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“Your eyes look great. Just like last time,” said my ophthalmologist as she moved aside the slit lamp and turned on the light. “That burning in your eyes is related to dry eyes—These drops should help, in time.” The cheerfulness in her voice soothed the disconnect from the world around me.

Housebound since before the pandemic, I had no experience of its upheaval. As I stepped from my front door with my helper, I sensed a different kind of heaviness, unrelated to the heat and humidity. From her air-conditioned car, my concerns mounted: crabgrass cracking the roads, $1.87 for a gallon of gas, slow-moving cars, empty parking lots, no rush hour traffic, no congestion on the highway straddled by four-foot weeds, pots of scraggly petunias affixed to overhead streetlights near the medical center, no congestion at Valet Parking near the entrance, and one wheelchair-sized-revolving door closed.

After helped into a wheelchair, my portable oxygen and mask in place, I breathed deeply and looked around. We moved through the other revolving door toward the masked staff who screened us, took our temperatures, then affixed labels to our shirts. Only a handful of masked patients in the lobby, only two allowed in the elevator at a time, only one patient and helper admitted to the doctor’s waiting room—the chairs positioned at odd angles, the side tables stripped of magazines and pamphlets, the lighting subdued.

It felt like a war zone gritting its teeth toward an invisible, but deadly foe; the outcome, uncertain.

Only later when my shudders quieted was I able to dredge up words to wrap around the outing: disconnect/chaos, words also associated with active dying. I’m not there yet, but it’s coming…

We pray, “Mercy!”

As depicted in ancient texts around the world hardship, suffering, and death have always seared experience. Brought to our knees, we learn limits and obey, but today’s Covid-19 knows no historical precedent.

It foists upon our awareness the specter of mortality, tinges outlooks with grief, demands mindfulness as we move through each day, and garbles communication among the experts. Intense is the dislocation from the familiar. It feels like being whipped around in a centrifuge, its switch damaged, or like being abandoned within a Sci-Fi thriller that the author stopped composing. Isolated, leeched of energy, exhausted: such dis-ease psyches like barnacles burrow into hulls of boats. If unaddressed, loss of soul occurs. For some, prayer helps; others observe the recommended CDC precautions and follow the daily posting of numbers. Still others invent safe getaways and maintain significant contacts with Zoom. Belly laughter is key to sanity.

Certainly, this scourge bespeaks of an uncanny wisdom at work. Its outcome still eludes us.

A similar scourge, ILD with Rheumatoid Arthritis, is also shortening my life and demands full consciousness to keep self-pity at bay. Slow is the slippage, but decline is happening. Rather than relapse into denial or rationalization, however, I choose conscious contact with Higher Power through practicing CPA’s Twelve Steps. Central to this practice is the simple prayer: Thy will, not mine, be done—Six one-syllable words that easily slip off the tongue, but ones that empower new élan, new direction, and new joy. It still works, and with each day I’m that much closer to eternal life.

 

Cancel, postpone, delay, reschedule, suspend, shelve, wait, dispense, put off, disrupt—such verbs prod attention toward unwelcome change, still provoked by Covid-19. Few areas of our lives have escaped the implications of living around its irritant: for some, death occurs.

Quarantine, shelter in place, social distancing, masking and gloving—such nouns mess with communication, intimacy, breathing, and social relating. Gesturing hugs don’t work for me. Such inconvenience tests patience, even raises questions about government regulations, with more states opening up for business.

Such experience dulls the sharpness of the crisis and seeks the comfort/unconsciousness of “the old ways.” Yet the Covid-19 crisis remains, unabated until the protective vaccine is in place.

From my perspective, this crisis mirrors my own: living with terminal illness, also with respiratory issues. Long months of praying, study, and blogging have filled empty spaces with ultimate truth and longing for eternal life. Yet, I’m not immune to the dark games in my psyche that have always wanted me dead before my time.

Like the deadly virus, the snaky hair of the Greek Medusa stings me into unconsciousness, leaving me vulnerable to assaults: terror triggers the “I can’t do it” attitude: learned helplessness from childhood; intense sadness-bordering-on-pain; dry weeping/heaving; rage and depression, voicelessness—my self-care ritual, albeit within limits, beached upon muddy bottoms. Hands clutching my head, Monster powerlessness threatens to eat me alive.

So my spiritual warfare deepens for which there is no vaccine, other than the practice of CPA’s Twelve Steps. They do work.

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