Acceptance has never been an idea I’ve been very comfortable with. I think it comes from the fact that I had some tough times as a kid and the idea that I couldn’t change things was too horrible of an idea to believe in. And of course, there are many, many things in your life that you can, and should change if you want to be happier. The Serenity prayer that I first got introduced to in Alcoholics Anonymous says it incredibly well.
Although I learned this prayer in the early 80’s, the idea of acceptance is really something that didn’t settle in until I was hiking on the Appalachian Trail in 2015. It was on the AT that I really learned acceptance, the trail taught me all about it. You see on the AT, one of the most important things every day is the weather. The temperature, whether it’s rainy or snowing, or how hard the wind is blowing all have a massive impact on your day. In my first two weeks on the trail there was precipitation almost every single day. It started with snow and freezing rain and transitioned to cold rain for days and days and days. Being cold and wet, day after day is a miserable state of affairs. But you can’t change the weather, what is going to come, is going to come. I started out on the trail fighting that idea and I was miserable, it culminated in me almost quitting the trail in Helen, GA. Happily a couple of nights in a hotel to dry out and some surprisingly good food got my mood sorted and allowed me to go back out onto the trail.
I’m so thankful it worked out that way, because it was the beginning of my journey to understanding the importance of accepting things you can’t change. As I adapted my attitude on the trail to paying attention, preparing for, but generally not caring so much about the weather, everything got better. By the time, three months later, that I finished my AT journey the weather had become almost a non-factor. It had to in order for me to effectively keep my mood up and keep going on the trail day in and day out.
The same reality exists with the pandemic. I think some of the frustration that all of us have felt has been our denial of the reality of COVID. The 1918 flu pandemic effectively lasted for three years. We all believed with better medical knowledge, medicine and vaccine development that we’d get out of this quickly. I remember the optimism in March of 2020 that this would over in months, then surely within a year and now as we enter the third calendar year of the pandemic, with a new variant raging across the United States, it’s time for acceptance and action.
Let’s talk about acceptance first. While there is an argument to be made that we, as in humanity, could change the pandemic. I’m talking about people wearing masks, social distancing when appropriate, and people getting vaccinated and boosted. This doesn’t seem to be what we as a society have chosen to embrace. As such, we all need to accept the reality that COVID is with us for some time. If for no other reason than the vaccine inequality that exists globally. As long as we have countries that still have vaccine rates in single digit percentages the virus will have plenty of bodies to infect. And the more infection that occurs, the more mutations will occur and sooner or later new variants and subsequent infection waves will follow.
So this means that COVID is with us for some time and that likely means at least some of the time being masked up in public settings, needing proof of your vaccination status for travel and likely at least annual booster shots. It means keeping our social circles smaller and making better decisions about who and how we spend our time. It means that safety will have to be a more conscious part of our decision making process. This is what acceptance looks like with COVID.
But as I said, it’s about acceptance and action. Taking a deadly disease seriously is not weakness, living in a safe and prepared way and making smart, safety related decisions is not living in fear, but living smartly, prudently. We do this with all sorts of things. We wear seat belts and strap babies into carriers when driving. We’ve learned over time that drinking and driving is a bad idea, we don’t burn brush in the middle of a windy, dry summer day. We take these sensible precautions to keep ourselves and our family safe. And we must do that with COVID as well.
We of course have to live our lives, we can’t just shelter in place forever. So the action part of this is a two part type of thing. First, we stay safe and prepare and second we carefully choose the things we want to do. This will mean changing things in our life, we all will need to decide what level of risk is acceptable. Will you have a family gathering at your house without making people take a fast COVID test that day or the day before? Will you continue to socialize with unvaccinated people? When traveling how careful will you be? Will you continue to pick less crowd related vacation opportunities. Camping, renting AirBnB properties and other less crowd intensive vacations have continued to become more popular during the pandemic. Likely these type of vacations will remain popular.
For example, I’m taking my first international vacation since the pandemic began. While it will include a couple of days in a resort, most of the trip will be in a beach camp. The main activity will be going out on boats to get up close to grey whales. So except at night sleeping in my tent, the majority of the trip will be spent outdoors. While I’m a bit concerned about flying, I broke the flight into two shorter legs instead of one long leg. I will be double masked on the plane, a K95 and cotton mask over top. I don’t plan to eat or drink on the plane. Given that I’ll be in Mexico I’ll have a required COVID test before returning and plan to take an at home test two days after returning, and not going back to the office until I’ve done that. We all need to do a better job of not just being worried about our own health but considerate of our impact on others as well.
Once we accept our new reality and take the appropriate actions, we can feel safer, more comfortable and happier in our COVID times. ~ Rev Kane
Michael, I appreciated this post. I have many unvaccinated family members who feel natural immunity is more beneficial than the jab. I have been around them when they had Covid numerous times and I haven’t gotten it yet, so I feel that the vaccine is beneficial. Too many friends and extended family members have lost loved ones.
Thanks for the comment Diane, stay healthy and Happy New Year.