By Tim E. Renzelmann
The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly changed how most of us live and work and play and interact, in some ways temporarily and in other ways, perhaps permanently. Exactly how this will evolve remains to be seen.
Like many of you (I suspect), the past few months have been pitted with news, information and occurrences that have caused concern, worry and fear that has overwhelmed me to varying degrees in both intensity and duration. Here is my attempt to “Make CENTS” of it all.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE EXPERTS!
It can be difficult to sift through the vast amounts of quickly changing news and information that is being rapidly released and accurately determine what is reliable and what is not. But I think it is wise counsel to listen to the experts and trust in science.
Admittedly, finding consistent messaging related to this novel (new) virus, even from the experts, has been a challenge. We’ve seen public health experts change direction on various issues, we’ve seen predictions (both hopeful and dire) not come to fruition and we’ve watched projections quickly bounce up and down with the speed of a modern-day roller coaster!
The experts haven’t always been right... nor have they been able to provide answers to all of the many questions being asked. This is not a reason to doubt the experts or science but it is a basic illustration of the very nature of the scientific process. Science takes time... and part of trusting science and the scientific process is allowing it the time it needs to do it what it does so well!
I am confident that the experts will gain a better understanding of this virus and how it spreads, they will design better testing tools needed to better manage the disease, they will develop more effective treatment strategies for those who are stricken and they will establish appropriate social policies, whether temporary or permanent, for the greater good. So... please...
Those of us who have watched the advancement of cancer care should understand this as well as any. Yes, there have been occasional discoveries that have resulted in immediate and wide-spread change. But, far more often, advancement has come incrementally, slowly, gradually, one-step-at-a-time! We’ve come a long way with regard to cancer care... but it has taken not just weeks or months... but years and decades! Part of honoring the scientific process includes the understanding that right now the experts simply do not have all of the answers and may not even know what questions to ask!
BE EMPATHETIC TO THE GREATER GOOD!
While we’re patiently waiting as the scientific process leads us towards a greater understanding of this virus, now (and forever more) is a good time to practice compassion and empathy! I have long-believed that often times, the worst of circumstances can bring out the best in humanity. I am hopeful that this pandemic may lead to a deeper understanding of our interconnectedness with one another (locally and globally) as well as our interdependence with the world and natural resources that we must use thoughtfully and responsibly. I am hopeful we can learn how to best co-exist with our new reality and that some (perhaps many) aspects of life on this planet may be better from the experience!
A common (and critical) discussion at our TLC Local Cancer Community VIRTUAL Updates with respect to COVID-19 and the health and safety of ourselves and one another has been the use of protective face masks. Admittedly, some of us (including me) have complained about the inconvenience, the discomfort and even the awkwardness (it’s just weird going out in public with a face mask on), but at no time that I can recall has the conversation questioned their necessity or importance at this time. And yet, on the rare occasion that I have gone out in public, I have been disheartened at the sight of so many individuals in a public environment NOT wearing a mask!
None of us, I would suspect, WANTS to contract COVID-19 (although some of the stories we hear or read about may suggest otherwise). And, admittedly, there isn’t sufficient empirical evidence that demonstrates wearing cloth face masks in the general population are directly responsible or effective in preventing the spread of this virus. But until we learn more, common CENTS tells me that it is better than nothing. Additionally, as I see it, masks are an additional barrier and a good reminder for us to not touch our faces. I am assuming I am not the only one who has simply become more aware of how often I touch my face... and even worse (and especially when doing paperwork or filing) how often I like my fingers! YUCK! Furthermore, a face mask can be a helpful reminder of social distancing when in public.
More importantly (for me and for many others whom I have talked with), none of us wants to pass this virus on to others! The current understanding that an individual can have and spread this virus even without symptoms being present should be a concern to all of us. And, reasonably speaking from a cost-benefit approach, if wearing a mask saves just one person from the scourge of this virus (or possibly saves one life), it is a small price to pay!
But it must be stressed that face masks are NOT a substitute for social distancing and handwashing! It is also important that medical-grade surgical masks need to be prioritized specifically for healthcare workers.
From our conversations during the TLC Local Cancer Community VIRTUAL Updates, for many of us wearing a mask is as much if not more about showing our love and respect for others and honoring those essential medical workers and the equally essential daily life workers (those who stock the shelves, operate the checkout counters, deliver or distribute food, etc.).
APPROACH WITH LOVE
I’ll close with this advice from Tom Rivett-Carnac’s recent TED Talk titled, “How to Shift Your Mindset and Choose Your Future.” Tom makes the case for adopting a mindset of “stubborn optimism” to confront climate change – “or whatever challenge may come our way” (such as COVID-19) as he observes:
One of the many things I learned as a monk is that a bright mind and a joyful heart is both the path and the goal in life. This stubborn optimism is a form of applied love. It is both the world we want to create and the way in which we can create that world. And it is a choice for all of us. Choosing to face this moment with stubborn optimism can fill our lives with meaning and purpose, and in doing so, we can put a hand on the arc of history and bend it towards the future that we choose.
Yes, living now feels out of control. It feels frightening and scary and new. But let's not falter at this most crucial of transitions that is coming at us right now. Let's face it with stubborn and determined optimism.
Yes, seeing the changes in the world right now can be painful. But let's approach it with love.