Post IV 2020 a Pandemic & the View from a Small Island: Do I Need a Counselor (therapist) or just a Rip Van Winkle* nap?

August 5, 2020 – a spike in COVID cases, politics in a pandemic, a mask incident in Staples, and a feel-good story from Africa, ‘when a teacher cries’:

Living with low-level anxiety

When coronavirus cases spiked across the world in the last week of July, my emotional self fell from a cliff, not a rock, and into a hard place. If isolation was problematic the last week of June, the angst that claimed a seat beside me the last week of July doubled. Colleagues and friends on both coasts moaned as did I.

News of positive COVID cases was grim; numbers of deaths were slow to come in but were rising; testing fell farther behind. And testing results? Does seven days feel like an eternity? How many could we unknowingly infect in a week? On this island, social distancing among the locals is possible. Masks are seen on most who frequent a supermarket.  Yet, more locals continue to test positive, now outpacing those 30,000 visitors who vacation on our hot sandy beaches. Are locals partying? Ignoring physical separation? Going to work because they must? Fear creeps in and anxiety rises.

It is a systems problem and politics plays a role

I prefer to avoid the political lens on COVID 19 but with this spike in positive cases and subsequent deaths, I would be negligent, even reckless and irresponsible, to ignore the connections and intersections—the decisions that have been made.

“Thank you,” Hanna Gadsby, Australian comedian—for the clarity surrounding decision making when she crafted Douglas (Netflix 2020). Yes, this is an unfortunate comparison—a pandemic is not a comedic routine with an art history lesson and a delectable Louis CK punch line. This pandemic has claimed thousands of lives and left millions with yet-unknown emotional affects and lasting medical effects of a severe virus. In Douglas, Ms. Gadsby made clear decision-making through a clever use of famous paintings: a painting is worth a thousand words and is the result of a thousand small decisions.  A decision is always made by someone and for some particular reason even in the centuries-old history of art.

Spoiler Alert! “It’s a decision,” Hanna says. “Strap yourselves in!’”

The absence of an overall coronavirus strategy, a pandemic strategy is not a happenstance. It is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason.  Avoiding responsibility for public health is not a coincidence, it is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason.

Avoiding reality, the severity of COVID, is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason. Ignoring the severity of COVID in China, in Italy, and across much of the European continent is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason. To treat lightly the success of New Zealand and Australia  is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason.

Passing responsibility for commercial shutdown on to governors and then to mayors is not a random option – it is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason.

Pitting state and city against each other for needed medical supplies is not a highest bidder gamble – it is a decision made by someone and for some particular reason.  Risking lives of health workers, of garbage collectors, of grocery store workers–all labeled as essential– is not a job description, it is a decision made by someone and for some specific reason.

In early August, The Atlantic addressed ‘how did it come to this’—all these decisions made by someone and for some reason are explained in full. Be prepared to weep – our America is better or has seen better days than reflected in these decisions. The Atlantic article is long but helps us see the systemic fallout of each decision. Yet, they were decisions made by someone and for some specific reason.

A throwaway of EQ (emotional intelligence)

As the number of positive COVID cases increased in this resort area where my small island is situated, I feel restrained and lonely. Quarantined and avoiding historic streets crowded with visitors, I limit my walks to early evenings. Guided walking tours around the waterfront village are often unmasked or barely masked. Early evening sunset boat trips are crowded—physical distancing is impossible.

As I can make a choice to isolate myself, the choices visiting tourists make are not my issue. But the action of a Staples shopper in New Jersey drove me to the edge of anxiety. This is where an online counselor like BetterHelp comes into play. The Staples in-house video is silent–we cannot know the verbal interaction. Was provocation or demeaning speech involved? At some point, anger and rage took over and emotional intelligence walked out the door. The woman on the attack needs help, in addition to restraints, quickly The woman on the floor was recovering from a liver implant and suffered a broken leg by the attacker. We should be teaching students in our schools the wisdom and the necessity of emotional intelligence (EQ).

Fear and joy—how we survive

And so, I look to a continent often reviled and ridiculed as ‘third world’ for relief and a little emotional joy in my otherwise grim worldview. The following article highlights an African mindset: we are in this pandemic—viral and economic—together: “although the cock (rooster) belongs to one household, when it crows it is heard in the whole village.”

*He who slept for twenty years in the Catskill Mountains



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