Nine years ago I stood on my front step, straining to make the unsettling silence take on some sort of logical shape.
The river flowing quietly across the street from my house—usually an innocuous footnote winding through our modest Midwestern town—had suddenly, incomprehensibly, turned sinister.
It was about to flood—and badly. In only a few days’ time, the water across the street would overtake the steps where I stood, and then some. Six feet of murky, putrid floodwater would wreak havoc on my house, my town, my sense of normalcy.
Standing there that day, after we first understood the impending significance—while simultaneously not having a clue what that really meant—the feeling of unease was surreal.
Do I panic? Do I go numb? Do I throw my hands up and laugh, disbelieving catastrophe will actually come to pass?
The same limbo that tonight, nine years after I first visited from my front step, I find myself in.
Only this time, I’m here with most of the world.
There are millions and millions of us across the globe. Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, friends—people—struggling to make sense of COVID-19. Squinting into the confusing melee of headlines and WHO infographics on Coronavirus and our own anxieties as they threaten to overtop their prescribed, reasonable banks.
It’s an uncomfortable and scary place to be, there’s no other way to say it.
But it’s one we entered together, and it’s one we’ll get out of together.
While we’re here though, it’s OK to talk about how strange it all feels. How scared we might be. How confused we may feel. How anxious or annoyed or terrified or frustrated we are.
It’s OK. It’s more than OK, in fact—it’s necessary, I think.
When that flood eventually came to pass in my town, my dad—the local newsman at the time—spent hours on the air and became something of a voice of reason for our community. One night, after a particularly upsetting stretch of confusing statements from officials, anxious moments, and far more questions than answers, he looked through the camera into all those living rooms filled with those nervous people, and reminded us of the simple truth: “Everything is not spinning out of control. You’re doing just fine. Just come together and help each other out.”
What lies ahead in the days to come as this novel virus spreads and a worldwide pandemic takes hold? The answer is still in that river across the street, the one that could flood catastrophically or could keep on its relatively unobtrusive way.
We may have to get comfortable for a while yet here in limbo.
But tonight, if you’re feeling fear creep in or confusion take over, know this: everything is not spinning out of control.
You’re doing just fine.
Just come together and help each other out.