would like to hear from at least some of you with a brief update on what your life is like now, especially the status of the home business or job you had before Covid-19 destroyed your well-laid plans. I wonder how you’re schooling your children, finding ways to socialize, and managing the care-giving role I know some of you have. Finally, how are you dealing emotionally with what’s happening in our culture and in your city or state? I pray you feel safe where you are.
If you’ve learned something important since the Pandemic hit or have some advice you think might help others, I’d love to share it in my next Bulletin. Many of you have been reading what I write for years, some going back to 2000 when I published the first issue. I think most of my readers would appreciate your update and perspective as much as I will.
Due to my heavy workload, I can’t respond in kind to everyone who writes, but I’ll send a brief thank-you to let you know I got your message. Please give me permission to summarize your message and quote some of your remarks using at least your first name and last initial. If you have a website, I’ll be happy to link to it.
Christian Encouragement and Hope
I leave you now with a few Bible verses I remember in difficult times. I pray you will find them uplifting too. These are from my Women’s Devotional NIV Bible.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future”
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own”
“If you believe, you will receive
whatever you ask for in prayer”
“God's voice thunders in marvelous ways;
he does great things beyond our understanding”
Thanks in advance for your response. May God bless you and keep you and yours safe from harm.
AS ALWAYS . . . Feel free to forward this issue to anyone who might benefit from its content. New readers are invited to join my mailing list here. Note: The brabec-bulletin email address on this message is required for sending purposes only and is not used to communicate with readers. Replies will come from Barbara's Gmail address. (Add this address to your address book for direct communication with Barbara at any time, and also approve the sending email address so you don't miss future issues.)