Finding ways to not think about COVID-19.

Or how I stopped worrying and learned to love the pandemic.

As an anesthesiologist, we get right up in people’s airways. We are seriously up in your business. You would never let us get as close as we do if you were awake so we have to knock you out first. It’s kind of a weird job. But, for the last 20 years this has been a good job and I don’t have too many complaints. Except for right now.

It turns out, that during a pandemic of a respiratory virus, anesthesiologists are kind of on the “front lines”. I have never wanted to be on the front lines of anything. I am a total weenie. But here I am. So…that’s why I started this blog. I am lucky to be in a more rural area that hasn’t been hit nearly as hard as places like New York or Italy. But I’m still scared to go to work and intubate sick people, or even “healthy” people for regular surgery. Because how healthy are they? Are they carriers? Everything that I used to do which was commonplace in my job has now become a scary way that I or my family could get sick. So, to counteract my very robust sense of self-preservation….I garden. Or write about gardening. Or just go fishing. It’s the perfect social distancing activity.

These activities all have something in common, they bring out that “mindfulness” that has become such a topic the last few years. And they all bring your blood pressure down. They bring you back to nature, and then weirdly, back to yourself. They give you the peace within to carry on despite all of the noise and news in the world. Especially right now.

Gardening, especially indoors, also means you have a smokin’ supply of lettuce and herbs and cool stuff like that! So I thought I should try to get this info out into the world as soon as possible. Maybe it will help more people have access to green stuff to eat, even when they can’t go to the supermarket, which always helps us to be more healthy.

But probably, more than that, this blog will help me get through my shifts at the hospital and sleepless nights more easily (which it certainly has). And maybe by endeavoring to garden, whether successfully or not, other people will find a hobby to keep their minds off all the sadness and anxiety right now. They’ll be yelling at their tomatoes for being too small instead of worrying about the state of the world, at least for a few minutes. And by posting the odd fly-fishing story, maybe I will encourage a few more women to get out there with the men dotting the sides of the river up and down Route 6, and get themselves a slice of this peace too.

When you catch a fish, feel that lightening in your rod, land it, take the fly out of its mouth, glimpse its beauty for a second and then let it swim off back into the river, you feel like a part of the circle of the world. Like these are the same fish that have been here for hundreds of years and they will be here for hundreds more no matter what happens to me. And when a fish takes my bug, I know I’ve cracked something. I’ve figured out not only what type of bug they are eating, but also what stage of life that bug is in, and what column of water is that fish’s preference for that day, that hour, that minute. It’s an incredible feeling – that nature can be understood and has order and logic to it.

Similarly, gardening gives you an amazing sense of working with nature, within its rules. Flowers and vegetables want to grow, we just have to let them, and figure out how to give them the building blocks they need. Gardening inside gives you even more sense of accomplishment because you did it all on your own, without nature even helping at all. But it’s all still within her rules. And nature’s rules, almost like mathematics, will always be true.

Over these past 20 years of my medical career, I am used to usually ‘knowing”. I am used to prognostic indictors, to epidemiological studies, to evidence-based studies. I am now in new territory of “not knowing”. As are we all. But I suspect this won’t be for long. Because this is still nature, still nature’s building blocks, still nature’s rules. We just have to crack this virus, and we will. Humanity will figure this one out. Just like I figured out what that pretty little rainbow was eating at 3 pm on april 10th, 2020.

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