I was born into a family of routine one-liners. Mom’s call from the kitchen of “Are you hungry,” would be met with a chorus of “I could eat.” Anyone who asked any other question involving an affirmative response was likely to hear “You bet your sweet bippy!” It didn’t matter that none of us had a clue what a bippy was or what made it sweet, it was what you said. Much like the call and response segments in a church service, everyone knew their lines, and if someone new came into the mix…they learned them quickly and joined right in.
My favorite was always my Dad’s response to some variant of “Good morning. How are you?” Without fail his mildly irreverent retort would be “I woke up on the right side of the dirt, so that’s something.” Having grown up in the hills of West Virginia, this was his folksy way of expressing gratitude for another day of life. It was also a tool to set his focus on the blessings any given day holds.
It seems that until some untimely tragedy or premature death enters our lives, we’re wired to assume each day is a given rather than something to be grateful for. Phrases like SSDD (the second “S” being “stuff” or a swear depending on the strictness of the household) prove the expectation that the sun will rise tomorrow offering the same limited fare, but we’ll be there to drag our feet through it from dawn to dusk. Much like any stereotype or assumption though, breathing life into it through speaking it aloud doesn’t mean it’s true. Often when the stark light of reality meets the rose-colored tint of thought, we recoil.
That reaction is what has followed me so far throughout quarantine…a constant state of recoiling. At first, as I’ve written about before, it was the mandates. Always the hint of a rebellious teenager hidden within my 49 year old frame, I rebuff at anyone telling me what I can or cannot do. The bratty side is small in comparison to my typical authoritarian nature though, so I capitulated. My next jump backwards occurred after the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of March 2020. Still haven’t quite figured out how or why that happened, but happen it did. The idea of people lining their basement or garage walls with rolls upon rolls encased in plastic, while others had to resort to their glove box napkin supply made me shudder.
Then came the nags on social media. Their bounty of free time dedicated to scouring the platform of their choice for any pictures or posts that violate their interpretation of the quarantine policies. Cringe-worthy indeed, especially considering they rarely if ever take into account that the object of their disdain might not be in the same circumstance as they are. So what if your daughter and her husband are essential and have a two year old child and daycares are closed? You aren’t supposed to cross state lines! Thank you for your input, Negative Nelly, but my grandson isn’t old enough to be a latch key kid. I found no argument I offered could sway their black and white view of our circumstances, so I’ve learned that the scroll button is my best course of action.
Most recently there’s been the Grand Re-opening debate. Yet another war of opposing sides where I fall in line with neither. The bittersweet fate of any independent thinker. Screaming and cursing at front line workers is daft…let me just clear that up right away. First of all, they aren’t making the rules. It’s like screaming at the janitor instead of the principal because of school dress code policies. It’s stupid, so stop it. I get that you might be frustrated that your small business is floundering, but direct your concerns to the mayor’s office or the governor’s mansion. Address someone who can actually affect change instead of harassing people who are doing their best in a bad situation.
The other far end of the spectrum doesn’t suit me either. I’m a realist. This shut down can’t go on indefinitely and we need a way to start functioning again. Allowing healthy, non-immunocompromised people who aren’t in the high risk segment of the population seems to be the best course. Keep the PPE measures in place as well as the social distancing. Excuse the segment of the population that is most vulnerable from attendance until it’s shown they have some measure of safety in returning. There is never going to be an All Clear. No Olly Olly Oxen Free to be had. That guarantee of an illness free tomorrow never existed, nor will it now. We need to stop trying to convince ourselves that it did. According to stats from the CDC in 2017, anywhere from 7-8000 people in the US die every day without a pandemic. There is no future death-free world, so kidding ourselves serves no purpose.
What we can do in the meantime is be vigilant, and compliant. We can also realize that in between those far reaching extremes that seem to possess the loudest voices, there is a ton of middle ground to be had. The false dichotomies need to cease so truth and reality can prevail. We can also start being grateful that, for today, we woke up on the right side of the dirt. It’s a gift and a blessing. Treat it like one instead of taking it for granted. As the Good Book says, “We are a mist that appears for a time and then vanishes.” Make sure what you do while you’re here is a benefit rather than a hindrance.
As always, sending hopes that you are well, have a reasonable expectation of safety, and that you’re can find gratitude for being on the right side of the dirt. XOXO