Hero: A person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his or her brave deeds and noble qualities.
I’m sat writing this on day 10 of self-isolation after a positive COVID-19 test. That’s partly a lie – I’m led in bed. But the virus thing is legit.
I’m fortunate that things have gone well for me. I had some joint pain and digestive stuff in the early days post-diagnosis that was less than ideal, and I was uncertain whether my autoimmune conditions would spice things up at some point. But I’m feeling fine now.
While I’ve largely been in the same room over the past week and a bit, I’m aware that I’m in a ridiculously privileged position. With a cosy bed, a little space to stretch, unlimited Netflix, podcasts, games and books, and a selfless family always on hand to help, I couldn’t ask for a more comfortable environment to isolate in.
It’s been a challenge not being able to go near loved ones – resorting to chats through closed doors and a dodgy FaceTime connection. But we’ve made it work, and all things considered, it could have been a lot worse.
Unfortunately, millions of people haven’t had it as easy during the pandemic, battling with lasting physical and mental side effects from the disease, experiencing crushing financial pressure, or losing their lives. A close family member of ours was one of the latter, passing from coronavirus back in April.
As we head into a third national lockdown in Wales, the situation is dire to say the least. We need heroes, perhaps now more than ever before.
The notion of heroism can be somewhat confusing or misleading:
Phrases like ‘don’t be a hero’ portray heroic acts as those that involve a degree of risk. We might picture embarking on a challenge or facing some kind of external event – like running into a burning building or slaying a monster.
While both of the above are valid outward examples of heroism, the underlying driver doesn’t always get as much attention. It seems to me that heroic actions have to stem from somewhere – perhaps from a certain mindset or set of cultivated values. It’s from this code of conduct that we react or respond to any situation life throws our way.
In some instances, heroism manifests as something bold and visible. But in other contexts, it can be quiet and just as valuable. Perhaps that’s what we need right now. Modern day heroism may for the most part be based in the mundane.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll beat COVID-19 by donning Lycra suits, firing up the Megazords and charging into battle. “IT’S MORPHING TIME!”.
According to the experts, it’s the thorough washing of hands, wearing a face mask if you can, and social distancing that will get us through. It’s following the rules and erring on the side of caution, even if that means making great sacrifices. I’m obviously not the authority on infectious diseases, but I’d argue that based on the above, the heroic thing to do for many of us right now is to practice non-action.
I’ve been trying to cut back on social media usage over the last year, as it turns out repeated exposure is generally not too great for the old mental health…
My inevitable scrolling through various feeds and checking the news has provided glimpses into the public response to the current situation. I’d like to think that most people are doing their best and abiding by the regulations designed to keep us safe. But as someone who’s witnessed the devastation of the virus firsthand, it’s difficult to sit by and observe the flaunting of non-essential activities that could increase the risk of spread – even if it’s just a small percentage of the population. Some may be doing so unknowingly, but I’ve also seen cases of open defiance and protest, as if the restrictions were only put in place as a form of control. And of course, we’ve all seen examples of politicians breaking the same rules they created, which doesn’t help the situation…
Now I’m trying my best to not be judgemental, to ride too far on my high horse or politicise the situation. And I know that I could just try my best to tune out other people’s behaviour and get on with my own life if it really bothers me that much. But at the same time, if I’m writing about the idea of ‘heroic living’ here on the site, would it be irresponsible of me to not at least try to practice what I preach?
If you witness what you feel is an injustice, is the heroic thing to highlight it and suggest an alternative course?
I’m not claiming that I’m perfect, or that I have all the answers here. But if we’re going to get through this, it appears to me that it’s our duty as individuals to be honest with ourselves about our daily choices, and forgo some of the things that we’d like to do for a while. We need everyday heroes that are willing to make big sacrifices in order to protect the vulnerable and take some of the overwhelming strain off our health services. This might mean isolating from family members, skipping meet-ups with friends, and halting certain activities that usually bring us joy or support our well-being.
There are grey areas, no doubt. There will be occasions where we’ll make mistakes or be faced with tough decisions. But ultimately, do we want to look back in a few years and be able to say we did everything in our power to help our loved ones stay safe, and see humanity through the crisis?
This quiet heroism is probably not going to be comfortable. It’s certainly not going to be convenient. At times we’ll feel lonely, desperate and unsure. There’s unlikely to be any external reward or recognition for our efforts, or even the guarantee that we’ll all get to the other side. But we human beings are inherently resilient. We’ve only here right now because our ancestors survived through countless famines, wars and natural disasters.
Perhaps we need to somehow tap into that innate strength, sit with discomfort and go without. To exercise patience and endure. To use this time to grow and sharpen our swords. To remain grateful for the many freedoms we still have, rather than lamenting the few we have temporarily lost.
I’m unsure exactly what I was trying to articulate with this post. It’s been a strange year to say the least, and I have mixed emotions. I don’t know if this is a call to action (or inaction), or if it’s just a way for me to vent.
Regardless, I’ll end by saying that I hope you’re able to stay safe and well, wherever you are in the world right now. Know that it’s perfectly normal and okay to feel uncertain. To experience a degree of anxiety and fear. But in the face of that inner turmoil, we can persevere.
At the very least, we can endeavour to do our best. If for no other reason than it’s the heroic thing to do.
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