Grasping for Objectivity in Probiotic Social Distancing.

coronavirus

I’ve spent half the week trying to understand the coronavirus. All of the conflicting reports and graphs have just confused me and forced me to keep digging to find some objectivity in all the mess of opinions and prophecies and, of course, legit funny memes. After words left me boggled, I finally went to my most trusted friend, numbers. I googled some numbers for myself, connected the dots, and now am starting to grasp the whats, the whys, and the ifs. To understand both the “it’s not a big deal” and the “it’s a big deal” and the “why all of us playing our part matters.”

Disclaimer: I am no expert, I could be wrong, but I share my thoughts because it’s the chain of logic that finally helped me understand what was happening, and I thought it might help someone else as well. (Also I needed to unload my brain.)

First: Stay Calm. This isn’t the end of the world. Do Not Panic.

The population of Hubei, the province in China where all this started, where they didn’t even know they had a new disease for nearly two months (details: they are now saying Patient Zero contracted around mid-November, Chinese officials told WHO they had dozens of cases of unknown pneumonia on December 31, they identified it was a new virus on January 7, and didn’t quarantine the city until January 24)….the population is 58.5 MILLION.

Of that 58.5 million, 67,790 people have gotten the coronavirus as of today. That’s 0.1% of the population of the most caught off guard people group.

Once that 58.5 million started following strict social distancing guidelines, their rate of spread fell dramatically.

So in that way, these numbers make it seem like not a big deal. And it isn’t – as long as we don’t get it all at once. Note that they QUIT getting it AFTER they social distanced. Meaning that social distancing is the only way to slow/prevent the exponential growth the virus has if left to its own devices.

Second: Pay Attention. It is a big deal.

Italy is at the moment the example of the worst case scenario. The numbers are why.

Four Fridays ago: 21 cases of coronavirus.

Three Fridays ago: 1,128 cases – a multiplication of 53.7 times more cases.

Last Friday: 4,636 cases – a multiplication of 4.1 times more cases.

This Friday: 17,660 cases – a multiplication of 3.8 times more cases. Or, in three weeks, a multiplication of 841 times more cases.

This is a serious issue because their medical infrastructure cannot handle this, and their death rate is higher because they simply cannot treat everyone. The doctors are having to make horrific decisions of who gets treatment and who dies for lack of treatment.

The exponential power and especially speed of this virus is dangerous if left unchecked. Yes, it’s not dangerous to everyone, and it’s still a small percentage of the population, BUT when numbers are increasing at that rate of multipliers, it takes mere weeks to be a severely dangerous situation.

Third: Have Hope. We can be proactive and prevent the worst case.

If we socially distance now, before we know if we have it and how many people have it, we prevent the multiplier.

*** We are not sheltering in place out of fear, but out of prevention. ***

The best case scenario is that, in a couple months, all the people who said this virus is a political sham are laughing in our face and saying “See? I told you so.”

Fourth: Don’t Be Selfish. It’s not about you.

Yes, the virus can be very mild – so mild that you don’t know you have it. Yes, the death rate for younger people is drastically low.

But all lives are valuable. ALL lives. And if we, as “younger” people, can get it and not even know we have it, then we have the potential of spreading it to someone that is older or that has secondary health problems without even knowing we did it. That makes younger, healthy people not just a null value in this equation – it makes them a weapon.

If you cannot be motivated to practice social distancing for yourself, practice social distancing for your grandmother. For your elderly neighbor. For your friend with diabetes. For your uncle with heart disease. For my grandmother. For that stranger’s grandmother. Because every life has value.

If we preventatively limit our social interactions (not necessarily our leaving home – just minimizing our close proximity as many people as we practically can), then we prevent the exponential growth, and we prevent being a part of the cause of suffering of others.

So. Am I going to my friend’s 45th birthday dinner, consisting of a small group of friends? Yes. Am I going out to eat randomly just so I don’t have to cook? Probably not, but I might send Chris to the drive-thru. Am I going to keep running and hiking? Yes, because there aren’t large groups of people involved in that. Am I going to church, or sporting events, or to hang out at the mall or the movies? Nope. That can wait.

Those are my personal decisions, and certainly not black and white guidelines. Everyone needs to weigh their personal situations and make informed decisions.

Numbers both alleviated my fear and inspired me to do a large amount of social distancing to keep the numbers low. But it’s not out of fear. It’s more like eating yogurt. It’s a Probiotic.

Backwards Blessings.

My 92 year old grandmother, my Mother’s mom, moved in with my parents in Mid-April, five months before my dad passed away. I remember the week she moved in – it was an extraordinarily chaotic week for our entire family. Mammaw had had a bad day at her house, which was the impetus for getting her to move in. My sister-in-law’s stepdad passed away the same day. My Dad was in the middle of his first round of Clinical Trials at UAB, requiring him to stay in a hotel downtown three nights every three weeks. My Mom had her Master Gardener’s annual plant sale coming up, for which she was responsible for many preparations. I had a Picture Birmingham pop-up shop at West Elm that weekend. We all pitched in, trying to do what we could…keeping my brother and sister-in-law’s kids so my sister-in-law could be with her mom, helping with Mammaw so that mom could get ready for her plant sale and also accompany dad to the doctor.

Mammaw had moved in because she wasn’t doing well. She couldn’t see or hear very well, and she had an infection that was making her somewhat delirious. She needed a female caretaker at all times, so Mom, Mom’s sister, and I were trading up staying with her. I was super nervous the first time I went to sit with her for five hours. My gifting, unlike my mother, is not care-taking and is definitely not long periods of visiting without doing anything. I am much more like my father – an administrator, someone who needs to be busy when with other people, and a writer instead of a talker. I don’t know what to say in person (if you’ve ever tried to talk in person about something that is vulnerable to me, you are already well aware of this.) But God gave me the idea of reading aloud to Mammaw – I read aloud to my kids all the time, and I had lots of favorite books I could read to her. Plus, the thing that Mammaw missed most due to her declining vision was reading, so it was perfect. I read nearly an entire book to her in the first few weeks, before she broke it to me that she could barely hear me (despite my yelling the pages.) But it helped me get into the groove of sitting with her, and by then I had come to enjoy our time together and had learned to talk better.

But I didn’t realize what a striking blessing Mammaw had specifically been to me until the week before dad passed away. I had been sitting with Mammaw one to three times a week for five months by then. One day I was sitting and talking to Dad after they got back from his last doctor’s appointment. It all of a sudden hit me that I had never, in these last few months of his life, worried that I was not there enough, or that I was there too much. I’d never even wondered if I was bugging them or if I was too distant. I was at my parent’s exactly as often as they wanted and needed me there, and they were thankful that I had been there. Sitting with Mammaw had enabled so many positive things in my life:

– It enabled me to serve my parents in a practical way, rather than feeling useless or wondering how I could help them.

– It enabled me to be present with them on a weekly basis, visiting before and after their appointments.

– Many times just Mom was gone somewhere and Dad was at the house, and Dad would use those days to purposefully invest in my kids while I sat with Mammaw. It was those days that dad taught Noah how to drive the tractor, let both kids drive his truck, and included my kids on making the backsplash tiles for Mom’s kitchen that he was designing out of clay and pressed leaves from their property. Mammaw being there gave my kids more time with their Granddad.

dad and kids

– Mammaw allowed me to never once worry about being there too much or too little or even thinking about those things – and I am prone to worrying, so that in itself is a miracle.

– Serving my parents in that way allowed me to demonstrate to my Dad that I am and will be here for my Mom. I think I have not always been demonstrably servant-hearted to my parents because they’ve always been so very self-sufficient that I didn’t know what could I offer them. Plus, for the last 12 years, I’ve had their grandkids – so most of our interactions have been grandkid-centered. I’d lost the ability to converse / serve / be there for my parents, and I hope that Dad seeing me be there in his last five months assured him that I’d be there for mom after he was gone.

Furthermore, my mom is a caretaker. And Mammaw being there after my Dad’s death is, I think, so very much a blessing to my Mom. She still has her mother, she has someone to care for, she has someone to confide in, and she’s not alone. Mammaw may have wondered at times why she’s still on this earth, why she’s 92 and one of the only ones left of her generation, but I think it’s for my Mom. And, in those last five months, it was also for me.

I was able to tell Mammaw all of this a few weeks after my Dad died, and thank her for what she’d done for me. She cried, I cried, and she said “Thank you, Rachel, for telling me all that. I loved your father so much – he was such a good son-in-law to me and took such good care of me. I’ve felt so bad that I couldn’t do anything for your parents during all of this, and it makes me feel so good that I was able to help after all.”

God’s blessings sometimes come in backwards, unexpected ways. Never underestimate your value to others.

190108 Ali's 12 Birthday IMG_0758 sMammaw, Mom, Ali and I at Ali’s 12th birthday. Mammaw is doing wonderfully well now.

Hitting Pause.

180605 Cahaba River NWR Trail Piper Interpretive Trail IMG_8693 small

I’ve been struggling through my relationship with this blog for the last three years, for a myriad of reasons.

…Writing is so much harder for me than it used to be (I’ll get back to that.)
…Blogging is a “dead art.”
…My kids are growing up and not as entertaining/deserve their privacy.
…School and life take more time than they used to. When I started this blog, I was blogging during naptimes. Naptimes haven’t happened in years.
…Thankfully, we seem to be on a drought of misadventures, which were oddly always the easiest thing to write about.

But I have trouble quitting anything – even when quitting might be in order.

Every summer I get really close to writing a post similar to this (I probably have half a dozen in my drafts folder) but I always talk myself out of it. But the time has come.

The bottom line is, I need an indefinite break. The thought processes that have gone into this decision are far too vast and agonizing for something as silly as writing a personal blog (I’ve been mulling over it this time for at least 5 months), but I’ve been writing here for over a decade – it’s been a part of my life for nearly my entire career as a mother. So it feels as if it is a big part of who I am, even though I don’t give it nearly the time I used to. The idea of stopping has always felt like peeling off a part of my identity, which seems as painful as peeling off a layer of skin.

But taking a break doesn’t mean I love it any less.

I love what I’ve accomplished here. Over 2,300 posts documenting pieces of life that I certainly would have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down (I know this because I can read old posts and have no recollection of having written them or of them happening.) So many of those posts were my own personal therapy, helping me recount my days in a way that was entertaining enough to make whatever pain was involved feel inconsequential. I loved the way I was able to document Noah as a toddler. There were bats in my baby’s room. There were multiple house floods. There were crazy medical tests and procedures. There was Dysautonomia. And ultimately, it is that last one that brings me to my need for a break.

I’ve become pretty adept at fighting my symptoms of Dysautonomia – I get bi-weekly IVs to combat dehydration, I run and hike several times a week to keep blood flowing up to my brain, I drink powders that keep me going and guzzle crazy amounts of water. I (try to) hardly eat sugar and watch my caffeine intake. But the one symptom that I have found nothing that helps it is the effect Dysautonomia has taken on my brain function. I cannot think, write, or analyze creatively like I used to do on a daily basis. My brain feels sluggish and thick, and it’s not easy to sit down at a keyboard and come up with ridiculous analogies or observations on life. I mourned this loss for the first three years after my diagnosis. I pointedly avoided reading old blog posts because it made me so sad to remember what I used to be able to produce with such ease.

Every now and then, my brain will click on and it’ll work nearly how it used to. I’ve produced a blog post here and there that I have been proud of. But before 2013 I was producing 4 or 5 of those a week – and with hardly any effort. It’s not been the same.  I’ve tried to push through and make myself write anyway – and I’m glad I have – but writing has become much more of a burden than the life-giving therapy that it used to be.

But I want to write so badly.

Or rather, I want to want to write. And I want to be able to write.

To do that, I need a break, so that the negative feelings associated with writing (anxiety, guilt, mourning) can fade and I can start fresh and hopefully one day rediscover my ability to put words on a page.

If, however, I have a fantastic story I must tell, I will certainly tell it here. This blog isn’t going anywhere. I can’t imagine taking it down, and I can’t imagine saying with finality that I’m done. It will wait here, and I will write when I have something bursting to get out. But I need to remove myself from any sort of schedule or expectations of journalling my life.

Thankfully, at the same time I began the process of Dysautonomia and grappling with what it took from me, God gave me the gift of photography so that I could use it to help The WellHouse. That creative outlet has been my saving grace while I’ve been working through the frustration over my disability to write. It’s something I can do – something that isn’t affected by my brain limitations. It’s been a gift that I’ve been able to lean on. I never wanted photography to take the place of my writing, and it hasn’t – but as I face the inevitable fact that writing needs to pause for a bit, it gives me the creative space to feel like I’m not giving up. And, sometimes, I’ve been able to tell short and silly stories with my photos, and that kinda nearly feels like writing.

So for the next little while, Instagram (I’m @ObjectivityRach) is going to be my main internet nesting place. I’ve enjoyed posting Instagram stories (those little circles at the top of the home page) as we go throughout our day, and I very much enjoy posting photos. I hope to continue writing snippets and short stories as I post (like this one from Sunday), and I hope that you will follow me there for a time. I’ll be on Facebook too, but Instagram is my happy place, and it’s where I end up spending most of my online energy.

Thank you all for being a part of my life, for being my friends and my encouragers over the past decade. It has meant so much to me, and I have loved meeting you – both on the internet and many of you in real life. I don’t want to lose these friendships, and that has been a huge reason that I’ve pushed through to this point. Our relationships are a big part of that identity that pains me to think about giving up. So I hope we don’t have to do that. Please stay connected. Email me. Let me know how to follow you on Instagram (or other channels.) Friend me on Facebook. Text me. Stay my friend.

Thank you for living life with me.