When you talk about it, you need to look for hope. This statement has been in my thoughts all day. Anyone who regularly reads this blog already knows what I’m writing about. I’m only thinking about one thing these days: COVID-19. You probably have a good idea who made the statement, as well.
Three and a half years ago, I began taking Risperidone for Tourette Syndrome. TS is defined by tics, involuntary movements and sounds. For some people, tics challenge their lives. Movements can be so violent they cause pain. The sounds (often words), so egregious, people become ostracized. Tourette Syndrome wasn’t (isn’t) like that for me. I’d call it crazy-annoying and super-embarrassing, so I take the medicine.
It works… some. I still tic. Not often, and not so obviously, but the tics are still there. The real benefit of the medicine is it controls my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I’m a completely different person now than I was four years ago. Gone are the charming traits that used to rule my life: I refused to watch television with my family; I started projects on a whim and then refused to break until complete—hours, days or months later; And I gagged. Anytime I felt a bit of stress, I gagged. Maybe dry-heave is a better term. Getting ready for work in the morning, almost daily, I doubled over the toilet retching. Every time I started a run, I needed to take a break in the first few minutes to gag repeatedly. And for a while, a guy in my spin class made me gag.
One morning (5:30 A.M.) about to start a class, Vincent came over to me to talk. His breath smelled heavily of garlic. Instructing spin classes stressed me out unbelievably. That combined with the garlic sent me over the edge. I began gagging right there in the spin room. After that, every time I saw Vincent, I gagged. Sometimes during my class, usually before the class, once while I was doing crunches in the gym.
Risperidone made this all go away. When the coronavirus started its slow march around the globe, it amazed me how unfazed I was by the whole thing. Where previously, I’d lose sleep over the of a coming pandemic, I really didn’t worry about it. But slowly over the past two months, COVID-19 has hijacked my thoughts. Statistics, projections, misinformation, disagreements with our president, it’s a never-ending conversation topic for me. Almost every day, my daughter, Sophie, has actually asked me to stop talking about it.
When you talk about it, you need to look for hope. This was Susan. She sees the affect my negativity has on Sophie. She tells me: The kids are scared too. You only make it worse.
Today on my run, I thought about words, about etymology. ‘Panic’ comes from the name of the Greek god Pan, who sometimes caused humans to flee in unreasoning fear. Panic, pandemonium, pandemic. Have you ever considered how similar the word pandemic is to the word Pandora?
Do kids still learn about Pandora in school? Not the music steaming service, but the busy-body who screwed up the world. Probably I need to give the Reader’s Digest version of Pandora’s Box. What? What’s Reader’s Digest? In the seventies, each month a popular subscription service abridged four separate novels into a three-hundred-fifty-page book. They eliminated all of that pesky, unnecessary filler like character development, subplots and scenes. What was left was four plot driven stories that left the reader familiar enough with the books to hold their own in a conversation at a cocktail party. These books were called Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.
Pandora’s Box (borrowed in part from Wikipedia): In the days of yore, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus, the king of the gods, got pissed and took vengeance by presenting a woman, Pandora, to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Epimetheus cautioned Pandora to never open the box sitting in the middle of his dining room table. Pandora opened the box and inadvertently released into the world sickness, death and many other unspecified evils. She quickly slammed the lid shut, but it was too late, the damage was done. Soon she came to realize that one thing was still inside the box. Having not learned her lesson, Pandora opened the box again, and out came Hope.
Pandora’s Box was written 2700 years ago by a poet named Hesiod. In all that time, the message is still clear. No matter how screwed we seem to be, there is still hope. People are dying, the economy has tanked, in weeks, an unfathomable portion of my country will be unemployed. But this is my kids’ life, and they don’t need to hear from me daily talking about how rough their life is going to be. Each generation has their challenges, and this is one of theirs.
Humans have a remarkable ability to adapt to ‘a new normal.’ Just like their childhood doesn’t look anything like mine, iPhones v. endless hours of shooting baskets in the McClelland’s driveway,* their young adult years will be shaped by the fallout of COVID-19. They’ll still have fun. Still get married (or not). Still start their lives as independent people making their own decisions, mistakes and triumphs. They don’t need me raining on their parade. They’re smart kids. They already know this sucks. But the last thing they need is this old guy trying to take their hope away.
* They say ten thousand hours of practice is required to turn yourself into an expert of any activity. Somehow, I got cheated. All those hours spent in the McClelland’s driveway, I never improved at basketball. To this day, I can stand under a backboard tossing up layups and miss ten in a row.