Stick With the Plan

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Back when our girls were in middle school and high school we took long car trips each summer with our gear stowed in the back of our truck. We generally made reservations at campgrounds before hitting the road, but sometimes our wanderlust led us to unexpected places where we needed to find a spot to pitch our tent for an evening. On one such occasion we decided to take a little detour to Yellowstone National Park on a return trip from Glacier National Park in Montana. It was a bit of a drive to say the least but we were young and adventurous back then. We assumed that somebody would have a little patch of ground for camping available so we didn’t really think there would be a problem bunking down for the night. We were wrong.

This was the year of the big fires in Yellowstone so many of the usual camping areas were closed down to protect both the wildlife and the tourists. We spent several hours hiking around the parts of the park that were still open and gazing at Old Faithful, then as the sun went down on the horizon we set out in search of a place to stop for the night. To our dismay nothing was available anywhere. As the clock ticked we even tried hotels and motels but there was no room at the inn. In a state of exhaustion we eventually found a spot to park the truck and curled up into uncomfortable balls hoping to get some rest inside the confines of the truck.

I doubt that any of us other than Mike slept much at all. By morning we felt grouchy and unkempt but we suffered silently while Mike searched for a service station where he might fill up the tank with gasoline and rustle up some food for breakfast. When he went inside to get the grub and pay for the gas all hell broke loose inside our vehicle as the girls and I vented our crankiness and frustrations. It was a prize winning bitch fest that ended as suddenly as it had begun as soon as we saw Mike emerge from the convenience store bearing coffee, milk and donuts. With a satisfied grin on his face he passed out the goodies while exclaiming how proud of us he was. “You are really troopers!” We simply sat silently exchanging Cheshire Cat grins with one another while munching on our makeshift breakfast. 

The way many of us are now feeling during our period of isolation reminds me of that time of long ago. We had been cooped inside that truck for long stretches of time during our cross country travels. When we had the luxury of unwinding in the open air and enjoying a warm shower before lying down to sleep we adjusted well, but when the uncertainty of finding a place to rest became real it rocked our sense of security and we lost our decorum. I think that the long stretch of time locked mostly in our homes during the pandemic has frayed our nerves in a similar manner and as a result we are all over the place in our interactions with one another. Our anxieties however they may lead us are making us snap at those who appear to disagree with our way of thinking. Petty fights are breaking out more and more often.

There seem to be three camps right now: those who have decided that the whole situation is an overreaction that must end, those who are so fearful that they will be wary of leaving their homes for an indefinite period of time, and those who believe that if we use data, caution and proper measures for returning to the business of living we should eventually be okay. In the moment our nerves are exacerbating our clashes of opinion. We are sometimes aiming our anger at one another rather than the problems.

This pandemic has created a big gooey ball of difficulties that range from illness to economic loss to psychological concerns. I am by nature a data driven person. Everyone who knows me realizes that I always put people first but sometimes efforts to help individuals require objective analysis and this is true now more than ever. We cannot draw conclusions until we have all of the information that we need. We should not make life threatening decisions without considering all of the pros and cons. Most importantly we need to understand the concerns of all the stakeholders. Rushing forward one way or another may lead to more dire consequences so it is in our best interests to be rational rather than emotional.

Inside my personal memory from our traveling days lies a kind of moral. Each of us indeed feels the brunt of negative emotions when things go awry but in the end the hero of the story is the guy who gases up the car, brings food to everyone and then after eating calls ahead to the next town to find a campsite where we might rest and decide on the next moves. This is exactly how my story reached a happy conclusion. The bickering between me and my daughters was an understandable outcome, but it was Mike with his steadfastness and calm who saved the day.

For as long as I can remember that same Mike has always counseled us to “stick with our carefully thought out plans.” That sage advice has worked out well for our family time and again and it has only been when we deviate that problems have occurred. Perhaps it would be wise for our country to consider the merits of staying the course of rational and data driven decisions even when the road gets a bit rough. If we do this properly and together we will be all the better for our resolve.

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