On March 6, my birthday last year, I was up in Vermont with my family. At the time my son was working for a big biotech firm. About five days earlier, that firm had had a meeting of all of their big players in big hotel meeting room in Boston. It seemed that some of them got sick. But they didn’t want anyone to panic, so they kept it quiet for a few days.
Meanwhile, all of my family gathered for my birthday. We had a short discussion about how much risk was involved in our being together due to my son’s proximity to some of the people who were at the meeting. But he had been told not to worry. So we didn’t worry. We got together.
I turned out that we should have worried, but it really turned out we didn’t have to worry because no one in our family got sick. Over a hundred thousand people did get sick due to people who were at that meeting. Many people left the meeting and went home to all parts of the country. They met with their family and friends, and those people met with their family and friends, and that helped COVID-19 to spread all around the country.
At that time, although the virus had actually been in the country for over a month, probably longer, no one really knew how contagious it was. No one knew how deadly it could get. No one knew how it spread, or what we should do to protect ourselves.
The other part of this that we didn’t realize, was that our government didn’t want us to know the answers to those questions. The people who should have taken charge decided it would be better to ignore it. They hoped it would go away. The president at that time said that the cases were going up, but soon they would go down, and then it would all be over.
After I got home from that weekend, I realized that this was something strange and different. It was something that I had never experienced in my life. So I began to take notes. Every day I wrote a little note in a document on my computer. It wasn’t a big thing. I didn’t do it to explain to the world my thoughts and actions. I did it for me, to record what was happening and how my family was reacting. I thought the whole things would be over by May. The notes ranged from about two paragraphs to two pages. They soon included the correlation between what I was doing, what my kids and grandchildren were doing, and what was going on in the rest of the world. It was clear that things were not good.
I wrote in that journal every day for about eleven months. I stopped writing in it last week. I stopped because, unlike most other people in the world, my “virus days” have ended. A few days before I stopped writing I had received my second vaccination shot. All of the adults in my immediate family have been vaccinated. We were able to get vaccinated due to the confluence of my being older, having a medical condition, and that the same son has changed jobs and now works for one of the companies that makes the vaccine. I would classify my good fortune as “White Privilege” but two of the people who got vaccinated when I did had different skin tones than me, so getting that shot was just luck and privilege.
The day after I stopped writing in that journal my entire family returned to Vermont (more privilege). All my kids, their spouses and their kids went skiing. I didn’t because I am old and break easily. But we were all together, as if there was no COVID. We didn’t go inside any restaurants. They didn’t go inside any of the ski lodges or bars. But we were in a condo together. Our “Virus Days” were over.
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Now I am going to write about what will happen next. I will write it here, in my own Medium publication which I have called “Choosing Our Future.” I will write it here because it won’t be a private journal about how I’m feeling and what is going on in my family, and how we are dealing with the world of COVID.
Which brings we to the title of this post: Why Bother?
The only half-honest answer to that is that it makes my brain feel good to write stuff down. I am doing it on Medium because that is the world I am living in now. Everyone has something to say, and few people are listening, or reading. If I was hipper, and had more energy, I would do this as a podcast, or maybe on TikTok. But, I’m old, and that’s not my style, and i have a voice that is fit for silent movies.
When i got back from Vermont I read a New Yorker article about Glennon Doyle. She is a Instragram poster who has 1.5 million followers. She is an author and a blogger, and spiritual guide to the millions who seem to have benefitted from being in her orbit. She seems to have tapped into the angst of the women of the world.
That’s not me. That’s not my goal. Really, the reason I am bothering to do this is to get a few pointers from the rest of the world, more than to give them. Right now, on Medium, I have about 900 “followers.” When I write in this “publication” I usually get about a dozen actual readers. That’s the way it really is.
Glennon Doyle promised her readers that she would be unfailingly honest. She would let all her feelings out, good and bad, happy and sad. She would open up her heart and soul for the benefit of her readers.
I’m not going to do that. I have made a lot of mistakes in my life, many of which have not come back to haunt me. I am very good at forgiving myself. I am embarrassed about my embarrassing moments, so I won’t write about them here.
What I expect that I will do is try to Choose My Own Future. On the great cosmic scale that is not so easy, because compared to most of my twelve readers, my future could be very limited, or not. In a couple of weeks I will turn 76. I have been diminished in several ways just by the wear and tear of aging, and also due to having cancer a couple of years ago (you can read about that in the back issues of this publication if you’re really looking for something to do). I am even more diminished from the slash, poison and burn treatments that were necessary to drive the cancer out of my body. My doctors, who are at some of the best cancer centers in the world, have told me that until I have cancer again, I don’t have cancer, and the chances of it coming back are less than they were before, but not zero.
Also, my life is not bad. In fact, I am very fortunate. As the man in the song says “I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do. Life’s been good to me so far.” — Joe Walsh
But, I will write here to figure out what will make me feel active, relevant, and purposeful now that I am emerging from the shadow of COVID. I have a sense that I enjoyed hiding from the virus a little too much. I didn’t have many expectations of having to see people, or accomplish much. I was busy. I taught some old age courses over Zoom. I did some work to help push Trump out of office, and I kept in touch with real and virtual friends on sites like this one.
What’s next? I could do nothing; sit home, stream movies, watch the Celtics struggle, read the classics. But I won’t. I will try to figure it out here. If you have any thoughts, hints or reactions, please post them. To me comments are more important than “claps.”
But, you probably won’t. Few people do. That’s okay. We’ll see what happens.
I’ll be back soon. But not every day. I think it is important to attempt to choose my future instead of just letting it happen. I am old enough to realize that so much is random, unforeseen, and depends upon so many interactions with others, that my power to choose and direct is limited. I have also learned from my favorite neuro-philosopher, Daniel Dennett, that much of what we are doing when we are planning and selecting, is really just using our minds to justify what we have done, or know we will do again.
Rational beings? Maybe sometimes.
Anyway, as I said, it makes my brain feel good.