I’m still stuck on words. I have a hunch it’s because like most people, I think I’m handling this abrupt and life-altering situation fairly well.

Truth be told, I wonder how we’re all really doing, and what we will look like once things settle down, and how we will view routine things we once took for granted.

Our individual defense mechanisms have kicked in. Will we even be aware of things settling down? What yardstick will we use to tell ourselves all is well? Will we use words and thoughts to con ourselves that we’re still the same as we were a few short weeks ago? Will we use words and thoughts to adapt while being aware of the altered state of our lives and those around us? Will we use words and thoughts to amplify the chaos and conflict?

For me, words take on new meaning in times of stress. What people say, write, tonality, context all seem more vivid. I also find myself projecting my particular momentary space onto others’ words and thoughts. This is always dangerous. We can misinterpret, and set things in motion we never thought possible.

It’s also possible that times of stress can clear the cobwebs. The veil that obstructs reality suddenly fades. We see things that were there all along, but we made choices to justify, rationalize or ignore. Once the veil is lifted, we see things that were there in a completely different light.

Many of us are counting on words to give us an idea of what we face, and what, if anything, we can do to manage and control our own lives. We’re also counting on words to give us an idea what, if anything, is being done on a large scale to handle those areas that are out of our individual control. As with most situations in our lives, we understand more is out of our control than in. I can’t wave a magic wand to keep first responders and health care workers supplied with basic equipment and supplies they need to stay safe or treat me if I need their expertise.

I can’t devise, manufacture, distribute or analyze a test to find out if my friend, co-worker, family member is an asymptomatic carrier, putting themselves, others or myself at risk today. I can stay home if ill; take small measures to protect myself and others and realize my actions can and do affect not only myself, but those around me as well.

I can, and do, become frustrated when those who should be handling the things beyond our individual control are flailing about with inanities and ineptness, which is showcased by their words. The same way I expect a professional electrician, plumber, pilot, doctor, accountant to deal with their areas of expertise to solve problems I can’t, I want those professional crisis managers to utilize their capabilities to assist the nation right now. The non-gifted amateurs, illuminated by their words, keep chaos afloat when order and consistency are sorely needed.

Words are letting us know who does, and does not, have the skills so critical during this unprecedented time. We need to pay attention to the words.

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