I’ve lived eight weeks with the knowledge of COVID-19, but until the NBA suspended my beloved season two nights ago, I thought of it as a faraway problem. I’m not proud of it, but losing the NBA brought coronavirus dripping to my doorstep. Like, on the door knob. Like, caught in the foamy white corners of every mustache at the grocery store – not that anyone would picture it that way.
And since Social Distancing – a strategy that hasn’t been used against me since 8th grade, has become the most effective way to starve the virus, I feel suddenly separated from my fellow humans. And if I’m honest, I can tell I’m having some feelings about the whole situation because I keep opening and closing the freezer; I keep taking long gazes out the window. And from what I can see on social media, I’m not the only one.
It’s not that I think we’re all gonna die, I just wouldn’t mind hearing from someone who could console, or at least interpret the competing anxieties that might be cropping up inside us right now – whether it’s guilt for not caring about the suffering of others, shame for not self-educating about the exponential spread, fear or denial about what might happen, frustration toward citizens and officials for panic or indifference.
I’ve heard Fear brought up more than once, and so far, that word does not resonate with me. For one thing, if I’m afraid, I’m unaware of it. Maybe it’s Fear that’s making me stare out the window, but I’m obtuse enough where if you tell me I’m afraid I’m going to want to fight you about it.
And what’s really not helping is the advice to stop being afraid. That suggestion is popping all over the Internet and it ranges from: “Relax, everything’s gonna be OK,” to: “Calm the eff down,” to: “Stop choosing your Fear instead of trusting God.” One pastor even implied that I love my Fear, that maybe I want to worship it and would sacrifice my faith to do so.
Maybe someone somewhere needed to hear that? I dunno. But it sure wasn’t me. To me, that felt like shame. And shame is not on my list of emergency supplies to outlive this pandemic.
I’ve been contemplating Fear in the hour since my kids fell asleep, and it’s their faces that best show me Fear because they haven’t masked or renamed it yet. What they do is run or roll into me if it’s the Nighttime Monster again. They whimper, “I’m scared Daddy.” They squeeze their little arms around me and press their noses into my skin. Then they take a deep breath of whatever my body smells like after it’s been chasing them all day, and you can feel the tension uncoiling from them, just from breathing me in.
I think that’s the most proven way to weaken Fear – to name it, to race toward the strongest person in the room, to breathe in their presence until their love for you pushes all Fear away. It’s weird because that’s kinda the opposite of how to kill COVID-19; if you want to kill that virus you’ve gotta be alone.
They say Perfect Love casts out Fear, and as a dad, that kinda makes sense. I bet a lot of us could use that kind of Love right about now – a Love that didn’t shame us for being too anxious or panicky or afraid or frustrated. A Love you can roll toward, can breath in, can carry to quarantine in your pocket. If you’re wishing for a Love like that, I’m pretty sure it’s available, even if you’re alone. The easiest way I’ve found it is just to look out the nearest window, beyond the faraway clouds, and say, “Dad, I’m scared, hold me.”