January 24: A little COVID in the family

I was surprised to learn that one of my siblings managed to get COVID. It was the second incident for that branch of the family. An earlier incident ended up costing a family elder his life.


Most distressing, for me anyway, was the motivating event; a college football game. I can’t be bothered to watch college football on TV so the idea of getting on a plane and flying to a reddish state and then going to a mask-free, virus-friendly bash at a hotel bar strikes me as more than a little reckless, especially considering my sibling and significant other don’t even drink.

It’s all about COVID fatigue, I suppose, but it still strikes me as immensely foolish. And, if I were one or both of the children of my sibling I would be ashamed to have been involved in exposing my parents to such a threat.

I think the root of the behavior is attributable to two things. The first, as I mentioned, is the COVID fatigue that we’re all suffering from. The second must be a belief that an infection suffered by a healthy, double-vaxed and boosted adult probably wouldn’t be too bad. And, mercifully, it wasn’t. But, it could have been.

Yesterday I mentioned that we went to a concert last Saturday night. It was a public event and it was indoors so the threat of COVID was not zero. That said, the staff at the venue not only checked identification and vaccination status but they also made sure all attendees were wearing N95 masks. If an audience member wasn’t, they were given one to wear. In all, the concert felt as safe as the walk to and from the venue. I hope that it was.

My sibling who got COVID was quick to tell me about needing to get back to living and to enjoying life. Also mentioned was the fact that the trip offered the opportunity to spend two extra days with an adult child. But, something about that line of reasoning struck me as more than a little off. The luxury of going to a football game in another state was suddenly put (conversationally) onto the back burner but I’m not at all sure it started out there. Had the real motivation been to visit their child they certainly could have done so with the hotel bash or being two of the tens of thousands in attendance at the enclosed football stadium.

Look, I was among those who questioned the authority of the city, state and county and government generally to limit access to religious services. And, I wondered about mask mandates, especially among the fully vaccinated. But, that said, I have tried hard not to be foolish. My sibling spoke of a kind of fatalism but what if my sibling and significant other were among the 30% who are asymptomatic? Their decision could have easily ended up putting other people they know and care about in harm’s way.

I simply cannot understand a mindset that would willingly and needlessly endanger the life of a stranger, let alone a loved one. And, if it’s a question of enjoying life, I already do. No once-in-a-century pandemic is going to take that away from me. So, this whole family misadventure is troubling and more than a little sad for me. I, like all of us, wish for better days and I trust for the ability to make good decisions while we endure the challenges of the days we’re living.

It’s not always going to be easy but I think it’s worth the effort.

Tonight’s writing soundtrack is Blue Moon Night from Eliza Gilkyson’s 2011 record, Roses at the End of Time. I took me a very long time to find Gilkyson but I’m glad that I finally did. She is one of the very finest singer / songwriter’s of the folk genre I’ve heard. Her songs go way beyond folk, though, and I’ve had fun listening to records like this from 2011 and even things from way back in the 90s. It’s interesting to hear her evolution as a singer and writer of songs. But, through all the years her work shows a rare kind of warmth, humor and musicality.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

January 24: A little COVID in the family

Optimism and cardio vascular health

If you’re smart, you’ll ignore this blog post and read this article from Scientific American Blogs by Scott Barry Kaufman immediately.

Here’s the most relevant quote from the article:

“Since that 2012 review, two additional studies have come out that further point to the robustness of this association. Rosalba Hernandez and colleagues focused on the American Heart Association’s definition of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which involves consideration of 7 metrics grouped into two categories: health behaviors (diet, smoking, physical activity, BMI) and health factors (blood pressure, blood sugar, total cholestrol). This was the first study to consider the association between optimism and CVH as defined by the American Heart Association, and this was also the first study to utilize a large sample of ethnically/racially diverse sample of adults.

Using data collected from 5,134 adults aged 52-84 over an 11 year period, they found a significant association between optimism and cardiovascular health (CVH), with the most optimistic people showing twice the odds of having ideal CVH profiles. The association remained significant even after controlling for socio-demographic variables (i.e., age, sex, race/ethnicity, marital status, education, income, and insurance status) and measures of psychological ill-being (e.g., depression), again supporting the notion that a lack of ill-being doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of thriving.”

OK, so you’ve insisted on hanging around. I’ll tell you why I find it so relevant.

An old friend of mine is becoming ever more prone to pessimism. He’s always had an inclination toward mild fatalism though he’s married, has a family and fine career.

Still, he experiences the word no more strongly than any other:

No, I can’t do anything I might enjoy.

No, I can’t get any meaningful exercise.

No, I can lose any of the weight I’ve packed on over the last year or so.

To put the cherry on the sundae of this guy’s life let me tell you that he had an emergency angioplasty a couple years back. The artery that was blocked is nicknamed The Widowmaker by cardiologists.

You would think (and I thought) that this and the other normal stuff of life in the 50s would wake my old friend up to the need to take better care of himself. But it hasn’t…yet. I am ever the optimist.

Another quote from the article is this:

“When individuals are confronted with challenge, they may succumb or they may respond in one of three ways: They may survive (continuing to function, but in an impaired fashion), recover (return to previous levels of emotional, social and psychological functioning), or thrive (to go beyond the prior baseline, to grow and flourish). Through the interactive process of confronting and coping with challenges, a transformation occurs.”

I readily admit that for many years I trended toward an acceptance of mere recovery as opposed to a quest to thrive. I have since learned the error of my ways. Some days, perhaps more days than I would care to admit, I have to beat back the temptation to accept simple survival and recovery as good enough. But they’re not.

Pushing my old friend back from the brink and on toward his better self can be an emotional challenge. And, it would be nice to have someone encourage me as I have encouraged him. I will always believe that he’s one clever bit of encouragement away from changing the way he treats himself. Someday he’ll thrive.

Optimism and cardio vascular health