Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

Driving up to the roundhouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on a cloudy morning, I sat in disbelief over the fact that just a mere twenty-four hours ago, New Mexico was one of the states that was COVID-19 free.

There were no mass raids on grocery stores, no radio stations promoting fear, and certainly no worries about bottled water and basic necessities such as toilet paper and cleaning products being readily available. All of that changed when the first few cases hit our state. Listening to the local news broadcast, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was real, and it was here. Within one day the shelves of every major store in the city were emptied. Those items included milk, bread, and cereal. I actually grabbed the last package of my favorite breakfast cereal last night. As I mentioned to a friend, it was like living in a real-life Stephen King novel. Nothing quite decimates a city like an incoming disease that no one knows how to control, and is mutating faster than we can keep up with it. Heck, most people don’t even take this seriously and have taken to making jokes about it on social media. The empty streets and children ceasing to play outside, the absence of people walking their dogs in the neighborhood or jogging trails presents an eery case. Yes, our state is prepared (for now) to handle preliminaries. They listened, but what lies ahead, what is going to happen to all these people? Jobs, the economy, families are going to be affected. 

The count is now up to ten as of Friday. 

I am a Washingtonian, having left the city of Seattle because of my history with respiratory issues (every year, I got a case of bronchitis, and was hospitalized last year for five days with pneumonia) I also have asthma, which thankfully is very well under control. Two weeks before the situation got worse in my county, I decided to go back down to New Mexico, which was basically a hometown for me. I left Albuquerque in 2006, and have lived in Seattle for almost fourteen years. The city is almost on lockdown there, and I fear that we are going to experience that in other cities across the United States. There’s a storm coming, and it’s going to be big, and messy and leave a lot of damage. 

If in fact, we are following in the footsteps of Italy, we are in deep trouble.

The problem is, there isn’t a solid plan in place. Right now, we are going on a state by state basis and there is nothing ahead for those who may be carrying the virus, but who are going merrily along without any symptoms. This raises a big question, how do we control a virus who does not present in patients for almost a month, and two, how do we test everyone? 

A friend and I went up to the governor’s office to present a case, as they were hearing out the views and ideas of anyone that could come up with a reasonable assessment of how we as a state can get a jump on a pandemic. All of this happened on Thursday and since then the office has been shut down to the public, press conferences were had and decisions were made, as well as the issues were (somewhat) addressed by the powers that are in charge. We were assured as a nation that testing would begin, but the words “as soon as possible” fall dimly out there. 

Social media is full of posts, the usual influencers being in a mindset that they are canceled. Well, along with baseball, basketball and most activities that involve crowds, they essentially are. However, what if they put their influence out there for good? Why not use their voice to spread some positivity and a little hope out there to the masses. There is still life, there is still beauty and there are those who are in other countries that are pitching in and helping others. Why not spread that instead of the count. Let’s hear stories of how people are overcoming this, banding together and supporting others. Can we drive to the grocery store for someone? Can we put together boxes, can we make sure our neighbor has milk and toilet paper, can we think beyond ourselves? Instead of sharing fear, can we share a little love? Yes, this is going to have a huge economic impact, but what is it going to do to our humanity? When we start distancing ourself, how much of that is going to be healthy for our hearts and mind? 

I’m an extrovert, in case you couldn’t tell already. I’m one of those people that talk to others in line at the grocery store, or when getting coffee at my favorite shop. While much of Santa Fe was busy as usual, restaurants, pizza places, etc, the conversation has turned to the virus, testing, and fears. That was again on Thursday, since then, the streets are pretty much empty and the last I went to the grocery store there were lines around the corner in preparation for self lockdown or what seems to be self-isolation. I can’t do that. I’ve always been the kind of person that can only sit and watch a show for an hour or so, then I need to be moving. Luckily as a writer, I’m used to being focused and doing most of my work on a laptop, working from “home” sometimes means my office, a real office, or the corner of a coffee shop. The way it’s looking is that I’ll be spending more and more time with my cat at my feet at home. Now, I’m not complaining about that, but again, I’m one of those people that would go bananas without talking to someone who replies back in human language and not just meows. So what’s a gal to do?

First off, I’m making a plan to do a little more self-care. By that, I mean cooking healthy meals, taking the time to have a real breakfast, even making pancakes on the weekends like I used to. Yes, my cat is ecstatic about that, because, bacon! 

I’m reading much more. While I used to read a chapter or two before bed, I find myself emersed in a novel or two, reaching for that to be read pile more and more. Escapism, perhaps, but I call it breathing.

I’m spending more time appreciating the beauty of a sunrise or sunset. There are still birds and wildlife that come into the yard. I’m nourishing my spirit and enjoying those quiet moments.

I’m making myself more available to my community. I’m asking my neighbors if they have enough medication on hand or if they need anything. Our elderly population may not know how to order a meal with postmates or DoorDash. They may be concerned about going to the grocery store or getting medication. Let’s take care of the generation that took care of us. I’m being more present because that is what’s really needed now. People are becoming afraid of contact. While I’m taking precautions, handwashing, wiping down things, being mindful of what I’m touching and not shaking hands or hugging, I am offering smiles, and compassion to those who are around me. Long conversations are good for the soul.

I’m being more aware of my posts and what I’m putting out there. Our footprint matters. I’m avoiding the doomsday jargon in favor of helping to change perspective, virtually holding hands with someone to guide them through strange times. This is a time to make ourselves available, even if it is from across the miles. We can still make an impact.

Words matter and we can either pave the road ahead with boulders and doubt, or we can smooth over the dirt so that we don’t stumble and make it a little easier for everyone.  

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