I’ve been itching to write all week, but honestly I’ve been on complete overdrive trying to process all that is happening in my world of work as the Director of a Long Term Care Facility that is based inside a Continuing Care Retirement Community. We started preparations and precautions last week; daily calls, enforcement of an already tight response process to any type of flu, upper respiratory, or GI Virus that while inconvenient for you and I, can prove deadly for the residents that call our community home and once a bug gets in the door it can spread quickly and wreak havoc. I thought we were okay, yes the daily calls were an annoyance and sometimes redundant, but I also counted myself lucky to have the benefit of a larger company backing and coordinating our efforts. I was mildly concerned about reports of people hoarding isolation masks, gloves, toilet paper and antibacterial wipes and sanitizer, but really we were okay. I had an underlying sense of concern, anxiety, but when I left work last Saturday I felt confident that we were well positioned to act quickly and all would be well with just a few minor tweaks to our normal day to our normal routine.
And then our world turned upside down. Honestly it feels like there is no normal right now, as soon as I think I have an handle on the guidance passed down by our regulatory agencies it changes again. I feel like I am constantly on alert, trying not to focus on the news and the sense of anxiety the mass media is so cleverly crafting; but I also have to be mindful that any inadvertent contact puts my community at risk; residents, staff, and my own Mother. Do I go to the store? Do I dare go out with friends? Is it possible to wipe down all of the elevator buttons and door handles in my apartment building? My mind is on constant “go,” thinking through all of the options, trying to figure out how to respond to all of the questions from friends and family that just want to see their mother, father, sister, brother, grandparents and I am now the primary gatekeeper and decision maker as to who gets in and who doesn’t. What if I let the wrong person in? It’s a lot to process and a lot to carry. I realize that I in no way carry this burden alone, I have a great team; but it’s a lot.
I’ve managed the full scale evacuation of a mid-sized CCRC, I experienced the Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing, and lived through 911; but there is no comparison to this COVID-19 World that we are currently all in habiting. I want to turn it off, I want my brain to just let it all go. I’ve tried running – but my body just can’t right now, I’ve been attempting a daily meditation practice and while that does help some it is still a challenge to calm my thoughts and just rest. To trust that I am a strong, resilient woman that has been placed here for a reason. I can and will rise to the occasion and do my best to ensure my residents and community are safe. But I think it’s okay to feel and live the anxiety, fear, and worry. I am working hard to recognize and allow the feelings to just be – naming them, accepting them and then moving on. It’s okay, to feel all of the things. It’s okay to not know what to do so you go buy all the bananas at the Kroger, just please be sure to bring me some banana bread!
So what now? Churches are closed, stores are reducing their hours, races are cancelled, and at work we will be quickly dealing with another set of regulations that will make life 10x harder for our nurses, care associates, residents and family members. But what now? How do we move forward? Is this a new world order or will we find our way back to life before COVID-19? I wish I knew the answers to those questions. Family members that I talk to want to know how long, how long will these restrictions last, how long until I get to see my mom? What happens when the next super virus spreads through the community? Will we be forced back into a world of separation and disconnection? I think right now I have more questions than answers. I wish I had some prophetic words of wisdom, but I don’t. But in this new world of social distancing I want to reach out in one of the ways that I know how, to say to any one that reads these words that we are still a community, we are still friends, family, colleagues and most importantly loved. We are. We are human and now more than ever it’s important to be kind to ourselves and to each other. To not brush off the feelings, but to not let the fear take control. Whatever you are experiencing right now, please know that you are not alone. We are in this together. I leave you with the only words of consolation that make sense to me right now, “Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” Isaiah 41:10 CEB