By a show of hands how many of you have coughed lately and wondered, “Could I be infected with coronavirus?”
I admit I have.
I have also wondered if I “felt” warm even though my Oura ring said my temperature hadn’t changed. I have also been tired, mostly because I didn’t get enough sleep, and thought, “Isn’t fatigue one of the symptoms?” I wondered to myself, “Am I getting pink eye because isn’t that a new symptom?” And while having breakfast I blurted something like, “Wait, did you just say the mango has no taste? Can you still smell things because then it’s probably just a lame mango?”
And I’m not even going to go into the fact that I actually calculated our toilet paper supply wondering if we should stand in line at Costco to buy an extra thirty-pack or two.
By my calculation we had plenty, and there was no necessity for a Costco run.
What About Our Dog?
Yes, the coronavirus pandemic has infiltrated my thoughts, as it has, most likely, touched some of yours.
For me those thoughts have been “worst-case scenarios.” For example, my imagination has me getting Covid-19 and ending up in the hospital. Then I picture my wife is at home and ends up sick, and I can’t help her. Then, what about our dog if she has to rush to the hospital? On the other side of things, what if she gets sick and ends up in the hospital, then I get sick and have to rush to the hospital, then what about our dog?
Weird that these thoughts end up being about the safety of our dog. Really, who cares if my wife and I end up in the hospital, what about Milo?
Set Your Sail
At times I have been thinking that I have been failing these tests from my imagination, letting “worst-case” thoughts get the best of me, but it has also been a great time for me to come back to mental exercises and get my head back in the now. Some of the mental-strength building has involved reflecting more on the Stoic Philosophy I’ve been reading and trying to incorporate into my life, and the other part is a quote that I try to keep at the front of my noggin by a motivational dude, Jim Rohn, especially in these times of “rough winds.”
With the Stoic side I’ve been reflecting back on a book by Ryan Holiday called “The Daily Stoic.” It has 366 entries of Stoic Philosophy, one for every day of the year, leap year included. I recalled the entry for January 1st, from Epictetus – Discourses, “The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own . . .”
That Stoic Philosophy also relates to the Jim Rohn quote I alluded to earlier, which is, “The same wind blows on us all, … the difference in arrival is the set of your sail.”
As I freak myself out with my imagination at times, I actually find it comforting coming back to the thoughts of a philosophy dude from 2000 years ago, as well as a dude who lived during my lifetime, both reminding me that there are things outside of my control that I can’t do anything about. The only thing I can do is make sure “the set of my sail” has me going in the right direction.
Can’t and Can Do
So, what can’t I do?
I can’t worry that much about the government response because I have no control over it. I can hope they do the right thing, but commenting endlessly to the TV during a press conference doesn’t seem to get them to go in the direction that I think is the correct course of action.
I can’t worry if some virus is left in the air or on a door handle. I have no control over the person who may have passed that way seconds, minutes, or hours ago, and no one seems to have a definitive answer how long this virus “survives” on surfaces.
I can’t worry if the virus mutates. Hell, if I eat enough donuts, over time, I seem to mutate.
So, what can I do?
I can try to make healthier food choices and not eat too much crap food, including those donuts, so that my body stays healthy. Okay, this is a challenge, as I believe my body appears to want to mutate right now.
I can keep exercising to keep my body functioning at a better level. Yes, I have been slacking on my Peloton riding and yoga flows while letting my mental state get in the way. It’s time to exercise again, daily. Crap, I was just beginning to like using this pandemic as an excuse to skip exercising.
I can social distance or do my best to avoid others when they don’t think it’s that important. I really dislike those people right now so, at times, I must be in charge of the distancing.
I can wear a mask, even if it seems silly, and it’s a leftover N-95 version that I can’t donate because it was on my workbench for about 3 years.
I can wash my hands. And wash them again. Then wash them again.
I can keep my mind clear of worrying about future events that may not come to pass. Sure, there is some kind of saying, “If I think the worst and it happens, then I’m ready for it. If it doesn’t happen, lucky me!” In the end, if somehow my wife and I end up in the hospital, I’m pretty sure our dog, Milo, will be taken care of. We’ll probably have many more things to be concerned about that my imagination can, well, imagine.
Back to Normal?
If this pandemic has reinforced anything to me it is that there is a lot I can’t do, a lot I can, but in the end I can’t control the wind, all I can do is control the set of my sail. My destination, right now, is to arrive, safe and sound, with my wife and our dog, when life gets back to “normal.”
And maybe finally learn to play that guitar I have in my office.
Be safe. Set your sail.
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