In-Between Thoughts: pain and mindfulness

3/12/20: Oof, today’s gym session was ROUGH. Massive headache and the beginning of that special time of the month where my body decides I should be having a baby and is throwing a temper tantrum for being denied that right. Screw you, body! If only you were as passionate about adopting as I am…

Onto gym thoughts…

Of course the thing that’s on my mind is the thing on everyone’s mind: COVID-19. (FYI? Hawaii is totally screwed.) Something like this pandemic is horrifying in part because of its danger to people, but also because of how it brings to the fore the profound weaknesses in our systems and in ourselves.

Our health care system is a disaster. The US is completely unequipped to handle a health emergency like this. Couple that with a president who cares more about approval than about people’s lives (and is too ignorant to take science seriously) and I am not optimistic about this thing getting better from intentional action by our Dear Leader. It’ll only get better through the course of its natural cycle or from scientists flouting instructions from the White House.

But that’s not the only thing that concerns me. What concerns me is how this has highlighted how little we care for each other. To be sure, a lot of people are taking this seriously and encouraging the right kind of action to protect the most vulnerable. I see lots of posts on social media about washing hands, self-quarantining, and limiting visits to elder relatives, etc. My coworkers are all concerned for each other and checking in to see how we’re doing physically and psychologically. But those are all rather general and/or individual. Where the rubber REALLY hits the road, we are failing as communities.

People are buying and hoarding toilet paper. TOILET. PAPER. Now, I understand the desire to stock extra because of how the flow of goods could be interrupted or just slowed as the globe reacts to a pandemic. And we are all responsible for the well-being of our families above all.

But.

BUT.

The hoarding is appalling.

There is no toilet paper at Costco, Safeway, Long’s Drugs, or Walmart. And I refuse to believe people are just “going” more (the American diet is still shockingly low in fiber). The panicked hoarding of toilet paper is all so selfish. There are people who can’t stockpile, who live paycheck to paycheck, who are facing emergency or are always on the edge of emergency. Stockpiling such a hygienic necessity of urban living is the epitome of me-first-me-only living. Those toilet paper rolls go unused while some people panic about not being able to find toilet paper for their children and families.

And it’s not like extra toilet paper is at ALL a help with COVID-19!! Having an extra 100 rolls in your house will not keep you from contracting the disease.

This guy now knows.

You know what it does do? Keep rolls out of the houses of people who need them and thus makes your community less hygienic. It puts us and our family in more risk because right now most of us are not holed up in our houses away from our communities. We are still working, shopping, taking kids to and from school, going to church. Going to the gym. (THE REALM OF GERMS.)

Shame on us for being so irrational and selfish that we put others at risk for literally no benefit to ourselves.

My herniated disc has made me realize how powerful pain is as a nudge to mindfulness. If my back weren’t issuing pain, I wouldn’t be so focused on correcting my posture or using a standup desk or taking my weight lifting form seriously. The pain is localizing my attention on my weaknesses, on areas I need to fix regarding the way I use and relate to my body, areas I wouldn’t care about if my weaknesses weren’t causing me pain.

The analogy is so obvious I barely need to say much. Every tragedy, every catastrophe shines a light on our social and systemic weaknesses, on the areas we’ve long needed to fix but haven’t needed to. It shines a light on the character of our culture, what vices we have nurtured and what virtues we have neglected. I haven’t been happy with the character of America for a long time, but COVID-19 is really bringing out some of the worst in our leadership and in ourselves. May we rise to meet it and transform ourselves in the process.

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