COVID-19 and my Personal Fear
Flattening the curve. Self-isolation. Social distancing. Tele-commuting. Herd immunity. We are hearing a few new terms at this time. We are living with an unprecedented situation, one that has serious repercussions for almost every area of our lives – whether personal, familial, ecclesial, Eucharistic, communal, academic, work, financial, physical and mental and spiritual health, sports and entertainment and shopping, and just about everything in our life.
Other than hiding in bed, name just one area that is not being influenced.
I’ve never thought of myself as an unusually fearful person. I have a fear of things such as spiders, snakes and heights. I only experience a normal level of anxiety. I’ve written on this blog so often with quotes from Jesus about not being afraid. I have often spoken about fearlessness in homilies.
I’ve given spiritual direction and classes to countless people where I remind people of that call to let go of anxiety and fear. But this – COVID 19 – has unleashed something different in me, and, I suspect, most others. Why? I suppose that the rational part of me can tell myself that I am just a victim of the mass hysteria that is sweeping the globe.
There is certainly something to be said for that. Is our constant supply of news and updates and advisories and cancellations making things worse? Probably, but there is still an inner fear.
I’ve become almost obsessed about things like door handles, taps, keyboards, and the like. Is it irrational? Is it because I’m over 60, and, therefore, among those that are more at risk than the younger? Is it because a religious community is more difficult to keep clean and consistent than a family home?
I am anxious and afraid. I am offering sessions on the Spiritual Exercises each Monday this month. A week ago I had to get to the venue by GO (commuter) Train and the TTC (local transportation in Toronto). I was terrified once I realized that I had touched many surfaces. I sat in my seat on the subway and kept my hands in my lap.
I didn’t touch my face. Nor did I reach for my phone. I got off at my station and headed immediately for a drugstore and purchased hand sanitizer. I eventually got home safe and sound, had a shower, and threw my clothing in the washing machine.(I’m grateful that the remaining sessions will be offered by video chat on social media.)
I know that I am not alone. And, to be honest, I am probably more fortunate than others.
I live in a situation where it is relatively easy to self-isolate, with the exception that a religious community can’t easily control who is around and, even, who last touched that handle or counter top. I’ve taken to touching doorknobs and handles with a paper towel and washing my hands over and over.
There are plenty out there with spiritual advice in this dangerous time. You have probably heard of, or read Fr. James Martin’s excellent piece from AMERICA magazine: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2020/03/13/faith-time-coronavirus What is the solution? It’s almost trite to say, fear not.
I think that we are being called to a deeper level of spiritual depth, one where we truly let nothing disturb us as we take as many precautions as possible. Let’s start by naming our areas of fear and recognize what it is that it is most disturbing us.
We may be banned from gatherings over a certain number, but nothing is preventing us from reaching out to others in ways that we know are safe.
Let’s maintain a sense of humour. Indeed, there are many humorous stories at this time. Let’s show our fear that we have control over it. I can’t control the virus or the weather, but I can determine what my reaction will be. Even if you can’t be calm, be strong and carry on.