Do What You Can
March 16, 2020
Do what you can when you can how you can where you can for as long as you can — because none of us have the slightest idea when or why anything could change dramatically. But it will — oh will it ever. An accident? Coronavirus outbreak? Shelter in place order? Otherwise? One day, you wake with the capacity and power to do whatever you set your mind to, able to fully carry out business as usual. And the next, or perhaps that very afternoon or evening, circumstances shift entirely without warning, expectation or precedent — whether a result of something foreseen, foreshadowed or out of the blue, influenced by or through no doing of your own — and you are left incapable and seemingly powerless to discern and deal with the consequences. The balance of life is so precarious, largely and delicately perched on our exceedingly fragile health.
On a picturesque Friday afternoon last September, I put on a full face of makeup, blew dry my hair, got dressed in a form-fitting blue number with leopard slides, nibbled on crunchy snacks, gabbed and took selfies footless and fancy-free along the beach, as I gathered with dear friends in a faraway cherished land to celebrate a joyous wedding. Hours later, I was gushing blood from my eye, forehead and mouth with multiple teeth knocked out, in-and-out of consciousness, rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after a freak scooter accident.
At no prior moment could I have begun to fathom what that night had in store, nor projected a damn thing about the days, weeks and months to follow. Suddenly, despite what I intended or desired, there was a new reality I was forced to come to terms with, navigate and endure — one where I was unable to speak, to move, to work, to drive, to travel, to so much as eat solid food, form a smile, go out to the store on my own to get what I needed. Existing amid such a harsh set of circumstances with innumerable unknowns about the path forward, degree of damage, extent of devastation or horrors yet to come is unimaginable, yet inescapable. And the only way is through.
None of us know what lies ahead, nor can prepare practically or psychologically for the extremes, the accidents, the freak occurrences, the life-defining instants, the unanticipated paradigm shifts, the global pandemics. And when left to face the unexpected challenges that inevitably arise, we need sometimes to imagine the best to get us through; our bodies and minds physiologically prevent us from going to the darkest places. If in the initial aftermath, I had believed, understood or been told that I would require multiple surgeries, undergo countless treatments, be forced to make impossible decisions and suffer perilous mental betrayal over six plus months of hellish recovery to date without much progress at all for the first four, I would have lost hope, growing even more anxious, angry, depressed and despondent. Even now, while accepting what is — as best I can comprehend the situation without panicking or overburdening my still-injured brain in its compromised healing state — I cannot allow my mind to stray to the worst outcomes of the trials and tribulations at hand. Architecting encouraging narratives is a natural human response, tendency and coping mechanism to persist, of which we are rarely even cognizant.
The world tests us personally and collectively in innumerable ways. Nothing is promised, guaranteed or protected amid extenuating circumstances. Change is the only constant. Impermanence the fundamental truth. So seize whatever this moment provides: who you are, all you can do, what you possess, how you can act, where you can go, whom you can interact with, the vast array of opportunity available right here, right now.
… and not only before the shelter-in-place order goes into effect here in Marin County and across the SF Bay Area at midnight tonight.