In a world where we now feel a daily overload of bad news, we focus on the good in life, even during tough times.
Today I feel like I’m living in an alternative universe. Last Friday, March 13th, was the first time it really hit me. It wasn’t until I walked into Safeway and saw the empty shelves in the paper product aisle that I truly realized that what was happening was real. I’m a pretty happy person generally. I get to marry people, volunteer at the Village Thrift Store, take Zumba and Tai Chi classes at the Rec Center, hike in Rocky and write these columns. My reality again changed when I got the notice that the Rec Center was closing - no Zumba with Patricia or Tai Chi with Mike. When I went into the thrift store for my usual Friday volunteer shift, there was the notice: closed until March 31st. I just don’t know how many brides will cancel with me because they are afraid to travel. And yet and of course, we are all hoping and expecting these closures and changes will be temporary.
The Coronavirus has created a new normal affecting us all in multiple ways. First of course is the virus itself and the question of how many people will become ill, how many will die. Next is certainly the markets. As a retired woman, I worry about my retirement account which supplements my monthly social security payments. Will it be gone sooner than later? Fears crop up and we become anxious of the future. Tiny little things we can’t even see have changed what we thought tomorrow was going to bring.
I’m almost 70 so of course I remember other difficult times. The world during the cold war was certainly a scary time. My father, a union man worked out of town a great deal during the early 60s. This was the time of the President Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. My family lived an hour away from New York City, a ground zero place if ever there was one. My mother had the task of explaining what was happening in this new dangerous world and what we had to do to survive. We had a full basement where the furnace, washer and other essential large appliances stood on the cement floor. That was the cold and very uninviting place we were to run to if we heard sirens. According to my mother, we were supposed to live down there for a minimum of two weeks in order for the fall-out to disperse. My mother’s fear during that time was palpable and five of us children lived within that pocket of fear. After 13 days of tense negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev finally backing down, we got through it and life returned to normal.
Growing up in the 60s changed like the Walt Disney Show. One moment it was black and white and then it became “living color.” This was one of the most divisive decades in our history. Beginning with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs event, this period was also marked by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War with its antiwar protests, political assassinations and ending with Watergate on the horizon. We got through it – all of it.
The medical crisis that most reminds me of today came through another tiny, but deadly virus in the early 80s through the 90s. Those were the early days when AIDS carried such a stigma that no one wanted to talk about it out loud and people whispered about who was sick or in the hospital. Much like today, the fear of touch or being in close contact was foremost in everyone’s thoughts. Don and I met in New York City when I got back from Mexico City in 1969 and we became best friends. I left for Colorado 14 years later and got a call one day from another friend saying he died. Then my high school friend, Will disclosed he had AIDS and died about a year later. It was too late for Will and Don but the world got through it and now we have HIV drugs advertised on regular networks.
Just 20 years ago, we worried of the world falling apart because of a large box sitting on our desks. It was a new century. People were excited but also anxious about computers. Would they still work when the clock turned over in 2000? Had they been programed for this date change and would we lose all our data? It turned out to be basically nothing. They worked exactly the same. We got through it. And then, the horrific day of 9-11. I was working for Crisis Advocates. I heard what happened, the planes flying into the World Trade Center, listening to NPR while getting ready for work. I remember calling Donna, my co-worker and asking her what she needed. We both needed to come to work. That day, not a single piece of work was done. And yet, amazingly we got through it, though at a loss of over 6,000 people. The World Trade Center site has become a beautiful, moving memorial.
This year I got married. My honeymoon was to be an April trip to Italy where I would hopefully meet other Dalnodars (my maiden name) in the Dolomite Mountains bordering Austria. Unfortunately, and obviously that trip has been canceled. Due to some tiny little virus way beyond my control. Such is the way of love in the time of COVID-19. I’m almost over it but not quite. I’m still disappointed but I know we will go to Italy at a later date. I will get through it.
Today we must all face something new that will abruptly change our lives in many ways – the coronavirus. We have all watched daily on TV or through our phones or iPads as it moved from China to Italy and Iran and into the United States. Every day brings new numbers of people infected with the virus. And yet, as scary as this is right now, this too shall pass. We will get through it. I, along with many of you, grew up in times of uncertainty and great change. And yet here we are. Living in this beautiful place called Colorado. We now have a choice. We can choose to live above our fear by demonstrating compassion, using only what we need, protecting the vulnerable and recognizing we are all in this together. We can shop locally and support our community. We can support our vulnerable communities – think Crossroads Ministry’s needs for food and financial assistance for their clients and Estes Valley Crisis Advocates’ shelter with extra gloves, hand sanitizer, tissues, and bleach to keep their spaces safe. And we can keep this in mind from Shine: “Try to remember that anxiety is a blend of fear and hope, and see if you can keep the hope part in mind too.” Virusanxiety.com has lots of tips and ideas for how to get through this. And remember, we will get through this. Peace, Mary
PS- I didn’t forget about Women’s History Month. Please watch for that column, already written, at a later date.
Mary Mesropian has lived in the Estes Park area since 1994 and was the Volunteer Coordinator of Hospice of the Estes Valley in the late 90s until 2000 when she became Executive Director of Estes Valley Crisis Advocates. She retired from EVCA in 2016 and is now a Celebrant, officiating weddings and other ceremonies. Her email is maryruthdancer@yahoo.