The invisible enemy. Yes, I have a passing familiarity with this one. It has come for me twice in the form of cancer and Horton’s disease.
Coronavirus, however, is different; we are all now subjects of the Empire of the Sick.
A pandemic is a game changer for everybody. In France we have been under lockdown, aka “shelter in place,” aka confinement for the past couple of days. This has been horrendous for so many because the logic of disease containment now takes precedence over individual liberty. Whatever the individual circumstances, the fact that one can no longer simply walk down the street whenever one wishes is a psychological blow to any member of a free society.
But it is necessary. The new subjects of the Empire of the Sick must live for now under new rules. To have the best chance of coming out of this healed and whole, we must respect them.
That is the lesson I have learned and learned again prior to this pandemic. The doctors and other medical professionals are not talking to hear themselves talk. Nor are they bit actors in some national (or international) conspiracy to do you wrong. They are on your side and they want you to live.
So if they say, “six months of chemo” then you damn well do it. Think of “30 days of confinement” as the equivalent – a prescribed course of treatment necessary to saving your life and that of all the people around you.
However, some freedom remains in the Empire of the Sick. For example, the freedom to go above and beyond what the doctors have prescribed. Right now the terms of our confinement allow for jogging and shopping which includes the daily walk to the bakery for bread. How many of these trips are truly necessary? Is having a fresh baguette really more important than the risk of exposure? Yes, dogs must be walked and food must be procured but, for crying out loud, we can choose to keep those forays to a minimum.
Another important freedom is the right to control the amount of incoming information. When I was diagnosed with cancer my first impulse was to go read everything I could find on the Internet. Terrible, terrible idea. Between the mortality statistics and the folks telling me that kale would cure my cancer if I just had enough faith and a positive attitude, all I had to show for my time was confusion and depression. So I chose to stop listening to everyone and focused instead like a laser on my oncologist and the team at the clinic.
Limiting the input saved my sanity then and now. A few trusted news sources, the French government, and the public health authorities in France and the US (Dr. Fauci!) are all that is getting through the filter right now.
And finally the “one day at a time” principle is applied, well, daily here at the Flophouse.
In the Empire of the Sick dwelling on what may be tomorrow, next month or next year leads to useless anxiety and a squandering of the now. We do not know what will happen in the near future and what the world will look like when we come out of this. But we do know that today we are (pick one or insert your own) warm, fed, well, not alone….
There are books to read, movies to watch, gardens to tend, and quilts to mend. We have chickens, children, and cats to care for. There are neighbors and people living far from us that we can check up on. At 8 PM every evening here in France we can stand out on our balconies, at our windows or in our gardens and show our support by clapping for the doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers who are putting themselves in danger on our behalf.
Stay safe, everyone, and God bless.