A Letter to Our Better Selves

Elaine Gilmartin
4 min readMay 3, 2020

Character is revealed when pressure is applied.

Alas, I’d like to take credit for that quote, but it’s not mine. I share it here as it is quite apropos given our current extraordinary circumstances. Living under duress as we all are during this pandemic certainly tests our resolve. Whether or not one is directly challenged by COVID 19 as a patient, a health care provider, a beleaguered family member, the impact is felt as any semblance of a predictable daily routine is upended. For many, the floor of economic stability has fallen out with no determinate end in sight. We are challenged in ways not previously envisioned as Americans, people accustomed to doing what they want when they want, as much as they want. Tell them differently and they may just show up on your front steps with a semi-automatic.

I do not believe this is some pre-ordained test. I do not believe this is the end of times. This is not as unique as we may think, plagues, flu pandemics, polio scourges have all pre-dated this and yet we are still here. What can be unique is our collective recognition of the power of community, something not readily celebrated in American culture. Daily we are inundated with contrasting recommendations, strident voices on either side, an administration far more invested in receiving accolades for a job not done, and its hand in the stimulus package cookie jar.

So it is incumbent on each of us not to sit passively and bemoan our social distancing fate, as anxiety grows exponentially when one feels powerless, but to take back control by being our very best selves. And so here maybe is a little reminder.

Dear Self,

I need to remember that freedom is not absolute, that what I want may conflict with the best interest of others and so there may be some level of self-sacrifice involved.

My odds of not acquiring this virus do not improve if someone else lacks access to medical care; to the contrary, my odds of staying well increase if I live among people with access to quality health care before, during, and after this pandemic.

I must take responsibility for what I can control; if that means I must address poor health habits that impair my optimal immune response, then I need to invest the time and energy to do just that. No one can exercise for me, drink more water, eat more healthily, that’s on me.

Elaine Gilmartin

A therapist by profession, a runner by passion, a writer by necessity.