Local Opinion: Coping with COVID-19 requires navigating uncertainty
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Local Opinion: Coping with COVID-19 requires navigating uncertainty

The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

I’m no stranger to the fear and angst that living with chronic uncertainty can generate. For the almost four years that my husband, Ray, lived with cancer, we spent many of our days tiptoeing through a land mine of medical complexities, holding our collective breath in fear of the next exigency.

But after his passing almost five years ago, I never imagined there would come a time when those same feelings would resurface. But I was wrong.

However, unlike a personal medical crisis, COVID-19 is a crisis of global proportions from which no one is exempt.

We are all equal in the eyes of the virus. Each of us is now living in an altered universe where many of the assumptions and expectations upon which our daily lives have been based no longer apply or exist.

We have no map, no compass by which to navigate, except, perhaps, a sense of communal responsibility and an abiding belief that “this too shall pass.”

I listen to others and hear my own truths reflected in their words.

We have trouble focusing, we sleep too much, eat too much, drink too much — as we try to fill the hours and days of sheltering in place. We obsessively watch news as we look for more closets to clean and photos to scrapbook.

We ask ourselves questions for which there are no certain answers: Will our families remain safe and healthy? How long will this last and what will it do to our minds, bodies and bank accounts? What will life look like once the pandemic has subsided? How will our world change?

Like many of us who have dealt with personal trauma, illness or loss, time has enabled me to look back and reflect on what I learned from living through an extended period of “not knowing” or being able to predict the outcome. And this is what I learned.

I discovered from making my bed each morning that the simplest of actions can create a sense of order as we face a new day.

I recognized that it was much easier to maintain a positive, hopeful attitude when I did some form of exercise or act of self-care every day.

I realized that avoiding the elephant in the room was not as helpful as “riding” it. Facing up to my fears and concerns was initially very difficult, but in the end it enabled me to make concrete decisions that served my family better than if I had ignored the realities.

I set a day each week, (for me it was Friday, the Jewish Sabbath), and told myself that all I needed to do was to make it through until the following Friday.

Focusing on getting through week by week, rather than day by day or even hour by hour, gave me strength and determination because at the end of the week, I wanted to say: “We made it.”

And perhaps, most significantly, I never lost sight of all of the many beautiful things in my life and marriage — even in the face of losing them. Cultivating gratitude is a game changer when running a marathon of uncertainty.

I have no crystal ball or means by which to know more than anyone else about what will happen during and after this unprecedented time in history.

But if we all do the best we can do, individually and communally, I believe we will emerge stronger and more aware of how much we treasure the families and communities that we have built.

Amy Hirshberg Lederman is an author, Jewish educator, public speaker and attorney who lives in Tucson.

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