La liberté des uns s'arrête là où commence celle des autres.
The freedom of some ends where the freedom of others begins.
One of my dear friends in Belgium shared this French saying with me, and it’s been rolling around in my brain ever since. The ripple effect of our actions, acceptable and unacceptable consequences, and just old-fashioned human decency- important concepts that current events have been begging us to consider. It’s also boggling that one simple French sentence can have so much punctuation, whereas in English, the average American struggles with the difference between your and you’re.
After circumstances beyond my control contributed to an early departure from Spain, I became the most pitiful victim that has ever existed. Covid-19 was ravaging the lives of everyone, yet I believed that my own pain was clearly the most excruciating. It wasn’t until one of my dearest friends confronted me about it that I realized I was losing my ability to feel empathy. It was an unpleasant, but important wake-up call.
While I may have no control over the presence of this pandemic, I can control my response to it. Respecting this virus is necessary. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance- especially from those who are at risk. This is not being political. This is being a decent human. After I decided to end my raging pity party [complete with disco balls and special guest DJ Calvin Harris], I began to look for a healthy, sustainable solution. A solution where I could prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but also not end up shuffling down the street in my silky bathrobe asking people when the captain was going to turn off the Fasten Seatbelt sign. I began to realize that being single and living alone during a pandemic might actually be a gift. When my best friends from college have a get-together in Dallas, I go. When I want to fly to Colorado to see my sister, I buy the ticket.
I can hear you fastening the suspenders on your judgy pants.
After I return from a trip into potential Covid Exposureland, I quarantine myself for two weeks. When I travel, I climb mountains, breathe fresh air, and giggle late into the night with my sisters. But for 14 days after I get back, I hang out in my apartment with my plants, puzzles, and books. These little quarantines are kind of a blast. I hike, read, write, work, brush up on my Spanish skills (Todavía siguen siendo mierda, pero bueno), learn new recipes, and do some serious “questing” (my mother’s word for playing video games). Not an ounce of makeup is worn (hallelujah), and my hairbrush begins to doubt its purpose in life. I still get to travel, but I also get to eliminate the possibility of my choices negatively affecting someone else. It may not be my ideal vision of how things should be, but why not crawl into the cocoon and see what emerges in the end?
This is a time to respect the freedom of others and their personal health choices. The weekend after I traveled to Denver to see my sister, a friend and I had planned a socially-distanced get-together. Her husband is considered immuno-compromised, so I told her the details of my trip and allowed her to decide what made her feel safe. She deserved to have all of the information so she could make the best decision for herself and for her husband. It wasn’t difficult. It simply required a little more consideration and a little less pride.
We all want to kick Covid-19 to the surface of the sun so it dies a million fiery deaths. It has forced us to confront our worst nightmares: loss, illness, isolation, loneliness, and our own mortality. Not to mention that we are either being forced to learn to cook (Hey there, all you bread-making wizards) or we are developing a deep, emotional bond with our DoorDashers. This pandemic is exhausting, but we must respect it; and, more importantly, we must respect each other. If we put our own selfish desires above the wellbeing of others, we are taking their freedom. You would be hard-pressed to find a single American that has a problem with “liberty and justice,” but “liberty and justice for all” seems to be a little harder to grasp- and not just in terms of Covid-19…