I’m not usually at a loss for words. I can usually tap into feeling and just run with it, but over the past week or so, I haven’t been able to sit very long with any particular feeling. It’s been a wild week on the Central Coast as the crisis a world away quickly swept across the globe and into “The Shire” as I like to call it.
Fifteen years ago, our abode was a quiet little corner of California where folks stopped to pick up some In-N-Out Burger on their way from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Over the past 10 years, Paso Robles has earned its way into the top echelons of wine’s high society, and earned global acclaim. Even now, the name Paso Robles might be still as famous as Wuhan, but all things famous are overshadowed by the name of our new neighbor — coronavirus.
My kindergartner will forever know the name. Every one of our stories now has a coronavirus chapter. Some of our chapters will be more dramatic than others. In California today, a Saturday, the chapter idles by. This pandemic has forced us to slow to nearly a pause, as we wait out the spread and work to flatten the curve.
Being a 41-year-old healthy man, I’m not really concerned for myself. I must admit, I’m not really concerned for many others either. That might sound terrible, but if it does then you misunderstand me. I’m hunkered down. Our employees have spent most of the last week working in isolation, even before our county was ordered to “shelter-at-home.” I don’t want anyone I know getting sick. But I also have an extreme faith in the powers that be — not the government, but the power that has given life to all things; the power that has been here before us, brought us here, and will bring us home. I have an extreme faith.
I’m not really into pain or suffering. I like feeling good. I like being happy. I absolutely insist on enjoying life. Life is filled with moments of doubt and fear, pain and suffering, so with every part of me that can enjoy life, I do. That is why I’m not concerned for many others as we work through this crisis.
Of all the people I know over the age of 65 or with underlying conditions they have all either lived a fantastic life they can be proud of, or they haven’t. I live with an underlying condition. It’s not just COVID-19 that could take me out. I’m past my expiration date. I’m on borrowed time. I wasted most of my life not knowing what to do with it. I knew I had something special — all human life is special — but I didn’t know that my life was special. I thought I had to do something, or be something, or prove something, or obtain something, or win something, or earn some recognition in order to feel special. I was wrong.
I’m probably right to say nobody wants COVID-19. Nobody wants to get the novel coronavirus. But do we want to live the rest of our lives the way we have been living them before? Most people will probably emphatically say “yes” to that question. Life was awesome. Most of the people I know feel that way.
We might disagree with each other on a lot of things — and we might have moments where we feel alone, inadequate, lost, heartbroken, poor, unwanted, weak, rejected, or so wrong that we feel infectious ourselves and don’t want to give anyone else what we have so we just stay away — but we are alive. We may not truly understand the meaning of life, but there is comfort knowing that something wanted it that way — and while we are alive and with our health, we ought to honor what it is that wants us alive and trust it while it sees fit we stay alive.
I hope you know now why I said I’m not really concerned for many others either. It is because I believe the same thing that gave me life, has kept me alive, and has given me an opportunity to do something with this life that I don’t need to understand completely in order to enjoy, has done the same for them. We’re not supposed to know how it all works out. In fact, not knowing is part of the adventure — although it drives my wife bonkers. I believe that same thing that gave me life has given you an opportunity too. It’s given everyone an opportunity — they all just come in different flavors.
We don’t know how this coronavirus thing is going to end up. We don’t know quite what next week will look like, or what next month will look like — but on January 1, 2020, we didn’t know what March 21, 2020 was going to look like (to every season, a turn). All I know for sure, is that you didn’t think it would look like this. We all had other plans. But the thing that is keeping me alive, that gave me life, and now leads my life … it always has the right plan. It is my guide.
My faith in it can only be true if I extend that faith to others. Everyone has had the same opportunity to reconcile with life, because life itself is what we’ve all been experiencing this whole time. There are no short lives or long lives. There is only life. So why am I hunkered down, staying six feet away from everyone outside my family if I have such faith? It’s because that is what my guide is telling me to do right now. I’m not supposed to get anyone else sick. I’m supposed to care about other people, even if I’m not concerned for them. They’ll be fine, I’m told. Everyone is OK, I’m told. We’re supposed to see this. We’re supposed to go through this. My 5-year-old had valley fever … he was supposed to go through that. I had kawasaki disease as a young child. I was supposed to have it.
What I’m also told, is that there is a difference between what happens to us as a global community and what we do to each other. When one person hurts someone else, that is not supposed to happen. That is considered a misfire. When coronavirus happens, it was meant to happen, and we can prevent its spread. We are supposed to. This isn’t metaphysical, or spiritual. It is just what it is. If anyone understood it well enough to explain it, we’d have some new books. Instead of getting new books, we just get more books. We’re still waiting for new ones.
We have an opportunity right now to learn something very profound about life on Earth — something we can’t learn in school. We have an opportunity to learn about each other and ourselves. Life will probably change dramatically, and it may get worse before it gets better, but this coronavirus has humbled the world. Humility — the knowledge of one’s self. We know a little bit more about ourselves after this. Life should change dramatically, or we haven’t learned anything at all.
Well, currently life is dramatically changed and we all hope it is only temporary. We look forward to looking back on this. We look forward to cracking COVID-19 jokes and them actually being funny. We look forward to shaking hands again, and giving strangers hugs. We look forward to waiting in long lines and standing in big crowds. We look forward to the music.
We have big plans. We began 2020 with “2020 vision” of hope for greater prosperity than ever before. As a community and as a nation, I hope people haven’t changed those plans, because we are going to get through this, and we are going to be greater than ever, as a community and as individuals. Here’s to working together to make sure we are not still social distancing by July 4, 2020 — we might have an entirely new perspective on independence and freedom by then.