Observations from an Irish Guy living in Seattle USA!
Since the arrival of COViD19 in Seattle, I have diligently tried to maintain my daily exercise routine of walking or hiking, while adhering to the health & safety mandates. Until now, I believe this has worked well, and most people I have encountered have been smiling and happy. But today I noticed a distinct and palatable shift. I chose one of my favorite in-city hikes, the Discovery Park Loop Trail, it ’s a beautiful hike; lots of hills, stairs, beautiful Puget Sound views, a lighthouse… a moderately challenging 5 miles.
During encounters today, I was struck by a strange and contradictory facial response; it was as if one side of their faces were smiling, happy to see a fellow hiker despite the Pandemic, while the other side of their faces appeared to have a look of deep fear. It was as if they were worried I was about to pull out a gun, mug them, steal their wallet and iPhone, and perhaps in my drugged state, shoot them anyway!
However, their fear was driven out of concern that perhaps, as I greeted them with a ‘Good Morning’, ‘How you doing?’ or ‘Beautiful day eh?’, a small droplet of my saliva would shoot out of my mouth, traverse the 6-plus feet between us and land on their mouth, nose, or eye, infect them and result in a relatively slow and potentially painful death while gasping for air.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand their c oncern, I suppose we all think about it to some extent. But what alarmed me most as I began to process these reactions, was what will happen to our so ciety when COViD19 passes. Well many have said “all will go back to normal once we get to the other side” but I don’t fully buy that, people will fear a 2nd wave, maybe a 3rd wave, or an Nth wave … worry about new mutations after the vaccine… worry about a NEW virus we don’t actually know about yet! The possibilities are mind-blowing, and endless, IF we allow our minds to be overtaken by fear. Also, the longer this fear goes on, the more normal it will become and the harder it will be to return to ‘normal’.
You see, fear creates anxiety, chronic anxiety leads to depression, and both can lead to many bad outcomes, including mental health issues, even suicides and domestic/public violence. Fear puts us in the Sympathetic Nervous State of ‘Fight or Flight’, which quickly and significantly lowers our immune system response, and ironically, we become more prone to succumb to those viruses we are fearing. If we live in a ‘fight or flight ’ state long term, our societal health will further deteriorate, and the downward spiral will continue. Also, we know that normal exposure to viruses, pathogens and other foreign bodies, is what makes our immune system strong, if we avoid interacting with other people, if we over disinfect, if we start to wear rubber gloves and face masks as a normal way of life, we will eventually, and dramatically, weaken our immune system; therefore, when we do eventually get exposed to even a basic cold virus, we will have become so weak… it may just kill us! Our immune system is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, expose it to things it needs to f ight against, it will get lazy, weak and quickly deteriorate.
So w hat is the answer, I honestly believe that nobody knows the ultimate path o f Covid19, it will rage its course and we should all do whatever is believe d to be the best practices given to us by the experts at the time. But we should also focus energy on avoiding or minimizing fear. Meditation, breathwork, exercise, eating healthier by just minimizing sugar and processed food s, talking and laughing, avoiding too much news, and sleeping well is a great start. Fear has no value in the face of a virus, worrying about what has happened or what may happen is futile, all we have is the present moment.
So when we meet our fellow humans, even from 6 feet away, do not fear, take comfort in each other’s presence, share a greeting, a happy thought or even just a fleeting smile… remember that they are y our ally, NOT your enemy… I believe the words of US President Franklin D Roosevelt in his inaugural speech are more relevant today than ever.
“ We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”.
Mal is an Irishman abroad, more info on his website.