When I was a child, my family lived on a small (and unfortunately) unsuccessful farm. The farm failed, not from a lack of hard work, but due to a pacifist father who couldn’t slaughter the animals he befriended and named.
I have some very distinct memories of living on that farm. Like the time my Californian cousins came for a visit. They teased our neighbor’s bull to the point of it charging, and how my dad appeared out of nowhere, sailed over the fence, slipped his arm around me, and sailed us back over the fence to safety.
I remember the makeshift clubhouse (a tunnel my older siblings dug under the chicken coop) and the day a snake decided it wanted to join our club. A passing farmer heard our screams, took a gardening hoe from the back of his truck, and in a single chop, took the head off the intruder and threw its writhing body into the water ditch.
At the farm, there were many days playing tag in grain silos and climbing trees in a neighboring orchard and getting sick off of cherries, so many, in fact, that I hardly remember one day from the next.
However, a memory stuck firmly in my mind, in all its Technicolor glory, is when chickens without heads chased me.
We’ve all heard the expression, ‘acting like chickens with their heads cut off,’ to describe panic. I have first-hand knowledge that that expression is true.
When a chicken senses danger, adrenaline spikes in its veins, forcing a flight instinct to cause immediate escape. Unfortunately, sometimes this response doesn’t end even after the bird’s head is separated from its body.
This phenomenon reminds me of the pandemic we are experiencing with the Coronavirus. People are scared. Businesses are shutting down, and curfews are being enforced. We’ve adopted catchphrases like ‘self-quarantine,’ and ‘social distancing,’ and there seems to be no end and no escape.
Of course, we are freaking out! Why wouldn’t we? Everything is happening so fast, we aren’t able to understand what’s happening to us. Essentially, we’re in the killing shed, and our heads have been severed, but we’re still running for the open door!
Out of the three natural fear responses (yes, there are three, not two) Fight, Flight, and Freeze, I fall under the last.
When I’m scared, I don’t throw punches. There are no jab-cross-jabs that take hold of my reflexes and my legs don’t suddenly go into sprint mode. Instead, I stop.
Fear seems to make me freeze, my brain ices over in murky fog, and I am petrified, mid-action. I want to curl up in the corner somewhere—eyes closed, arms wrapped around myself—and wait for the danger to pass. I’m basically a fainting goat!
Yesterday, I had full-blown panic! Beyond fretting over a virus that sounds like alcoholism rather than the flu, Utah had a couple of rare earthquakes with several aftershocks lasting almost all day long. Newscasts illuminated my television screen, and rumors of worst to come spread like a disease over texts.
I was sure that at any minute, the world would crack open (because in my mind, 5.7 and 4.6 magnitude earthquakes would do it). And because of the latest pandemic that has suddenly created a landscape outside of a ghost town that could seamlessly fit into a scene from Zombieland (the first movie, because the second was just too stupid and shouldn’t have been made).
While in my goat-fainting phase, a thought kept looping in my head. The doomsday-er woman who likely murdered her two kids, plus a couple of husbands, plus the wife of husband number five, had called it—the end of the world was happening, right in front of me, in all its Technicolor glory! Yes, of course, I couldn’t move! I went to bed instead.
And then, in the middle of the night, it hit me, I was wrong! Lori-Vallow-Daybell isn’t some angel ushering in armageddon! She’s a murderer (probably), who needs medical attention, and a prison sentence. The virus and the earthquake (for us Utahns) isn’t fate, it’s a coincidence.
I realized that this panic, this dread, is an issue of misinterpretation. I had thought that I was the headless fowl running around the yard, but I’m not, none of us are! It’s the issues happening all at once that are the discombobulated bird, not us!
Think about it. One thing that history has taught us is that the human species is relentless. We are warriors. We survive and triumph even over self-sabotage! When life gives us lemons, we create, we invent, we generate possibilities! That’s just who we are.
I think the pandemic has thrown an unexpected wrench into our every day. We panic because we are out of practice. We are freaking out because our knee-jerk reaction to anything disrupting our regular life throws us into a spiral and we assume if we can’t run on autopilot than we can’t run at all!
However, what if this Coronavirus thing is the punch in the arm, kick in the pants we need?
In these technological times, we love options. We love tailoring things to a specific fit according to who we are and what we like, we excel at it! This is our chance to do just that!
Because we have been sequestered (from the four corners of an office setting, to the four corners inside our houses), let’s do it! Let’s create! Let’s invent, generate, and make beautiful changes for a better world! This Coronavirus is our reset button, people!
Of my time living on the farm, all my most significant memories have one thing in common—something extraordinary happened in the middle of the mundane that changed me. For everybody else, what if all these scary things happening could be extraordinary experiences that make us better than we were before. What if?
I don’t know what things will be like tomorrow, or next week, or in the next six months, but that’s okay. When was the last time we were given the gift of change? Let’s make it count!