If you are alive right now, you know something about COVID-19. You know somebody who is fighting it, someone who has been exposed to it, someone who is fearful of it, someone you are fearful for, or someone who is hunkered down. I am, mostly, isolated with my family in suburban America waiting for what feels like the other shoe to drop.
My primary fear with publishing this post is for someone to assume that I take the threat of Covid-19 lightly; I do not. The last five days were spent strategizing with my staff and department chairs on how to deliver curriculum and do work in ways that we’ve never done. In that time, I saw a university go from bustling hub of scholarly activity to ghost town in the span of 24 hours. Please know that I do take the threat very seriously.
Despite (or because of) the fear, I am also desperately looking for levity. I have written several installments of Outlander Life Lessons (Seasons 1 & 2, Season 3, and Season 4) and this morning I realized that I had one more in me. The characters in Outlander have fought their way through adversity more than once and they can serve as an inspiration as we navigate the uncertain days ahead of us. With that, I give you Outlander Life Lessons: Anxiety Edition.
There Have Always Been Claires and Elias Pounds
In Season 3, Claire gets pressed into service on the Porpoise where the sailors are fighting a raging outbreak of typhoid. Claire can’t get ill because she’s been vaccinated. Knowing that she’ll need help, Claire teaches the young Elias Pound how to care for his shipmates and she also teaches him to wash his hands regularly. In the end, Claire saves many sailors but Elias succumbs to the infection.
At this moment there are doctors, nurses, scientists, and other medical professionals around the globe fighting hard to treat patients, comfort families, and find a cure for this virus. They do it with the knowledge that they will spend long hours away from their loved ones and could possibly become infected by the very thing that they fight.
My lovely friend Denise, a NICU nurse, is taking care of the most frail among us right now. She and her colleagues have accepted the risk and they fight on. These non-fictional heroes have always been around and most of us, quite literally, wouldn’t be here without them.
The Unknown is Scary and Can Bring Out the Worst in Us
Remember in Season 1 when Geillis and Claire co-starred in a witch trial? Every false accusation emboldened other members of the community to pile on until they whipped themselves into a frenzy. Sound familiar?
The last few weeks have left me on information overload. There’s the news and the press conferences but also social media. To be honest, I’ve been doing my own social distancing from social media because I found that the constant updates were impacting my mental health.
Just remember this when you’re tempted to pass on a questionable social media post or grab 72 rolls of toilet paper when 8 would suffice. The unknown can bring out the worst in us but here’s the great thing guys, it can also bring out the best. Hint: keep reading.
The Unknown is Scary and Can Bring Out the Best in Us*
Jamie and Claire’s wedding was the result of Jamie’s community coming together. Many individuals played a role in making it a breathtaking ceremony. Murtagh secures Jamie’s kilt. Angus and Rupert get the ring. Dougal and Willie find the venue and badger the sniffling priest until he agrees to officiate. Can we all agree that the priest should have been quarantined rather than forced to preside over the ceremony? Ned Gowan gets the gown and, possibly, an STD.
No one knows where this hair-brained scheme of a wedding is headed. It is a marriage of convenience cooked up by Dougal. Jamie is a wanted man. Claire is a wanted woman. It could all go terribly sideways and endanger everyone who is participating, but it doesn’t. The community comes together to create this beautiful moment that becomes the touchstone for the rest of Jamie and Claire’s story.
And so it is with us. We don’t know how or when this threat will end and it’s far too soon to think about how our lives will change as a result. What is evident, even now, is that our lives will change and this moment in time will become a touchstone. We will always remember this week, this month, this asshole of a year.
In the future, when we think about this time, we can remember that we made small contributions for the good of our community (we stayed home when we felt ill, we cared for a sick loved one, we made a grocery run for the elderly lady next door) or we can remember that we coughed in our hand and then extended it for a handshake.
We can remember it as if we got the rings for Jamie and Claire’s wedding (or made a transaction in a brothel for a dress…you do you) or we can remember it as if we were a member of the mob at a witch trial. I’m with Rupert and Angus on this one. #BeAnAngus
Jamie Practiced Social Distancing Before it Was Even Called That
After Culloden and before Jenny gives him up to the British, Jamie lives in a cave. He has books and candlelight and plenty of time to sort through his thoughts. He also spends time in the forest that surrounds his secluded home.
If you’re healthy but practicing social distancing the minutes can seem like hours especially if you have children. In my house, we have decided to take these three weeks (or more) to do the things we rarely do.
We’re slowing down, reading and working puzzles. We’re planting seeds in starter pots with the hope that life will regain a semblance of normalcy by the time we transplant them outside. We are distancing ourselves from the outside world, and just like Jamie, we’ll survive it. I just hope our isolation doesn’t last three years because I don’t think I can pull off Jamie’s cave hair.
Jamie Never Used Toilet Paper
Here in the U.S. our stores have experienced a run (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) on toilet paper which defies logic. If it helps, remember that Jamie never uses toilet paper. Claire, Bree, and Roger also give it up when they do the time warp.
If you’re low on tp, keep in mind that we’ve only had the rolled stuff for about 150 years. Before that, people used leaves, grass, corncobs, and pages from the Sears catalog. If you prefer to avoid leaves and don’t mind a craft project, do what Claire did and make your own.
We are Stronger Than We Think
Outlander is full of strong characters doing the things we expect of them. Jamie survives (how many?) floggings and (how many?) prison stints and a bear attack and that’s just the highlight reel. Claire jumps off a ship and beaches herself on a tropical island. She becomes a surgeon in a time when few women hold that title and she kills a few baddies along the way.
None of us will fend off a bear attack or be forced to kill the excise man in the next few weeks but we probably will, at some point, need to reach down deep and summon strength that we don’t know we have. I know that when you reach for it, it will be there because we are all stronger than we think we are. These next few weeks will prove it.
The Importance of Love and Light
I’ve had Jamie and Claire’s wedding flashing through my head all day. It’s always the same image; the two of them, hands joined, standing amidst that beautiful candlelight (thank you Jon Gary Steele).
I’m taking it as a reminder from the universe that in these times of uncertainty we need to hold fast to our loved ones (provided they are symptom free) and let the warmth of their love wash over us. And in the evening, when your house goes quiet, light a candle and enjoy the flickering light. Remember that, “It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness” (thank you Eleanor Roosevelt).
In the coming days and weeks, I encourage you to be the love that we all so desperately need and to be the light, if ever so small, that banishes the darkness in your little corner of the world.
While it does feel dark right now there is light everywhere. We just need to keep looking for and to let ourselves be buoyed by it. Please be safe wherever you are and, if you need a little inspiration, turn to all those Outlander Life Lessons.
* I struggled a bit with this one. I knew that there were examples to choose from but I had a mental block. I reached out to my community and Outlander brain trust and within minutes they had me on my way. Thank you Ashley Crawley, Janet Reynolds, Denise Stewart, and Andree Poppleton for always helping me keep calm and carry on.
And one more thing, there are people everywhere who are on the front lines. Men and women are keeping our infrastructure intact while we wait out the illness. To everyone who is working at a grocery store, a restaurant, a pharmacy, a hospital, a doctor’s office, a daycare center or driving a cab, running a water treatment or electrical plant or doing a thousand other jobs that keep our society up and running, thank you.