We’ve all been hunkered down for a few weeks, and now the authorities are telling us we need to be bracing ourselves for the worst week of COVID-19 data yet. According to the models, at least, we’re apparently somewhere near the top of the curve on that chart we keep seeing, like the people on a roller coaster who are a few clicks of the chain drive from the top of the first hill, scared about the view from the very top but eager for the exhilarating rush down the other side.
I’m not sure what, if anything, we can do to “brace” ourselves for more coronavirus news. What does it mean to brace yourself for news of tens of thousands more people who have tested positive and are “confirmed cases,” thousands more who have been hospitalized, and thousands more who have died? The numbers are so big and so out of context it’s hard to even conceive of them, much less put them into a framework where you can truly prepare yourself mentally to hear more of them. “Bracing” yourself under these circumstances, for this kind of gush of large-number news, isn’t like readying yourself for the inevitable death of a loved one who has been on a long slide. Instead, it’s like the old footage of the carnival performer who gets shot in the stomach with a cannonball. He clenches one fist, spreads his arms wide, tightens his torso muscles, and dons what look like welding goggles, then accepts the inevitable punishing jolt to the system that he knows is coming and is going to hurt.
So, we’ve been “hunkered,” and now we’ll “brace,” too — to the extent we can, at least. And it seems like “hunkering” is actually a component of “bracing.” Part of preparing yourself for bad news is thinking about what you can do to deal with it and, hopefully, help the situation in some way. We might not be able to personally aid the doctors and nurses and health care workers in Manhattan and New Orleans and other hot spots that are dealing with this pandemic, but we can do our part by acting responsibly, staying inside and maintaining social distance when we go outside for exercise, and not adding to the caseload. That’s how Kish and I are going to “brace,” anyway.
And, because another key part of “bracing” is preparing yourself to move ahead after the bad news comes, we’re also going to look forward to the ride down the slope on the other side of that coronavirus chart.