Ironically, I have been researching diseases of the late 1800’s, not out of some morbid curiosity, but to use as a possible plot twist in Angelique’s Legacy. At that time, New Orleans was a hot spot for Yellow Fever just as it appears to be at the epicenter of the Corona virus today. And after a bit of reading, I am awfully glad that I didn’t live in the antebellum days which weren’t nearly as romantic as they appear to be in the movies, especially during a pandemic.
One commonality between the two diseases is that once you have contracted it, if you recover, you are immune to future outbreaks. They once called it being “acclimated,” and it put you at a distinct advantage in society. The Yellow Fever returned with a certain amount of predictability in the warm, humid South where mosquitoes carried the virus, spreading it among the general population. And although it was not transmittable by human-to-human contact, the fact remained that it was a terrible threat, taking the lives of a huge portion of society. Having an acclimated status meant that you could care for the sick, run the shops, and man the transportation hubs. You were an employable asset.
Recently, I read an article that suggested that the young and healthy should deliberately expose themselves to Covid-19 in order to develop an immunity, which would allow them to get the economy moving again. I thought the idea to be rather like a scene out of a science fiction novel than some unique idea to save the country, but then, I have read some rather whacky theories about this pandemic. I’m sure you have, too.
Modern transportation has made it possible to have dinner one day in China and the next in New York City. If a potentially life threatening germ happens to hitchhike along on the journey, then, it is easy to spread the disease from one continent to the next. The advantage of living in a modern world has also made us vulnerable.
Certainly, all of us have been touched by this health threat with its physical, emotional and financial repercussions. Perhaps you know someone who has contracted it, or you have been furloughed from your job. Maybe you have simply felt the stress and anxiety of being in quarantine, away from friends and loved ones. As a parent, you probably worry about your child’s education. This affects each of us in a different way, but make no mistake there is an effect.
But this isn’t a blog about the current pandemic, at least not literally. Instead, I wanted to focus on the idea of immunity. We can all agree that life is filled with ups and downs, peaks and valleys. Everybody loves being on top of that mountain where the view is quite spectacular, but let’s face it: the air is thinner up there, and it can be hard to breathe. Often, all we can do is stand still and try not to fall as we pretend to enjoy the triumph.
The real growth, however, happens in the valleys, on that fertile ground where the rivers flow. It is there, where we have to unlearn everything we think we know about ourselves and start all over again. Yes, there is a considerable amount of pain that accompanies uncertainty, especially as it relates to the future, but it is in that place where we gather the strength, wisdom and kindness that we need for the next mountain that we intend to climb. Here, we develop an immunity to the sting of those difficult moments.
Experience is a great teacher. As much as we want to resist, this period of time is coaching us on how to be still and listen. We are learning to be present, to focus on this one moment of solidarity, bringing our full attention to what is going on around us and within us. We are establishing priorities, grasping what is important and true. That revelation brings with it the intrinsic understanding that we will survive this, and whatever else is yet to come. Armed with a sense of protection, the future somehow doesn't look quite as scary.
C.S. Lewis once wrote that we are never sure of our virtues until face our fears and put them to the test. This pandemic has raised both our individual and collective consciousness. We are learning to be courageous, compassionate, and strong, to appreciate all that we previously took for granted. Mastering bravery takes acceptance and faith. It also requires patience and time. Be good to yourself during this challenging, difficult period, building your own special kind of immunity in the process. And remember, there is none as brave and strong as a survivor.