Living in the Anxious Age of Coronavirus
God runs the world isn't just an expression. Everything is truly in His hands.
“Not the coronavirus again,” complained one of my children as we sat down to dinner. “Can’t we talk about something else?”
“It’s not that we can’t,” I responded. “It’s just that it’s really hard to concentrate on anything else.” Not because there’s new information or anything new to say. It’s just hard to avoid. Like many, my emotions run the gamut from calm to hysterical and right back again.
Although I’ve mostly managed to keep myself from getting too anxious about it (largely because I have so many anxieties there isn’t room to add another one!), the constant barrage from news sources, from Facebook posts (yes, I know I should stay off!) and other arenas has an impact.
And then there is the personal. Two engagement parties for friends' children cancelled this week. My son’s senior semester at college moved to online amidst tearful good-byes. Agonizing over plane tickets for my kids for Passover and for my husband and I to visit my mother in Canada immediately after…Like I said, it’s hard to escape the shadow of the disease. It requires a concerted effort.
Not to mention that the hospital where my husband works as a volunteer chaplain just told (not asked, told!) all volunteers over 60 not to come in – yikes! And the trips to Israel he leads are up in the air. And it’s definitely not a good time to fundraise – no matter how worthy the cause. His days have been completely upended. And in the meantime, I’m trying to walk the balance between holding classes because we should keep learning and canceling them because I don’t want to spread the disease! I know there is zoom but I just don’t think that will work for me. Unless I absolutely have to…
And it’s appropriate to be practical – to stock up on certain essentials – if the store still has them. My husband wants me to go out and buy some basic food stuffs like beans and rice. I looked at him like he was crazy. “With Passover coming, you want me to stock up on chametz and kitniyot? I’m trying to eliminate those items from our home, not bring them back in!” Yet, with all the uncertainty (and in the interests of peace in the home), I bought some extra cans and bags of those staples.
Does the preparation just make us feel better, like we are doing something about it, like we have some control or is it really an appropriate and practical response? So hard to know…
With all the uncertainty in the air, with the facts and the risks a little elusive, it’s hard to know how to behave. We all seem to be perched precariously over some abyss, unsure of the safe way to traverse it. I think the only response is to rely on my tried and true fallback position – “God runs the world.” He always has and He always will. And in case you had any illusions about that, He has now demonstrated it loud and clear.
That doesn’t really answer my question about how much water or toilet paper to buy (the empty shelves in the stores do that for me) but it helps with my emotional and psychological attitude. I’m not in control. I can take reasonable precautions (as we always do in life) and the rest is in His hands. It’s a mantra I already repeat throughout my day and it remains true. I’ve just upped the frequency of my repetitions.
The Almighty is in charge; it’s not just an expression. And everything is truly in His hands. I certainly don’t want to get the virus although I assume many of us eventually will. Being over 60 definitely increases the risk as it does for other diseases. Life is a risk and I’m not so sanguine even as I mouth that seeming platitude. But we don’t really have a choice here other than the one presented – to trust or not to trust, to accept that the Almighty is in charge or not. I have become more concerned about the coronavirus but I’m also concerned about the way people drive on the main street around the corner from me, about how many people run red lights and stop signs every night as my husband and I are taking a walk.
After being realistic about the safeguards we need to put in place, the choice is to live a life of anxiety or not. Sometimes I sink into the former, but I try to pull myself out with my constant reminder. “God runs the world. God runs the world.” That recognition seems to be the best medicine available.