Post by the Husband
Two weeks into the greatest uncertainty for my time on earth —
Perhaps it has been objectively the most uncertain time in this country, and it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say perhaps the whole world.
Yes, we’ve had fear of nuclear bombs, fear of terrorism, fear of previous pandemics, but never have I witnessed such massive changes to the social fabric of society in such a short period of time. As the number of cases of COVID-19 rose around the world, Australia began to take notice and we became the next in line to have the beginnings of rapid rises in our own cases. Literally overnight, international travel was ceased. People were stranded in foreign lands and unable to return home. Then domestic travel was essentially stopped. Restaurants, bars, and beauty salons closed.
I could see the fear and sadness in the eyes of my local cafe and restaurant owners. They knew it was coming. Their livelihoods were about to be obliterated because of a virus.
A virus! Of all things! You can’t even wish it dead – as it’s not even alive to begin with! An aberrant piece of code, spreading itself in the bodies of those who can least tolerate it. It’s hard to even call something so…well, inert… evil. “It” is not even aware of anything – let alone of the devastation it is causing around the world.
The effects of Government shutdowns were drastic, and at first I was quietly confident that my field would not be affected. After all, who doesn’t need health care? And yet, pretty much overnight, the numbers of patients coming to the practice dropped by about half.
Suddenly, my colleagues and I were coming to terms with the fact that our incomes were about to dive. For an unknown period of time and for an unknown amount. And as much as we like to think of ourselves as primarily altruistic in nature – thinking about others first – I don’t think any of us can say honestly that we were not worried about our own livelihoods. Very worried.
As they say about the markets – markets hate uncertainty. You couldn’t ask for more uncertainty at this time.
One thing I have learnt throughout the last two weeks is that humans are generally very adaptable. People tend to survive. There is a survival instinct planted in there by God. Rain, hail or shine – we as a species know how to survive.
But the other main thing I’ve learnt is that people hate uncertainty. Because you can’t adapt to the “unknown”.
For crying out loud – we don’t know how many people this virus kills as a percentage of the infected population. We don’t even know how long the pandemic will last for. We have no idea when and if a vaccine can be discovered. We don’t know how long we need to live in this “lock down”, and we sure don’t know when “normal” life will come back again (whatever that is!).
And true – there is a recency bias to all this. We seemed to have forgotten all about terrorism, the Australian bushfires and the GFC. Whatever is currently the “big deal” seems to make us forget about everything else that WAS the “big deal” at the time.
But truly – this COVID-19 thing has brought about a lot of uncertainty.
So for a week, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night (and I’m normally a great sleeper!), wondering if this was all a dream. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I kept wanting to wake up and find out that the world was back to “normal”, and that this COVID thing was a figment of my overactive imagination.
That week, I wandered into work, trying my best to repeatedly wash my hands and stand 2 metres away from everyone. It felt so surreal.
When I had a chance to see my first psychotic patient for the week, someone who was tormented by voices who would cause pains in his body, I got the chance to ask, “So how has the Coronavirus issue affected you?” – to which he replied something like “It doesn’t affect me at all! I just think now everyone else knows a bit about how I feel every day”.
I had a very anxious patient say something along the same lines. She calmly explained how she was generally so worried about everything that this just seemed like just one more thing to worry about, so it really wasn’t such a big deal.
Another lady with a psychotic disorder said to me, “Well, if I get it, at least I didn’t have to do it to myself, I could just be killed by the virus”.
It was a weird week as I learned that most of my patients were much less bothered by this crises than the rest of humanity. In fact most of my patients regardless of their diagnosis were openly critical of the toilet paper hoarders, and were happily abiding by social distancing measures.
Of course there were those whose anxiety was increased by the widespread fear. People with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with hyper vigilance (ie. jumpiness) were quick to point out that they felt even more on edge as they felt society was more on edge.
Depressed patients generally didn’t really care about this whole debacle. One man said to me that he had already had lost his job and his hope for a bright future, so he had already gone through this once so he was well “practised” for the COVID-19 situation. In fact he felt bad for others who were now headed towards his situation.
The Eternal Perspective
All this to say that how one views the COVID-19 crises and the impact it is having on society and your own uncertain future depends on perspective.
There was an interesting personal internal shift last week. After deciding that I was going to be doing essentially mostly Telehealth and having a rough plan, I suddenly felt a lot calmer. I had made my first move to adapt to the every-changing situation.
But more than that, in the last few days, my joy has come back. Now don’t be angry with me – I’m not saying at all that I’m “happy” with the situation. Thousands dying, millions displaced, and an uncertain outcome for the health of people and the effects on the economy, with the very real prospect there will be some fairly serious repercussions in society for years to come, is not something to dismiss.
No, my “joy” was something far deeper than having a rough business plan to gain some semblance of control. This “joy” is from certainty in the uncertainty. It’s KNOWING in the unknown.
I believe that there is a good God – not just “behind” the world, but intricately involved with the earth. His ways are truly higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.
This week, I’ve learnt to surrender to him. Whether I become rich or poor, and without being too morbid, alive or dead, I surrender. I surrender my income, I surrender my home, my clinging on to my beautiful family life, my goals and ambitions and even my health. There is nothing that I have that did not come from him. Even my joy. Even my faith in actual fact.
There is certainty for me in this uncertainty. Sure I don’t know what will come, but there is someone who does know. And I KNOW Him. He is kind. He is gracious. Much more intelligent than any of us around here! To be able to know this God through Jesus Christ is my joy and my certainty.