Living through a pandemic is like enduring a long, contested divorce. One false move and the enemy can seize us. In my sister’s divorce, still on-going after three years, if she gets angry at her cheating spouse, the lawyer accuses her of being an emotionally unstable mother. She has to remain serene as a saint.
In spreading viral contagion, if I give in to the desire to hang out with unmasked friends for a while, to feel human connection after months of lockdown, the virus could pounce. No matter how many months I faithfully wear my mask, when I’m without it, one nearby sneeze can launch the virus into my lungs. In this health crisis, wellbeing requires sanitation sainthood.
Humans aren’t saints. But when I look around, it appears most people try their best to obey basic rules: stop at the stoplight, wear clean enough clothes. And most folks keep to the lockdown as best they can. I see a few people without masks, so I realize society isn’t perfect. I hope and pray imperfect is good enough to conquer the virus without many more deaths.
During this worldwide epidemic, I start having the same dreams I had when my sister’s divorce began several years ago and she moved in with me. In the dreams, enemies chase us or prowl outside the house, waiting for one missed step, to swoop in and capture us. Human life is rarely ideal. Escape from adversaries, whether wild beasts or people, must be hardwired into our DNA and our dream archetypes. Knowing this is a common experience for all humanity helps me cope. Throughout history, there’ve been times when, to survive, we need to lay low. That’s life and the faster I accept it, the safer my family and I will be.
Luckily, in my anxiety dreams, I feel competent and know I can handle whatever danger lurks. But in reality, I’m not sure. I constantly remind myself to wash my hands, not touch my face, sanitize all commonly used surfaces and my hands over and over again. We used to call this Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and we snickered at the repetitive hand-washers. Now I clean my hands ten times a day, if not more. Is that enough or not? The proof is that I haven’t caught the dreaded virus. But some days I want to rebel and run into the streets unmasked with dirty hands. So far, I haven’t.
In her divorce, my sister tries her best, but the pressure gets to her and she stumbles. She lashes out in anger at a lawyer and misses an important appointment. The opposition seizes on her error, magnifies it and punishes her. She loses that battle and pays a big fine.
Viruses and divorce can be ruthless and teach us how vulnerable we are. Whether poor or rich, the things we hold most precious are at risk: money, family and our life energy.
As my sister’s legal battle drags on, I wonder if we can withstand the stress with no more mistakes? We’re imperfect, and, with the divorce, she risks her livelihood and her children. Enduring a divorce or a pandemic, wears a person down and increases the chance of a blunder.
I’m left with solace of my spiritual beliefs and find myself leaning on divine inspiration more often. Now I understand why all the saints pray. When the world is overwhelming and I’m humbled by my powerlessness, I can meditate. I allow peace to settle until I feel a tingly life force coursing within me. When I offer prayers and gratitude, my body and mind seem to resonate with a positive answer.