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Reader Submission: COVID-19 raises long-time questions

FāVS is asking readers to submit 500-word submission on “What COVID-19 means in my life.” You can submit your thoughts here and it may get published on our homepage.

Guest column by Mary Anne Ruddis

COVID-19 has laid bare in the world the existential questions that I have wrestled with for many years. Questions that some may have never considered but are unavoidable now. What is in our control? Why is there suffering? How do I live my best life in the face of uncertainty, hardship, and sorrow?

I spent many years wrestling with these questions as I cared for multiple family members with devastating diseases that lowered their immune systems. The current imposed social distancing is nothing new in my world. We had a drive-by birthday party celebration over 25 years ago. Your common cold could kill my child. Social distancing was everyday life for many years.

COVID-19 has brought back to the surface issues I thought that I had laid to rest. It seems there truly are infinite layers of the proverbial onion to peel back. Thinking that I had left the world of protective face masks behind when I left the world of childhood cancer, I find myself resisting wearing a mask in public. It is not because I don’t want to protect you or myself, but rather because I know that the best laid precautions and safety measures can still end in loss of life and I slip into fatalism. It is irrational, not the way I want to live, and I am working through it. I know that our individual choices do affect the collective in big and small ways, and therefore they do matter.

I am currently rereading “The Plague” by Albert Camus. I found this quote oddly resonating on a deep level, “Thus in the heart of the epidemic they maintained a saving indifference, which one was tempted to take for composure. Their despair saved them from panic, thus their misfortune had a good side.” The context of this quote is about those who were separated physically from their loved ones due to the quarantine.  Living with grief, death being the ultimate separation, has prepared me for this in a way I could never have imagined. The uncertainty of the future and how quickly life can change, the necessity to surrender to circumstances beyond my control, and the uncovering of a personal resiliency, is as familiar to me as an old favorite sweater. As I watch anger, distrust, and fear bubble up, juxtaposed with messages of unity, trust, and love, I wonder what manipulations lie beneath each of these messages. I watch as my friends, family, and colleagues choose the message they will follow – whether they are aware of it or not. I too wrestle with this choice, consciously aspiring always to choose the latter, and knowing intimately that it is not a one-time choice.

COVID19 has exposed individual character in a way that only heartache and tragedy can. It has reinforced for me that life is a continual choice between love and fear. When we choose love, we discover that we, and all of life, are so much bigger than we could ever have imagined.

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