These are scary times. I’m reminded of a quote from William Faulkner. “Be scared,” he wrote, “You can’t help that. But don’t be afraid.”
Being scared is a natural reaction to a startling stimulus. It gets your heart beating and your body ready to fight or flee. Being afraid is ongoing. It can lead to complete inaction or worse—self-destructive behaviors.
How can we not be afraid when times are so scary?
Astronaut Chris Hadfield went blind while walking in space. What could be scarier or more frightening than knowing you are alone in the vastness of space and not being able to see how to get back inside the relative safety of your space capsule? Hadfield survived by focusing on the six things he could do to make things better.
I’ll bet we can each find six things we can do to make things better. Here’s my list.
1. My family and I are practicing social distancing and eliminating unnecessary trips to town and stores. Even at home, we maintain our private spaces and keep our distance. This private distancing can be challenging with seven adults under roof.
2. While hand washing has always been important, my family and I are becoming almost obsessive about it.
3. I work every day to keep Hearts, Homes, and Hands able to provide essential the services—like grocery shopping or help with housecleaning—that keep our clients safe and healthy. We also work very hard to protect our employees. Kathleen and I reached out to every outlet we could find to get adequate protective gear for our employees when that gear became unavailable through our usual suppliers.
4. Every morning and every evening just before bed, I journal about things I am grateful for. This practice keeps me focused on what is going right in my life and away from the spiraling cesspool of negativity that seems determined to drag us all down. We don’t control what happens, but we can control how we react to it.
5. I cut my own hair the other day. Even if hair salons were open, I would not have risked my own health, nor the health of my clients and those I love, for simple vanity. And it didn’t turn out badly. Not like it could have. Not like it did when I was six.
6. Finally, I keep in mind that there is no problem so bad I can’t make it worse.
There are four items on my list that can move directly to yours. But really think about that last one. Social distancing works. It has kept the spread of the disease way down in Milam County, and it has helped keep the outbreak manageable in other parts of the country. Let’s not make the problem worse by taking unnecessary risks or getting out and about too soon.
We will all be happier and healthier if we focus on what we can do to make things better.
This article originally appeared in the April 16, 2020 edition of the Cameron Herald.