Parkinson's Mindset vs. Coronavirus

Driving home from work on Friday, March 13th, I finally got the notice that the coronavirus would move my college’s classes online. Other schools had done this, so it was just a matter of when.

Like everyone else, I was anxious about the future. Institutions and businesses would, mysteriously, stop functioning as before, either closing or moving to Internet only. As Jim Morrison would have sung 50 odd years ago, "Strange days have found us…"

Going remote and adapting

The answer was here. The anxiety was gone, but then it wasn’t since we would still be working from the college's campus. Then this plan was quickly modified as all non-essential staff were sent home with laptops after 1 more day in school. About a week later, the Pennsylvania government sent our "essential" superiors home to work.

We’re fortunate. Unlike 3.28 million people last week in America (March 28), we’re working.1 Unlike thousands of people worldwide, we’re alive.2 So let us read coronavirus numbers like stats from America's game on hiatus. When will it hit home in our closest degree of separation?

Stepping into a different world

Like many people with Parkinson's and immuno-issues, I've barricaded myself indoors. After 12 days inside, I went to buy groceries and send mail. It was a whole different world with distance markers, sneeze screens, face masks, gloves, and universal precautions and aseptic technique. There was still traffic, but it could have been busier; the cold rain washing the streets of Ephrata, Pennsylvania, with its rivers running down Main Street's hill self-quarantined people on a dreary Saturday morning.

Standing in line, I  had a conversation with a guy who asked me how I was doing with being indoors. Here, I was overly confident, but I've never been one to be against realistic and positive... yet.

I know it sounds weird to not mind "house arrest," but I speak from the same experience as many of you.

10 reasons I don't mind being home

  1. Isolation keeps my at-risk self away from coronavirus (mostly).
  2. This protects my wife, who is safely at home, too (as we should all be). We’ve got each other, so like Bon Jovi sings, "That’s a lot." No need putting her at risk.
  3. For now, I’m working, so I am incredibly fortunate. Hopefully, more people can work safely, too. Many companies are trying as we adjust to Coronavirus Business 1.2.
  4. Should something happen, I have insurance, sick leave, and my job offered a buffer to help us. For those who didn't, we Parkies know something about advocating for helping others, so we can educate on how helping others can help everyone.
  5. Because of the desperation, all branches of the government stepped up with a first wave protection order,3 actually getting out of their own way to do what it had to do for many (not all) people.
  6. On a functionality note, cellphones and Internet with 4 and 5G connectivity are here. Phone calls, even abroad, can be on the monthly charge, as can chats on Facebook and video connectivity from websites like Zoom. There’s less reason to go outside (though nothing can replace fresh air and outdoor recreation). If only they were in those lonely days in my younger homesick days!
  7. I have no shortage of stuff to read and write. If I need new books or music, I can download more. There’s absolutely no need to leave home to impulse buy.
  8. There is plenty of TV to watch during the boring times.
  9. I can daydream about what I am going to do when this is all over (Bora Bora? The Great American Petroglyph Tour? Build Legos with Dylan?).
  10. Parkinson’s clarified the Serenity Prayer4 and Stockdale Paradox,5 as well as positive outlook quotes for me. With that, I’ve already contemplated the, “What could be?” and I modified my thoughts for what-if scenarios in case something else happens.

Because it always could, so...

What are you doing for you?

Never forget the mantras that get you through! When we look back on our lives, we all had an Avalanche Day, like Parkinson’s diagnosis. At that moment, as if said person was Cory Richards getting smashed to the ground by a roaring train of snow, ice, and rock, he or she was faced with the choice of either digging out from under the ice or the other choice. In that moment, self-preservation triumphed.

Our reasons to survive might be different, but somehow, we kept moving, and we changed. We have that same strength for coronavirus.

Looking at life now, I realize that if a progressively deteriorating incurable neurological disorder can’t permanently end my happiness (even if it can kick my butt for extended periods of time), then neither can the possibility of coronavirus. My job is to be Randall "Tex" Cobb.

Being the best me I can be

I’m not using this to be unrealistically brave or suggesting that you should. I am more cautious about washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and staying safe (so should you), but as a quote by CS Lewis states,

The first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things -- praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts -- not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.

So yeah, I’m going to spend my days being the best me I can while on house arrest. We may not be going away for my wife’s birthday (a better vacation later), we will return some concert tickets (savings!), and we won’t be going out to eat (cheaper and healthier at home), so there’s a little positive in every big negative, even if we don't get everything we want.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself

Are people in danger from this situation? Definitely. Do the choices we are making as a society make sense? I’d like to believe they do, as I contemplate how my school is making the wise choice to go online only for classes. If we can avoid large groups we should. Naming the situation and dealing with it appropriately is the wise choice.

Will Smith clarifies, “Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real, but fear is a choice.”

This will be over, someday!

Yes, the end isn’t specified, but at some point, we’ve all been places, lonely, isolated, less technologically advanced, without modern conveniences. For instance, I can remember being on the Turkish / Syrian / Iraq border in the spring of 1991. Living in a sweaty military tent, utilizing primitive tent bathrooms, I wondered how long this would go on.

It’s been 3 decades since that time passed. Someday, we will return to our regular lives, and this too will be over. Hopefully, we’ll gain something from it like Camus’s Dr. Rieux did: “I have no idea what's awaiting me, or what will happen when this all ends. For the moment I know this: there are sick people and they need curing.”

Until then, stay safe, healthy, and sound. If you need to, reach out and touch someone, digitally!


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