I have spent the last few weeks trying to dive into our personal values. What are our individual values, how did our values get formed and prioritizing them. I want to now address how our values relate to our individual COVID-19 responses. How they are shaping our own opinions on what measures should be taken to prevent further harm?
Maybe your response is steeped in experience, or perhaps it is tainted in fear or with the knowing and seeing how COVID is devastating. Everyone’s experience is different, some have lost jobs, others have seen the loss of life, some have lost hope, giving up on coming together to beat this.
There are so many different facets to how every individual might look at COVID-19 and it’s not always necessarily that everyone’s values are different but how they define those values are what is making the response so different.
The values that I want to specifically look at in my post today are life, generosity and freedom. There are many more values that apply to how each of us has responded to COVID, but I believe these three are foundational and can be expanded to others.
Let’s start with valuing LIFE – what does that mean to you? What do you see as LIFE? Where does it start? When should it end? Are you a Quality over Quantity person?
The reason why valuing life is so important in the discussion of COVID-19 is that it requires you to define what life is worthy of protecting. If I was to have a candid conversation with anyone I would be open to the fact that I am pro-choice, I believe in quality of life, I believe in protecting the lives of others even at the cost of inconveniencing myself.
The way these values have played out in my life is that when evaluating pro-choice vs pro-life. I take a step back and see what quality of life would a child potentially have if born to a mother that may be considering their options. The reality of the world we live in, is that women and girls are not always given the support needed in order to provide a healthy family environment to raise a child. We do not have the social programs to support them if they do not have their own familial ones to step in, whether it’s by providing financial means, or the emotional or practical support such as availability to watch a child while they look for work or housing. What if the mother does not have the emotional or mental well-being it takes to foster the optimal learning and growth environment because they have their own unresolved trauma. This is where my pro-choice stance has developed.
I have a hard time reconciling pro-life supporters that do not support every social program, as well as one that does not support every lockdown measure possible. For why is the life of an embryo is more sacred than that of the elderly. I have a hard time reconciling those that believe the lockdown measures for long term care facilities is barbaric but don’t make the time or effort to visit their family when it is possible.
I believe in quality of life, meaning that one should be able to live their life to the fullest extent that they wish, within means and ability. My father had a really bad fall 12 years ago and my sibling who was his POA at the time tried to convince me that he needed long term care. My father is fiercely independent and I believe he needed to still be able to live on his own to not deteriorate mentally. He was able to manage on his own for 8 more years prior to a cognitive decline, and further health issues (two broken hips) that eventually did force him into long term care.
To me the quality of life part was that he could still do his daily morning swim, he could travel as often as he wished and that he didn’t have someone dictating (which is a necessary factor of care facilities) when or what he ate or where he’d go. I recognize that his life now is not as full as it was before entering care, that is just a fact. He is in one of the best facilities I can imagine, he has his own room, has developed relationships with the care staff and is well looked after. But a large part of his quality of life came from independence, which he no longer has.
For the past three years since he entered long term care I have said that I feel selfish wanting him to keep living since I want my children to have a chance to know him. Selfish because I know he has lost such a big part of what he loved about life. When COVID-19 first came about I genuinely thought well, this might be an ok way for him to go. To die by the flu or an illness when you are in your later years (remembering he is 90 yrs old now) vs getting cancer or dying of starvation because you are lacking the will to keep going seems more humane to me.
I also admittedly have adopted the belief that when and how we die is out of our control. That is not to say that we don’t mitigate our risks but that I believe you are going to meet your maker at some cosmic time. I have adopted this stance to help reconcile all the unnecessary deaths that occur all the time. There are far too many children that die for me to be able to hold any other belief.
How does valuing generosity come into a COVID response? Well generosity is the root of caring for others over ourselves, to be kind and generous. This means that COVID has forced us to be generous and this isn’t as easy for some as it is others.
If you are asking what exactly do you mean, to me I look at the Lockdowns. I am fortunate enough that my work has not been impacted by the lockdowns. My main job went to working online seamlessly; there are some bumps for sure, things that take longer and no team or in-person meetings but generally seamless. The lockdowns still took a toll on our family dynamic and relationships. I had to postpone a wedding this year, had to try and navigate homeschooling, parenting and working all while not getting any personal space. It was and is hard; it’s taxing mentally, emotionally and physically.
The lockdown measures are in place again, I believe, because we ran into people losing their ability to be generous with their care for others. The first lockdown put a strain on so many people that once lifted those that honestly struggle, naturally with being generous became reckless, grounding their belief that they gave up enough so now it was their turn to get. A fact of our society is that there are givers and there are takers. Some genuinely struggle with generosity, they only give when they believe they are getting something in return, this is not true generosity.
The lockdown measures also force us to be generous to those that are at a higher risk of complications from an infection even though most of us would be ok if we were infected. This is a bigger struggle to accept for those lacking generous spirit, and because of that, individuals are looking to rationalize their risk taking as acceptable by adopting the belief that pre-existing conditions are in someone’s control. The obese, the people that smoke, the high blood pressure, the Type-2 diabetes people, these people just didn’t take care of themselves. Anyone with those conditions can, and should, eliminate themselves from the equation, so the rest of us can keep living. What about those with cancer, kidney disease, COPD, Pregnancy, immunocompromised, asthmatic, cystic fibrosis. Ok well maybe not those people but…
In order to go back to living life with some semblance of normalcy we need everyone to be generous. We need those that are uncomfortable with masks to accept that they work, not perfectly, but they provide some protection to your germs spreading. Let me be clear, I don’t love mask wearing either, but I do accept that my germs won’t spread, at least definitely not as easily, if I’m wearing a mask. My exact words to our event coordinator when choosing to postpone our wedding was that if I had to look out at sea of masks vs smiles on my wedding day I would just be sad. This coming August I am getting married no matter what, it might mean people are in masks, it might mean there is no dance, it might mean it’s just me, Coulman and the kids. I am ok with that now because I know that I wouldn’t want to cause even one death from a super-spreader event. My value of protective others is higher than that not wanting to wear a mask.
Let’s talk about Freedom – like LIFE, what does Freedom mean to you? Is it financial Freedom that is most important to you? Is is bodily Freedom? Is it the ability to make your own decisions? Or is it rooted in not having to think of anyone else before thinking of yourself?
I very much value Freedom. I am not a sheep and believe that anyone that knows me would agree that I am anything but. I question everything, just like I am questioning you now. To me Freedom is the ability to live my values. Take work, I worked in an industry that I loved for two decades. The industry and my personality were not great fit, I wasn’t free to be myself. My expectations were too high, my emotions too raw, my delivery too strong. So I looked for a position where I could be me, one where accountability, service, intelligence are valued. I had the Freedom to do so because I value things like empathy, service and compassion more so than wealth, status and conformity. I had Freedom because I had a degree, a variety of work experience, a supportive partner and ex-husband, and my privilege.
Freedom to me, doesn’t mean that I don’t follow rules or order. Freedom to me, doesn’t mean that I do whatever I want. Freedom to me, means living my values. What are your values?
I have spent a lot of time trying to understand how people are seeing mask wearing as infringing on their Freedoms. For one, if everyone wore masks and we sacrificed large gatherings for smaller ones, stayed masked, socially distanced we would still be able to run our economy which in large part seems to be the concern with lockdowns. So if you don’t want a lockdown than masks and vaccines should be the answer. They are rooted in science, in facts and are meant to enable you to enjoy your Freedom.
But it’s not Freedom, or it definitely is not my vision Freedom. The Freedom that anti-maskers or anti-vaccine individuals are talking about is one rooted in that no one can tell them what to do. It’s rooted in petulance and selfishness, the exact opposite of generosity. It’s the ingrained self centric view of Me before the We. Any individual that is reasonable understands why masks exist. They understand that if they have a medical condition that provides an exemption, it is their responsibility to provide that information. I am also cautious when it comes vaccines and want to understand more before taking one. I trust science though and am grateful to those willing to take the first rounds. Vaccines will provide Freedom from lockdowns, this is something that is true and you need to decide which value you want to prioritize. To think that everyone should to bend to your needs has nothing to do with Freedom and everything to do with your idea of self and values.
Is your Quality of Life rooted in the ability to buy things and to g out? Is your idea of a valuable life one that is your’s or only one similar? Do you believe those that earn more money have more value to society? When you give, do you expect something in return? Is your Freedom tied to never following rules?
I know I am just scratching the surface here. I was feeling really overwhelmed with the topic but wanted to get these thoughts out. Mainly because this next three weeks we are going to be home with family. We have at least 3 more weeks of lockdown. We can choose to either make the best and most of it or we can continue down a negative spiral.
If you are feeling alone, reach out to anyone, myself included. Reach out to those you love or those you are just meeting. If you have the support of others, reach out to those that you know might not. Focus on life, make the most of what you have while being generous in spirit and thankful for our freedoms.