Elbow Bump

Indeed. It seems as if we take two steps forward and one step back. True, we are making some progress in the nightmare we’re calling “COVID-19.”The vaccine is out; many frontline health care workers have received one, if not both, doses. Appointments are opening up for the next eligible group, and Massachusetts will soon have a call-in center to aid in the ease of scheduling. We let out a big sigh of relief as we take some tangible steps forward. 

And yet… the pandemic rages on. 

Daily numbers are still bone-chilling. We hear accounts of frontline workers crumbling under the pressure and grief of their cumulative experience, an extraordinary effort that doesn’t always end in recovery. Maybe you’ve tuned out or are taking a break. I have done that at various times in the last year as well. When it becomes just too much, then it is time for a COVID-hiatus. We can only process so much.

In the language of grief work, we are familiar with denial. It didn’t happen. It can’t have happened. It’s not happening. Emotionally, we reject what may take us out to sea. We know we can’t assimilate this information or reality, so we don’t. It’s a gift, a hazmat suit. Teflon can be a good thing. Sometimes, things can’t stick. If they did, we might just tip over. Denial protects us but doesn’t last forever…and shouldn’t. 

There is progress, and there is status quo. There is recovery, and there is infection. If you are not currently in a COVID-hiatus, look at the daily stats. Many people (too many) are still being infected, getting sick, and succumbing to this invisible insidious enemy. We preach mask use, frequent sanitization, and social distancing, yet even some who faithfully abide in those safety practices are still impacted. 

We find our control in being able to modify our experience. We reduce our risk, use our protection, and choose who we spend vulnerable time with. We live our lives in front of a computer screen, stay in the best health we can, and get on a vaccination list as quickly as possible. We feel safe, and for the most part, we are. Yet, we need to look no further than our neighborhood, city, or town to see the fallout of the virus. It’s still happening a year later. 

I’m a believer in processing. NOT processing leaves the foreign body inside you festering until it becomes a systemic or system-wide problem. These unprocessed feelings tend to exit sideways. They wait, lurk, and pop out at inopportune times, often at innocent people or circumstances. 

Look for the helpers.

With surgical precision, many of us are working hard to remove these ethereal foreign bodies from ourselves, to prevent sepsis. It’s not easy. If we can’t do it on our own, we look for the helpers. The old story of the man who was in the midst of a major flood comes to mind. The Jeep comes down the road and says, “Get in, you’ll drown in the flood. We are here to get you to safety,” and the man says, “God will save me.” The water takes over his first floor. A canoe and then a powerboat come along to rescue him. Again, he rejects their offers and maintains that “God will save me.” With the house submerged, his next and only option is the roof. The helicopter arrives, and again, he declines help. Not unexpectedly, he dies. As he meets God, he asks, “Why didn’t you help me?” God says, “Well, first I sent the Jeep, then the boats, then the helicopter. Not sure exactly what you were expecting… .”

In every act of kindness, no matter how small, we are recipients of “the helpers.” In the darkness, the smallest light is so significant. This week, I saw on Facebook that someone at the grocery store paid for the order behind him, who was a friend of mine. Imagine? How wonderful. 

Perhaps we only have so much control over the externals. We are fanatical in how we protect ourselves from the evils of COVID-19. We sanctuary in our homes and do our work as we are able. We are mindful and deeply appreciative of those who step into harm’s way as part of their daily work and calling in this life. We give and receive the blessings that come through the helpers, in whatever form it manifests, whether we ask for that help or not. 

We tend ourselves and those we love, so bitterness, anger, and illness do not take hold. We try to direct our openness to experience, all the wonder and beauty that is still present, and to protect and deflect the flip side of the coin. Management of the “both/and” of this seems the real deal. We can’t control it all, but there are things we can. Maybe it’s an “inside job.” 

Joanne MacInnis, RN, is the founder and president of Aberdeen Home Care, Inc., of Danvers, a concierge private duty home care agency in business since 2001. With 35 years of nursing practice, management and administration experience focused on home care and hospice, Joanne and her team specialize in advising and supporting families addressing the elders in their lives retain dignity and quality of life.

Locations