• Jody Kussin

#78 We are not lying - honest

#78 Family Matters

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, July 28, 2020

There are two questions being asked right now, one of which is impossible to answer, the other for which, the answer is meaningless.

The first query is, ‘how are you doing?’ This an impossible to answer question unless you answer with another question: ‘So how CAN I be doing?’ or ‘How are ANY of us doing?’ or the basic teen response, silent eye roll. (Remember, if they roll their eyes it’s a good sign because it means they hear you – it’s the glassy eye stare back that should concern you.)

Yes, honestly, “How COULD we be doing?”

However, conversations are conversations and we all can use ongoing chats and zooms and old school phone calls with pals. So, despite the hardship of answering that question, it is worth it. Go for it.

Then, once that initial pleasantry salutation is exchanged, inevitably, the next topic of conversation is COVID. We could have aliens invading this week, but we would bury that information until after we deep dive into the virus holding us all hostage.

“Are you healthy? Everyone you know ok? Do you have any family or friends who tested positive?”

Until, finally, “are you following the rules and staying safe?

Almost everyone I know, from family, to friends, to neighbors, to patients, to colleagues, offer this foundational statement, or a variety thereof:

“I have not left the house.” (“I’ve done nothing. I have not gone anywhere. I am not doing anything.”)

I do not believe that we people are consciously lying with our emphatic statements but I have observed that we are all defining ‘going nowhere’ in largely divergent fashion. The platform of ‘what I am doing now versus what I used to do, when I lived my normal life’ is a huge context. It is the glasses through which we currently see our world. So with some exploration into the comment “I do nothing,” comes the caveat…………….

I am not going anywhere EXCEPT…………

I have not left the house at all EXCEPT………………

I say with zero judgmentalism, that, like Gregory House used to say in his tv series, “HOUSE”, ‘everyone lies.’

I do not see these as lies of malice or evil intent. I do not see them as conscious attempts to manipulate others.

It’s just that every one of us is currently doing so much less than whatever it was we were doing B.C. (before Covid) that in contrast, of course we feel we are now doing nada, zip, nothing.

So it’s true, from the viewpoint of the grandparent who says, “I am not going anywhere” (except to fill prescriptions and to my doctors’ appointments) because BC, they were going to their Zumba class, playing bridge, volunteering at the shelter, to baby-sitting grandchildren. Today, when this Granny says “I’m not going anywhere” from her perspective, in comparison, she is not going anywhere today, not compared with where she used to be going.

Same for the 17-year old who says, “I swear, I am not going ANYwhere.” She truly believes this statement and offers it emphatically. Because she is currently not a CIT or counselor at summer camp, and she is not at parties on the weekends. She is not in hell week for her school sport, preparing for her senior year. She is ‘not going anywhere.’

I have a neighbor who insists they do not go anywhere, and yet I see them walking our block, no masks on their faces, attending religious services (outdoors, yes, but cramped together under a tent to avoid the hot valley sun.) I don’t think she is consciously lying. She believes she is going nowhere because she has not taken the family annual vacation and she has not been hosting summer dinners for which she is well known. She feels trapped, understandably, and feels she is not doing anything. (Feelings are reigning the day, for sure.)

Back in the day, Pod People (also known as Body Snatchers) was the colloquial term for a species of plantlike aliens featured in the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. Of course pods also refer to many things. Marine mammals, for instance, live in pods – dolphins, whales, walruses, seals – all our favorites. They make life under the sea look very appealing, collectivistic large family communities, taking care of one another and traveling together.

IRL (in real life), in 2020, pods are gaining popularity in a grass roots attempt for us humans to set up life where we can gather together with others who share in our observances of safety. Families are setting up pods for educational purposes, for physical activity and exercise purposes, and for the basic intent to decrease social isolation. It is impressive to follow along on the various Facebook pages or listserves across many diverse groups.

I am not a scientist so cannot comment on the cost-risk analysis for these groupings. All I can tell you is, make a list of questions to ask yourselves and potential pod mates before you get started.

“I never leave the house” does not mean “I never let anyone into my house – not my housekeeper, visiting nurse, mother in law, hair stylist, handyman, masseuse, grandchildren, son’s pals, etc.”

“I do not go anywhere” may not mean “I stopped driving and am no longer pumping gas into my car without wearing gloves.”

“I am totally 100% stuck in my house” may not include “I do not let the neighbors in for cocktails when our Sunday lawn visits get toooo hot outside to handle.”

“I have not left the house in months” – other than to get groceries, drop off things at my office, attend a few exercise classes when we were able, eat at the outdoor restaurants, etc.

By all means, let’s become pod people. I am fan.

However, let’s have a check list of questions so we can enter into these new covenants with one another with our eyes open to minimizing risk. I don’t think any of us can eliminate risk.

But let’s reduce potential harm where possible.

Me? I don’t go anywhere. I swear! Except………….

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