Join the club

Kitchen Table Lesson of the Day: The Effectiveness of Soap to Fight Germs

1. Get a bowl of water

2. Add pepper
(= germs)
3. Put your finger in and take out –
yes, it is full of pepper!
4. Put soap on your finger and place back in water – watch it create a clearing as it repels the pepper!

How are you doing out there?

Welcome to the club. For everyone for whom social distancing is a new phenomenon I hope you have enough of what you need to survive: food and TP and medication and your mental health intact, which I realize is a moving target. If anything good comes of this deadly virus – and I think the worst crises always teach us life-altering lessons, if only how lucky we had it with the old as opposed to the new normal – perhaps those of you who live socially engaged lives will do more in the future to reach out and connect with folks who face social isolation on an ongoing basis. Because the next time (I realize it’s hard to even go there, but chances are there will be a next time) it would be far better if at the outset we were all stitched together more, rather than orbs hurtling and circling around each other, never quite touching.

The other night in my first Zoom support group, the other women articulate exactly what I’ve been thinking: “So now other people finally have some sense of what our lives are like!” As caregivers of children (who are in many of our cases no longer kids) who still require constant intervention and monitoring, who have ongoing serious medical or mental health issues, social isolation is a way of life. It’s a reality for lots of others too, more common in certain groups: older adults, especially those who live alone; individuals with disabilities or chronic illness; lower income people.

If you had a lifetime membership in our club, the impact would be staggering: it would shorten your lifespan and dramatically impact your health; you’d have a 50 % increased risk of developing dementia; 29 % increased risk for heart disease; 25% increased risk for cancer mortality, 59 % increased risk of functional decline and 32% increased risk of stroke. You’d be much more likely to struggle with depression and anxiety. The self- quarantine or social distancing you may be practicing now puts us all in the same crowded boat (hopefully six feet apart so it has to be one huge vessel).

For now my default survival mantras are “it could be worse” and “thank you…” for a safe secure home, enough food to eat, and of course, health. In the short-term I’m more disappointed for B, who will spend the rest of his last semester of college living at home, taking online classes, and graduating without a commencement ceremony. But he’s resilient, it won’t effect him long-term, it will be a story to tell his kids and grandchildren (“When I was 21 there was an awful pandemic and the worst President in our country’s history…”) 
For V, the long-term impact is far more dire, a matter of simple scary math: For each week without classroom structure, personal aide, and interventions and therapies he needs to thrive, it takes a few weeks to get back up to speed: The December holiday of nearly 2 weeks took most of January to get regulated again, and then the week off in February took until early March to get back on track. Now that it’s likely the rest of the school year – 3 months – yikes! – with ineffective “online learning” (Google classroom, with some fun experiments as above, and lots of less engaging work we struggle to do) and way too much unstructured time followed by the summer when “extended school year” (ESY) only covers 5 of a total 11 weeks off, it could take us until the end of the year or longer to get back on course.  It’s like a runner or gymnast or any athlete who requires constant training and practice to maintain speed or skills being held up by a major injury and then having to start all over. Hopefully there’s some muscle memory but the body and mind have A LOT of catching up to do. There are hundreds of thousands of kids/teens/adults in this boat, stuck out at sea for who knows how long.

With all our differences, we’re all still in this together, which makes it a good time to reflect on what really matters. I hope it helps us appreciate how much we need each other and how we suffer when we lack social cohesion. I hope people reach out to someone who could use some human contact now, and even more importantly later, whenever it is that life again feels safe and secure for those of us fortunate to have that as our old normal. I hope that we can use this as an opportunity to transform ourselves, to make incremental changes to help others know that they matter and thus live longer. If you want to start here, please leave me a comment below or reach out at juanah2617@gmail.com. Let me know how you are and what is helping you to deal with the isolation and stress of this moment.

Wishing everyone safety, good health, and a sense of belonging.

4 thoughts on “Join the club

  1. Oy. Thinking of you everyday. I am trying to do a short meditation every morning or night that seems to help.
    Also calling and did a zoom chat with my college buddies. Trying to laugh once in a while helps too.

    Like

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