There is a popular social media post circulating. Its message to you is to stop living in fear and embrace life before this holiday season, because it might be your last one with a dear loved one.
I’m here simply to call bull shit. This is nothing but an attempt to bully people into foregoing safety precautions and celebrate this holiday season like any other year we can remember.
I could go full medical mama and remind you of all the reasons that not just the elderly are at risk. But the down side to that is it requires you to think of others first, and if 2020 has shown me anything, it’s that we as a society aren’t that great at being selfless. I get it. We all are selfish. So allow me to frame coronavirus precautions in a different way.
A little bit of fear is good for you.
As a mom whose kids are elementary aged and younger, I have seen my fair share of Disney movies. One of our favorites comes to mind every time I hear or see someone declaring we should not live in fear — “Inside Out.” In case you don’t know anything about this movie, this is what you need to know for this point to make sense. In Disney Pixar’s “Inside Out” everyone has five personality traits that guide you as a person. They are Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear. Guess what we learn in the movie. That Fear’s job is to keep us safe.
You may be about to call bull on me, but answer these questions for me:
- Why do you cook your chicken all the way?
- Why do you stop at a red traffic light?
- Why do you strap your young kids into car seats?
- Why do you get vaccines?
- Why do you pay for items you get from stores?
You do it because you are afraid of the consequences than could come with not doing them. There are things we do every day that are guided by fear. I’m not talking paralyzing phobia-level fear. I mean that we use fear regularly to adjust our behavior.
If you are a parent, I am willing to bet you followed at least one safe sleep recommendation because you were afraid of SIDS. I know I was super diligent about safe sleep with my first baby because SIDS was scary and I didn’t want my child to die because of something I did or didn’t do. Similarly, I won’t leave my babies unattended in the tub because I am afraid they will drown. My kids are required to wear helmets when they ride their bikes, scooters, and roller skates, because I am afraid of head trauma from their falls.
Other things I do out of fear:
- I drive sober because I don’t want to wrap my car around a tree.
- I won’t use an Instapot because I am afraid of pressure cooker explosions. I do recognize this one probably is unfounded. I’m sure pressure cookers now are much safer than the ones from when I was a child. But I also grew up afraid to sit near a window during a thunder storm.
- I won’t use the dryer if I’m leaving the house because I’m afraid of lint fires.
- I lock my windows and doors anytime we all leave because I’m afraid of being robbed (which is funny because I don’t actually have anything nice enough to steal. Almost everything we own is old enough to consider replacement, or it’s been destroyed by the kids).
- I won’t eat leftovers after a week because I’m afraid if food poisoning.
- I won’t jump off my roof because I’m afraid of breaking bones.
That list could be hundreds of items long because there are a lot of things I do out of fear. Do some of the items seem ridiculous to you? Are there items on the list you also do? I’m betting you can answer yes to both.
My point is we all live in fear. Fear is healthy. It helps us identify safety risks and then we make decisions on how likely the fear is of coming true and how severe the consequence is. I don’t let my kids play unsupervised when we have a camp fire because I’m afraid they will be burned and that isn’t something I want to live with. I use caution when I’m using a sharp knife because I’m slightly afraid of cutting myself, which happens often. See what I mean? Big scary thing, lots of caution; not so scary thing, little bit of caution.
I fully know that I can follow all the recommendations and precautions, and still experience the things I fear. For example, when pregnant, I wouldn’t get pedicure before 38 weeks because I was afraid of preterm labor. Without a pedicure, I still delivered twins before 25 weeks. Clearly not a perfect system, but one that lets me feel like I did everything I could.
As we enter the 2020 holiday season, don’t be bullied or fear-shamed into relaxing your coronavirus safety measures. Go ahead, let your fear of spreading a disease that has caused the deaths of more than 1.3 million people globally, guide your decision to gather or not. Making decisions based on fear isn’t silly, it’s what keeps us safe.