Gifts From the Novel Coronavirus

There is an upside in all this. There is always an upside.

Call it lemonade (from lemons). Call it accepting the unacceptable. Call it gratitude. It doesn’t matter what you call it; the trick is in recognizing there is an upside. And knowing there are generally quite a few.

More time to spend with family? Projects getting done? More time outside? Simply time to have time?

Thoreau’s Walden Pond and May Sarton’s Journal of Solitude notwithstanding, we are social beings, evolving over the eons dependent upon one another for sustenance and safety.

We have our solitude. A sense of certainty that at least we are doing our part. For me there has been another gift:

the opportunity to practice

Once upon a time, “not knowing” freaked me out. I was supposed to know, you know. I was supposed to have it figured out. Not knowing, if I even acknowledged it, was scary.

Did you see that Twitter image that floated around a month or so ago?  Here is how it began:

“Americans need to know date certain when this will end. The uncertainty for businesses, parents, and kids is just not sustainable.”
Ignoring for a moment who wrote it, can you feel the anguish? The intensity? The fear?
I imagine many who read this accepted that this was a perfectly legitimate demand. Everyone feels safer with information. Information, some say, is power.
How easy it is to fall into the expectation that we should know.  That we can always know. Laura Ingraham capitalized on that human need in her tweet. And she capitalized on the fear that goes with it.
Some called her on it. That’s the American way. It’s what free speech is all about. People are free to say stupid, ignorant things because other people are equally free to call them out.
Here are two I liked:
Hi Laura, I just spoke with the Coronavirus and it told me it will stop killing people on Thursday, April 16 at 1 pm. The virus is asking if that works for you or would you like them to move it to noon?
Laura Ingraham wants to talk to COVID-19’s manager.
And so it is in the midst of this pandemic. There is so much we do not know.



Cognitively, I learned two decades ago that I really don’t have to know. And since then I’ve been able to catch myself when I fall into that old trap. But because I get to practice this every day, I’m getting quite good at owning the fact that I just don’t know.


This realization is becoming an integral part of me, not simply a factoid I recall when it suits.  Not knowing has become as much a part of this new normal as putting on my mask when someone comes to the door.



I don’t really know whether I should go to the grocery store myself (with excellent three-layered mask) or whether I should use the curb side service they offer. Choices are much more limited with curb side service.



What about my mail?  We don’t get USPS here at the house; we’re too rural. We have a PO Box in town. Do I go to the post office myself or avail myself of the home delivery that’s offered for those in the “high risk” population? I do not know.



Am I really “high risk?” I don’t feel high risk; I don’t feel old, or elderly. Age is just a number, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Asking one of the young ones to bring me my mail just feels wrong. Am I being naive?  Am I bargaining again? I simply don’t know.



I also don’t know whether Woody and I  really need to wash our hands every time we touch something. It’s just us in the house. Surely any coronavirus hitchhikers that may have snuck in have long since died.  They say it can only live out side the host for two hours, or 15, depending on the material and on who’s talking.  Again, I do not know.



Some days I wash them religiously.  Some days I wash them sporadically.  I don’t know.

Some people fill that not-knowing void with explanations (no matter how valid).

And there was a time in my life when I’d have wanted a checklist to work off of: a coronavirus “to do” list of absolutes. I now know how irrelevant that would be. How futile.



I have become more familiar with, more accepting of, not knowing than I have ever been: familiar with my human frailty, familiar with floating ungrounded. That’s OK. I’m getting quite good at it, thanks to CoViD’s deadly potential. I don’t need to figure it out.



Thanks to Audrey Loves Paris for the image.



I feel myself embracing this not knowing,  not just recognizing I don’t need to know. Certainly expectations are a set up. Today, what I know is that I’ll want to eat, I’ll try to get in some exercise, and I’ll need to tend my chickens. Tomorrow I’ll do those same three things, plus I’ll see a few clients over the Internet. That’s the plan at least.



I try to start each day with a few belly breaths and, of course, I end my day identifying a few new gratitudes. Today I am grateful for the chance to practice not knowing.



Life will unfold as it unfolds, whether I’m expecting it or not. I trust in that. And all will be well, in the end, no matter what unfolds.
How about you? What don’t you know?  How are you dealing with not knowing? 



29 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    The loss of control is hard for modern-day humans. Centuries ago humans relied on the weather, the seasons, the sun and the moon. They didn´t feel the need for control. Perhaps we need to let go of that need to control everything in our lives. Perhaps that is one of the lessons of the Coronavirus. For everything, there is a reason. Stay well. xo
    Darlene Foster recently posted…Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives #Family and #Friends – My Cowboy Dad – Cowboy Wisdom by Darlene FosterMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I like how you put this, Darlene. Thank you. I think that’s a reason I hate Daylight Saving Time so much (I used to do a bi-annual rant). It robs me of the chance to evolve with the changing sunlight.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  2. Carolyn
    | Reply

    I think I’ll go with Audrey Loves Paris. I would like to know when I can fly off to my second home and see that all is well but, hey, I’m still standing and so is Himself and that’s good.

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Many of us know in our heads that control is an illusion. Still, being human, we long to know when this will end. My neighbor next door says 18 months; our mayor is unveiling a plan to re-open the city in small stages next month, with pauses or push-backs if we experience flareups.

    I’ve never seen the Laura Ingraham thread; she sounds young and more than a little naive. The Audrey Loves Paris quote is spot on. I want to be the salt and the light today. And , like you, the kind person too!

    Great post, Janet!
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Flash in the Pan: A Sunday Morning ArgumentMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Laura Ingraham is a talking head on Fox News (a blonde one). That’s about all I know of her. More than this virus invading my world, I’m appalled at how partisan this pandemic has become. Wearing a mask (or not) has become like a bumper sticker during a campaign year. Unconscionable.

      Vermont has done quite well with her shut-downs and ramp-ups; we’ve had only one death in this county, and community outreach has never been stronger. Our governor talks of opening things up here on May 15. I’ll make my decision on May 14. And I can’t imagine it will be to go back to the office. But, one never knows, does one.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  4. Maggie Wilson
    | Reply

    Your post puts me in mind of the advice given to me by Bill Watson, the minister who performed our marriage – it’s in three parts. The first two are straightforward and relatively easy to put into action – 1. Judge not. 2. Compare not.

    The third was the trickiest – 3. Let go the need to understand.

    Thanks for your post – I hope you and your family (and the chickens!) are safe,

  5. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    The sad thing is that while some of us are fine (we can afford to buy groceries and gas) there are so many that aren’t fine and unfortunately I don’t know many of them. I helped my cleaner—Gave her A large gift—she and her husband do it together so when people dropped their service they were in real trouble and have 4 kids. I also opted to continue to pay her every two weeks even though I didn’t use her for a month—just started again. I know lots of people help those they know but so many are caught without help—so sad—that is the only thing that bothers me since I became homebound just before this happened.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Here in Vermont we’ve got community organizations established specifically to not let anyone fall throughs those metaphorical cracks. Even I am allowed (and encouraged) to file for unemployment insurance (as a part-time, self-employed person, that would normally not be possible). Even so, I’ve been buying gift certificates to my favorite restaurants, doing take out (we NEVER did take out before), and like you, helping those I normally pay for their services. At least in the beginning, before the unemployment got expanded.

      You and Marian are in the same boat down there, with your beaches and entertainment centers being such a draw. Do stay safe.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  6. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I’m with Audrey Loves Paris.

  7. Jenny Cressman
    | Reply

    As a student at University of Waterloo/Conrad Grebel College, I remember a favorite saying that was frequently quoted in the dorm: “You can’t know everything.” I’m not sure of the origin and, in that setting, it probably referred to exams most of the time. Still, it has always stayed with me and, although I’m generally a curious person, I’ve become comfortable with not knowing everything.

    For example, I’ve stopped updating my knowledge of CV-19 stats. I don’t need to know the gruesome details; a general overview is sufficient. Instead, I’m trying to focus on more positive things and getting back into the writing groove, which often requires some research. So, I’m feeding my brain different things to know!

    Jenny Cressman recently posted…There are many dates to celebrate in May, even if you don’t like hummusMy Profile

  8. Joan Rough
    | Reply

    “Life will unfold as it unfolds, whether I’m expecting it or not. I trust in that. And all will be well, in the end, no matter what unfolds.”

    There you have it in a nutshell. I don’t know what I don’t know and if I did would it make me happy? I don’t know.

    I let each day unfold around me. If I spend my time worrying about all of the things I don’t know and make up worst case scenario stories in my head I won’t be making life pleasant for anyone and will die not knowing who I really am.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Isn’t that often the kicker? Similar to my “hindsight’s never there when you need it”. How fun to take the lighter view. Thanks Joan.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  9. Arlene Smith
    | Reply

    I think you have just written about one of the secrets to happiness: accepting what is. That’s another way of looking at the idea of accepting the unknown. If a person is able to settle into not knowing in this kind of situation, it is definitely helpful. This is also one of the few circumstances in life when being an introvert is a definite advantage.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Oh yes Arlene. In this forced isolation, we introverts are like bre’r rabbit in the briar patch. And the older we are (as longer we’re healthy) the better we seem to be faring too according to John Leland of the New York Times (I just shared a reference to it on Facebook today.) Still, optimism helps any situation.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  10. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Interesting thoughts here as usual. I was aware of Laura Ingram’s inane tweet, mostly because of all the people who mocked her for it. Truthfully, I’m comfortable with not knowing about the specifics of when this pandemic will end. I want it to end, but I figure it is better to accept not knowing and go on living as well as I can in the meantime. “Fret not yourself it tends to evil” as it says [somewhere] in the Bible.
    Ally Bean recently posted…As One Does Now: In Which Ms. Bean Becomes Mildly Exasperated With Her HusbandMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Ally. And me too — I didn’t notice LI’s tweet until the retorts began showing up. The agony is that so many are influenced by her. Still.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  11. Bette Stevens
    | Reply

    I’m OK with non knowing every little thing… BUT, I like to watch the news twice a day to keep in the loop. I don’t think anyone out there really knows what’s going on and that’s OK–we’re in a new age of discovery, so let’s stick together with the same support and compassion we would show if we weren’t in quarantine! <3

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I try to catch my governors press conference from time to time, though I usually miss it. Other than that I’m off TV news for the foreseeable future. Print media is my chosen source. I’d love to hold a New York Times in my hands once again, but alas only digital makes its way up here to the boonies in one day. But I’ve begun to branch out into news magazines, the ones with in-depth, investigative stories. I just need more hours in the day.

      Oddly, I get a sense of what the big stories are by watching the comediennes on YouTube. And I get to laugh at the same time. Nice combination. Especially if they also sing.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Gifts From the Novel CoronavirusMy Profile

  12. susan scott
    | Reply

    Hi Janet, sorry so late to the party, been AWOL for a while. For me it’s surely better to go with the flow and let each day unfold with all its peculiarities. I have many concerns about this virus, not least how it’s unfolding in my country. We’re doing ok following rules and regulations and keeping infections relatively low, but it’s early days still. But, the now and the future doesn’t look good at all what with hungry people in spite of food donations from many organisations, businesses and individuals. I try to keep aware of all agendas especially those of our govt., who are removing rights from us left right and centre … what’s really going on I keep on asking myself and knowing that I do not have any answers ..
    susan scott recently posted…#WATWBMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I am so very sorry to hear this, Susan. Not that long ago, things had sounded like they were improving. On this side of the world, our courts are our last refuge and they have been sorely undermined with this administration with partisan appointments in lifetime slots. A dangerous time around the world. Do I say thanks for stopping by? (of course I do).

  13. Frank V. Moore
    | Reply

    Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Gilda Radner

  14. Janet Morrison
    | Reply

    Another excellent post, Janet. I share many of your unknowns, but a gift the pandemic has given me is time to give myself some slack. This started with my accident in January. I no longer make a daily to-do list. That has been very freeing, since I rarely accomplished everything on my lists. I daily set myself up for failure, and it’s high time at my age that I’m learning that lesson. I think I have a better grasp of what’s important in life.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      These are the real gems in life, aren’t they Janet. That kernel of gold tucked inside what first we dread. Enjoy the slack. And I hope you can shorten up that to do list. Staying busy can be a good antidote to anxiety, but I like to limit it to three doable things a day. Sometimes that includes spending an hour or two in a good book. Or making a dozen brownies. Set yourself up for accomplishment! What a buzz! Glad you stopped by. I always enjoy your thoughts. And I’m eager to follow your blog on this new path you’ve chosen — history. Makes good sense given you write historical novels.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Keeping the coronavirus in the BAGMy Profile

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