On Impermanence and Illusion
Posted on June 25, 2020 at 9:14 am
We spend so much of our lives constructing stories; narratives to make sense of our worlds. And we usually cast ourselves as the heroes, the center pieces of what are, all too often, tall tales.
As I watch my boarded-up city of San Francisco slowly re-open, I know that it will not be what it was before. Like a tidal wave washing over the city, sweeping away lives and livelihoods, COVID-19 has destroyed so much.
I, like millions of others, was comfortable with my illusions of stability and permanence. I have had a practice for more than 30 years on quaint, tourist friendly, Union Street. I was part of an integrative, holistic health center with chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and many other types of practitioners who have come and gone over the years. But now, just a few years from retirement, I am caught in the wake of a flood.
To comply with public health practices/recommendations, I now see fewer patients. Physical distancing, disinfecting tables, door knobs and computer keyboards requires increased space and time. Labor has become much more intensive.
Patients were happy that we re-opened after six weeks of compliance with the “shelter in place” order (although, as “essential workers,” we did not technically have to close). But many were/are still afraid to come in, or even to wander outside; especially those with co-morbidities. They are afraid to be touched, to be in a space that others have occupied. And that includes other practitioners in my office. Several of them—unnerved as many patients–have left the practice during the past few weeks, undermining a business model that has worked for decades. Suddenly, the sustainability I took for granted appears to have been built on sand.
I tell this story not as an appeal for sympathy or pity. I am just one person baring witness to the destruction of a world; a fate not unlike the destruction of so many worlds that have come before. I am simply reporting.
Human memory is frail. It is a muscle few of us choose to exercise. More often, we practice the art of forgetting. If my work, as I have known it, disappears, I will still have the memory of what it was; the many things I have learned, the community of practitioners and patients I helped to create, the seeds I have planted, the pain I have helped to ease. These memories are integral to the ground of my being. I still have the skills I have acquired and honed. I will continue to use them, until I no longer can.
As it has been said–and as most of us know–in the end, all that is solid melts into air. All that we truly have is this moment; and when this moment is gone, it gives rise to the next. So I choose to embrace the change and pray that during this time of destruction, of vanishing, the creation that arises, is a world more beautiful than any we have known before.
Dr. Ricky Fishman has been a San Francisco based chiropractor since 1986. In addition to the treatment of back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries, he works as a consultant in the field of health and wellness with companies dedicated to re-visioning health care for the 21st century. He is the founder of the health news and information website, Condition: Health News That Matters.