Getting Through Tough Times
While it has only been four weeks since Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, this novel coronavirus has managed to upend all aspects of our lives. Without a doubt, the circumstances we are all going through meet the ultimate definition of a “tough time.”
In this country, the majority of us have never experienced an event that has changed our lives so drastically. Every day, we watch the news and are told to do things that do not come naturally to us: stay away from others, maintain social distance, and work from home. Everything is unfamiliar now. It’s natural that our first reaction is to fear the unknown, and right now, there is much that is unknown. One of my favorite phrases is from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who at the end of the Great Depression in 1933 and during his inaugural address said “... the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
It is frightening to be asked to do something you haven’t done before, but we have many companions throughout history who have faced similar demands. While isolating humans from each other may feel unprecedented, history can provide both perspective and comfort.
Quarantine has been a standard tool in controlling the spread of infectious disease throughout history—several hundred years of it, in fact. Most recently, it has been an important cornerstone to protect the public’s health during the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic. While being in quarantine is admittedly unusual, uncomfortable, and stressful to our mental as well as our economic health, the more aggressively and thoroughly we apply this solution, the faster we will get to the other side and start towards recovery.
I certainly won’t make light of what we all face. This tough time will take its toll on veterinarians and their staff; that is a fact that cannot be altered. It is important to acknowledge our anxiety for the physical and mental health toll this will take on all of us as well as our loved ones. It is also important to grieve for the financial impact this pandemic is already having on us as well as our supporting staff members. Some practices have reduced hours, some have laid employees off, and a few have even closed —hopefully temporarily. Our connections with clients, their pets, our social lives, our communities, and our livelihoods will suffer for weeks and perhaps even months to come.
It is at this time that I am reminded of another of my favorite quotes. This one is from the late Pastor Robert Schuller: “Though tough times pass, tough people last.” Look under the definition of tough, and I believe you will find the picture of a veterinarian. We know how to stretch a dollar, weather natural disasters, deal daily with intellectual and physical challenges, and bear the psychological burden of dealing with extreme illness and dying with a regularity that is not for the faint of heart (or 95 percent of the population.)
We will get through this, we will survive, and we will recover. It will not be easy, and the hardships and challenges ahead of us will be daunting. But we have an incredibly talented, creative, and resilient profession, and we will find ways to come out the other side intact. We always have, and we always will.
At this moment in time, I encourage each of us to pause for a moment, to take a deep breath and stick to the “doctors’ orders” to ride out this storm, separately but together.
In the meantime, please be patient and give your fellow humans the benefit of the doubt. Take a moment to enjoy the things you typically don’t have time for because veterinary work in this day and age is like a high-speed treadmill. This too shall pass, but before it does, this challenging time will give us the opportunity to be grateful for the ones we love, to bond together with the great colleagues in our community, and to reach out to help others.
Timothy C McCarthy