(Please welcome my friend and guest, Steven Beai.)
STEVEN BEAI has been writing and publishing short stories, novels, comic book scripts and articles for over 30 years. Recently, during lengthy renovations to his home in Colorado, not able to focus on larger projects, he wrote a series of personal essays, journaling his way through the disruption late at night. In so doing, Steven found he was experiencing a level of introspection and perspective both euphoric and terrifying. Here is one of his favorites to start off, and John will post others in the future. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.
PANDEMIC AS PANACEA
by Steven Beai
On the evening of February 11, 2020, my father died after a
mercifully short decline. Two days later, I turned 57 years old.
Two weeks later, whispers of a new virus were about to change the trajectory of all life on Earth. By mid-March, we humans were self-isolating, wearing masks whenever we ventured out to buy toilet paper that usually wasn’t there. Meanwhile, the rest of Earth seemed to be taking a deep breath and sighing with a sort of long-overdue relief. Carbon emissions decreased at a dramatic level, as did general air pollution. Wildlife ventured calmly over once-bustling streets and into suddenly quiet neighborhoods, as we stared out from our windows behind locked doors. Gas prices returned to reasonable levels, crimes of all stripes, from rape and robbery to murder, plummeted. On-line retailers enjoyed their boomiest-boom in history. For the United States Postal Service, along with UPS, FedEx, DHL and other private delivery services, every day was like a Christmas Rush.
The following applies only to my situation. I would never deign to diminish the death of over 600,000 US citizens, because surely this number will grow before this virus is once and finally done. Nor would I ignore the damage done to countless restaurant and retail workers, the actors and musicians, the owners and managers of those related venues and so many more people adversely affected in ways both temporary and final, with a special nod to the superhuman efforts of the educational and medical personnel who, more than any other group, kept this country running. Indeed, these people, like my friend Derek, a nurse who worked 15-hour shifts without a day off for almost eight months, are responsible for getting us through the nightmare of an ongoing pandemic from a deadly respiratory virus. In this essay though I’m speaking only for myself and only for a single aspect of this situation.
I’m speaking about self-quarantine.
In the early days of March, 2020, it was obvious to anyone cleaving to facts that yes, this was a serious situation. Yes, you could die from this virus and die easily. Taking the advice to self-quarantine and use a mask on rare forays into public while waiting for a vaccine was a no-brainer to me.
Truth to tell, it was like a Gift.
I’m a writer. I work from home. I’m an only child. I had just lost my father, a man whom I was very close to all of my life. I was still processing his death and my loss. My wife was recently retired, so, like me, had no place in particular to go on a daily basis.
Prior to the rise of the virus and resulting guidelines, I was constantly on the go, going places that were necessary but of great inconvenience to what I truly value: time to write, time to reflect, time to spend lazy days with my family. I was managing personal appearances to promote the latest published work or speaking engagements at bookstores or groups on subjects ranging from writing to politics, and then honoring those appearances. All that was over now with a great excuse.
Self-quarantine. It was like winning a psychic lottery.
Not only could I sleep in, I could sit with my wife in the afternoons engaging in hours-long discussions about any and everything. Or about nothing. We talked about our past, our future, what we wanted for supper. We talked about movies we had seen and wanted to watch. We talked about my Dad. We watched the desert in silence as we held hands. We fell asleep in each other’s arms, stretched out on the living room couch as the last rays of twilight sun cast shadows over the walls before nightfall. We woke easy and enjoyed long breakfasts.
Michelle discovered magical objects to hone her already-advanced photography skills, objects within arm’s reach never before noticed.
I mused and wrote thoughts and words I had never had the time to imagine before. I cried freely, with no need to hide my torrent of tears, for there was no one to hide from.
I had many difficult and troubling moments as well. Many times, I considered drinking again...”just a few”... after not drinking for over 23 years. Several times I considered lying down in the middle of the day and, like several mornings, I considered never getting up again, forcing myself to keep eyes closed to discover what my father had already figured out in his own journey. I considered what it would be like to leave in an unexpected flash of suicide and then considered it from the point of Michelle and my children and there was a sudden epiphany of the sort I have never experienced. I basked in that epiphany until my self-pity disappeared and the self we call Steven Beai emerged wiser, never wanting to experience that particular all-encompassing empathy ever – not ever, ever – again. There is already too much pain in our world. I saw and learned that clearly. Pain doesn’t need any of my selfish help.
My personal quarantine, a mix of dreams and nightmares, was the best experiences of my life to date. I loved every minute of it. Even now that I’m fully vaccinated.
Pandemic is defined as a disease prevalent over a whole country or the world.
Panacea is defined as a cure-all for every difficulty and disease.
Some will go untouched by pandemics.
And there is no such thing as a cure-all, a “panacea” for everything under our sun and stars.
People will continue to cleave to political, religious and social tribes. People will continue to think what they are told, rather than simply think. After all, this is much easier and virtually pain-free. In the context of this pandemic, there will be those who refuse to hear the truth of self-quarantine, the benefits thereof, and the life-saving fact of vaccines. Many will die in the days to come, stubbornly honoring that refusal more than life itself. Many more will mourn their lost loved-ones with regret, forever wondering why.
Perhaps all we can hope for is to keep moving forward to a more advanced and intelligent perspective, a willingness to embrace our personal self-awareness and confidence while denying the voices around us who ridicule such things and tempt us to deny our own instincts in favor of their deceptions. After all, those voices feed on deception and rely on our own self-deceptions and biases. They are forever busy and need constant feeding. I’ve heard their haunting whispers for my entire life.
They have no defense against the daylight, much less a calm twilight and peaceful nightfall. They are more frightened and weak than we imagine compared to the courage we possess to see ourselves as we are.
Thanks to the pandemic, the self-quarantine, et. al., I finally know where these voices have lived since time immemorial.
They live in the dark nights of our souls.
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