The timing of the preparation and release of my “No Regrets Living” book, as well as my 4 decades as an infectious diseases physician, allowed me to weave my observations on the COVID-19 pandemic into the book’s foundational “7 Keys to a Life of Wonder and Contentment.” My reflections on the pandemic, including coping mechanisms and paths for going forward, are offset in shaded boxes throughout the book. Now, as we yet again face the specter of virus resurgence, those shaded boxes and reflections on the pandemic become ever-more germane. Over the coming days and weeks, until we finally put the pandemic behind us, I’ll post brief excerpts from the book’s “pandemic boxes” in the hopes they will help us put our current situation into perspective.
Here’s Excerpt 1: SOCIAL NEARNESS
Social psychologists are asking if we will ever be able to return to the type of intimacy of human connection we had previously, before this plague began. Will we feel comfortable hugging our friends, kissing our loved ones, walking arm in arm, holding hands, making love? Will we allow our kids to kiss and hug their grandparents? Will we shake hands with colleagues at work? Give high fives to kids in hospitals, schools, and down the block?
The answer to all of these questions must be a resounding YES! We have been aware of germs and their risks since the days of Louis Pasteur in the mid-nineteenth century. Yes, germs are indeed passed from person to person by kissing and handshakes, but we don’t live in a bubble and we shouldn’t create one because of the pandemic. Exposure to germs actually boosts our immune systems, protecting us from other more dangerous infections and other diseases. Not long ago I wrote a book about that for parents, “Germ Proof Your Kids— the Complete Guide to Protecting (Without Overprotecting) Your Kids from Infections.” The key is in the parentheses: without overprotecting. We should never live in a world devoid of intimacy and warmth. I believe that rather than making us fear physical connection, COVID-19 should leave us with a renewed appreciation of the value and beauty of physical connection.
So, once we’ve done enough social distancing, it will be time for social nearness, and we should be as conscientious about resuming nearness as we have about keeping our distance.
(Excerpted from Key #7, “No Regrets Living”, HCI Books, 2021)