Two years ago, Andrea and I married here in the mountains of northern Spain. We didn’t know it at the time, but less than a year later, we would quit our jobs, sell and donate most of our possessions and move to Spain. Less than a year after that, we would have a baby and find ourselves with a home in the mountains of Norway. It has all been one great big adventure and looking back, as we did tonight on our wedding anniversary, a reminder of time’s fleeting nature. It feels like just yesterday we were greeting guests as they arrived to Casa Arana, or like just yesterday we were exchanging vows on a nearby hillside a few days later. And yet it was two years ago! So much can (and did!) happen in two years time. So much can happen in two weeks or two months time, as we all currently know and feel. So let us live fully and make the most of the time we have, while we still have it, one adventure at a time.
Today was tough. The sun was out, finally, but I had no energy. All I wanted to do was sleep. Adya fussed more than usual. I didn’t make it to the roof to run, the one thing I can do in a day to break free. The lockdown here in Spain seems to have no end in sight. I’m alive though, and not sick. I tell myself that.
At first, I found this article depressing and sad. Later in the day though, I began to sense its deeper beauty: that while I worry about touching a covid-tipped elevator button or door handle when I leave our apartment twice daily to walk our dogs outside, doctors, nurses, EMTs and countless others risk sickness and death every minute of their day in the service of complete strangers. Despite absence from their families, exhaustion and possible death, they solider on anyway. Daily, more join the fight. Maybe they don’t see themselves as heroes, but they are us tragic and complicated humans at our best, and that, I think, is beautiful.
Do less. Reflect daily on things not done. Strip the day back to its essential parts. Meet your basic needs.
Connect – to yourself; friends; loved ones. In the past, busyness and doing more stood in the way of this closeness. Often, closeness isn’t what we were looking for in the first place. In doing less, find that this is the “more” we need – closeness, connection, love.
Reconnect with yourself. Perhaps this is most important. With the ever-present mirror of your locked-down day-to-day, you can choose: to ignore it and look away, to direct it at others, or to meet it steadfastly, peering deeply into the reflected image of what you see, with all its imperfections, complications and beauty. These days gift you the material, and more importantly the time, for change.
These times may very well bring out the best and worst of us. Perhaps our worst, though, would be to emerge unchanged, on any deep level.
I spent most of yesterday trying to understand where things are headed. A friend in the Bay Area sent me a link to this, and Andrea helped me track down this site. Together, the two offer guidance on not just where we are, but where things are going. It doesn’t look good.
Where we are. If you want to see where we are, I’ve been using this dashboard, courtesy of John’s Hopkins in the US.
These growth curves here are helpful to contextualize the above numbers by country.
Where we’re headed. More importantly though is what the above numbers portend to future days, weeks and months. This sums it up in a single graph (I’ve highlighted Spain, where I am presently, and the US, where I am from):
You can see how closely Spain tracks Italy, and how closely the US is tracking both, albeit 16 days behind Italy. The assumptions, which are key to understanding how to change the rate of growth, suggest that if the US waits to delay lockdown until they reach the same number of cases per 10’000 inhabitants as Italy (around 1 per 10’000), it will see ~33k confirmed cases in ~9 days, Wednesday 25-March, up from ~3.7k cases as of 4:33am EST this morning. Of course, these are confirmed cases, meaning the ones severe enough to seek testing in the first place, and likely to need more intensive medical treatment.
Based on a simple but illustrative model here, you can see what those hospitalizations mean for the health system in the US. Very soon, the number of beds needed will exceed beds available, by a factor of 6-to-1 in a little over 30 days. This is why there is so much talk about “flattening” the curve, so peak cases requiring medical treatment fall under levels of maximum capacity (as illustrated in the teal line in the below graph – existing capacity – versus the orange line of expected demand for hospitalization).
As for Europe (and the US), it will get much worse before it gets better.
The US won’t blunt the curve like South Korea did, at least not from the top at the national government level. The current focus on testing is, at best, weeks too late. In a less interconnected world, local and state actions would help. But we are interconnected, greatly so, meaning any chance for significant impact lies at the individual and family level. So please stay inside: every person makes a difference, and your actions will impact those around you, for better or worse. Very soon we may all reveal our best or worst selves, as individuals, families and as nations. If so, let us hope we like what we become.