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It's not you or me. It's you and me | Moment's Notice


Last updated 4/20/2020 at 4:18pm


It's not you, it's me.

That flippant phrase, "It's not you, it's me," typically applies to those painful one-sided breakups, where one person wants to end the relationship and the other wants to stay in but has no influence over the decision.

This COVID-19 world feels like a bad breakup every day – we cannot change the choices of someone unknowingly carrying the virus (estimated to be at least 1 in 4 of us), but we really wish we could.

Most of us do not think we are going to get the virus, or at least believe we will not be physically impacted by it – a belief based on some actual data as well as our innate defense mechanisms.

Humans are exceptionally adept at compartmentalizing elements of reality that are detrimental.

About 100,000 years ago in our evolution, scientists say, we began to consider the meaning of life, and along with that came self-awareness of our places in the circle of life.

This current situation is certainly challenging our ability to adapt.

Yes, according to the data, the vast majority of us will medically survive this virus, but each of us is but a dot in a complex matrix of society. So as we navigate how to think about this crisis, how do we consider not only ourselves, but the short- and long-term impacts on all of us?

Even now, as doctors and researchers gather knowledge, we know that certain people are dying at higher rates from COVID-19 than others, and it is not simply related to age.

Risk factors are not only physiological but demographic: less access to health care due to where you live or grew up, your employment, your proximity to a fully functioning hospital, as well as underlying health challenges exacerbated by income inequality and race.

In addition, those who are working hard daily in an essential function are exhausted by the strain of their jobs. The anxiety of being potentially exposed every minute of every day are less able to restore their own immune systems to fight the virus and registering stress on their bodies that will linger.

COVID is affecting our health and economy right now, but the consequences go far beyond the spread of the virus today. Just as we tangibly feel how other people can impact our physical well-being right now, it is also a manifestation of how the overall economic and physical/mental health of everyone in our community is intertwined with our own in general.

We can, as individuals, make decisions to protect ourselves, and more importantly, to protect others (masks, gloves, staying home), but some have fewer choices available to them due to economic and other conditions.

Our rugged, American individualism has instilled in us the fallacy that we have more control over our lives than we do, and more importantly, that others have the capacity to overcome challenges that may be insurmountable.

My dad used to say that we exist within orbits, orbits of people who are significant to us. Like in space, some of the objects in our orbits change over time, but we find comfort with the familiarity of the circle around us.

Control over our orbit may seem real, but this virus has taught us that our orbits look more like Spirograph art. (For those of you born after 1980, please refer to the drawing with this column.)

A number of comparisons have been made to times of war, that we are coming together as a nation to face off against a common enemy, and we have seen inspiring stories to support that.

Historically, we have accomplished our most remarkable feats when we work together and realize that our connections mean that caring for ourselves means caring for our neighbor.

If I am honest, I am among those who thinks that I will not fall seriously ill or die from COVID-19, but I also know that I am in contact with many people because of my role as a member of an essential business. It is scary to think of yourself as a potential carrier, as someone who could hurt someone else without trying.

To extrapolate this, does the Spirographed orbit of my existence in "normal" times impact others in a negative way, or even do enough to help others?

I suppose the evolutionary gift of self-deception sometimes prevents us from facing unpleasant truths.

If we believe a rising tide lifts all boats, the buoyancy of every boat matters.

It is not you or me. It is you and me.


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