We’ll need a very big boat

Dear President Trump,

My dear oracle, otherwise known as Laura, just announced that spring starts at 8:49pm this evening, so happy first day of spring. Too bad this spring is necessarily going to be wholly unlike any other spring any of us have ever experienced. Yes, the daffodils and jasmine are blooming and the birds are doing their springy things, but really, it’s too quiet. The usual hum of kids playing or walking to school isn’t there. There are cars on the roads but no traffic to speak of. There’s a guardedness, an already weary wariness, that has people even more closed in on themselves than is typical around here. It definitely doesn’t feel springy; indeed, it already feels like this spring will be less a time of renewal and growth and more one of uncertainty and bleakness where loss (of all sorts) and death are far more salient than any budding leaves on any tree anywhere.

And this shadowy sense is likely to get worse unless we work really, really hard to keep our attention, our gazes, our attitudes wide and open. In other words, I think we’ll need to do the radical “both and” work of attending to and respecting the grim reality of the virus we are confronting and of staying open to and not losing sight of the life and beauty that lately feels pretty surreal and illusory, but really are real too. Sorry, I know that last sentence is clunky and has to many variations on “real” in it, but hopefully you get the gist.

One of the really real issue I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is that of “underlying medical conditions.” Over and over the past several weeks we’ve been hearing that underlying medical conditions, particularly among the elderly, are putting some people at greater risk of having worse illness associated with covid-19 and at greater risk of death. Of course this is completely logical and shouldn’t be a surprise at all – there are very few pathogens that lead to worse outcomes for the young and healthy than for older people with one or more pre-existing health conditions. So yep, those of us with conditions that would lead to us not being eligible for health insurance if you and your patrons had their way are also putting us at higher risk for having bad outcomes should we catch the virus. And yep, our covid-19 care is bound to be more expensive as a result so if one were inclined to simply focus on the financial bottom line, one would likely want to have a huge ice floe handy on which to set us all adrift.

But you know, it would have to be a seriously huge ice floe because really, there are a lot of us with conditions of various kinds. Actually, since so many of are in the same one, how about a very big boat?

I’ve told you before about my condition (aortal insufficiency) and with the coronavirus upon us, I’ve been telling more people. Lots more people. Well, actually, the telling people is fairly new because for several weeks I was in denial that this condition counted as “heart disease,” but I finally made myself ask a physician at work and he was very clear that it is indeed a form of heart disease and that it does put me at risk for having a hard time should I catch the virus.

All of this is rather heavy for me personally, but it’s not why I’m telling people about it – rather, I’m telling people because once I got real with myself about this thing I happen to have, I realized that we need to give as many faces to these “underlying conditions” as we can. Almost all of us have something that we carry around with us that limits us in one way or another (or in lots of ways), but we so often feel compelled to pretend it’s not so that we miss all kinds of opportunities for connection and empathy. Maybe, just maybe, this awful situation will help more of us let down our guards and be more real with one another and that could be a very good thing.

May we be safe to be real.
May we be willing to be real out loud.
May everyone’s well-being be treasured and lifted up.
May we make peace with our various conditions and not allow them to come between us.

Tracy Simpson

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