Planning and COVID-19

April 23, 2020
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“You know how it is. Sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another.”

– Rumi

Planning has been my middle name for as long as I remember. The summer of 2019 was chock full of PLANS. They included: special bonding family times, catching up with friends all up and down the east coast, cultural events, lots of current movies and due to our ages many doctor visits. All the planning worked out splendidly, in part as we often had a back up plan in place. Well made plans do, right? That was my first delusion you’ll see. All too soon it was time to return to our home in Costa Rica, for the next six months.

We have a beautiful home here for which I am grateful. However, it was an adjustment to leave the richness of our summer behind. The healing balm for me was my old friend planning.

We teetered back and forth about what to do.

Soon we had tickets and reservations for California to visit my daughter and granddaughter. Packing of gifts and clothes started. I added a large measure of excitement to the suitcase.  A grey cloud called COVID-19 started hovering in the distance. As the time to leave came closer it got darker. After all they lived in Oakland, a target city. We teetered back and forth about what to do.

The news became more and more intense. Should we go? Should we cancel? A gang of feelings tormented me. One morning I jumped out of bed, clarity reigned, “we can not go.”  It turned out to be a divine intervention as not only would we have been quarantined in a hotel, Costa Rica closed its borders.

We would not have been let back in to our home where precious family furry member, Abby cat was waiting. Relief intermingled with a huge welling of disappointment. I was learning that plans actually could be as fickle as an unfaithful lover. Still I wasn’t worried as I continued to make PLANS.  It would all pass soon, right?  Certainly after six months in Costa Rica all fears of a pandemic would be gone. Wrong!

Should we go? Should we cancel? A gang of feelings tormented me.

We bought tickets for Florida. Our new plan was to visit with two sets of friends for a few days and then drive up the east coast. Arrangements were made with a friend to care for Abby. Usually we alternate six months in the states, six months in Costa Rica, although this time our plan was a bit different. We would be looking for a place to live in the states and were starting the process of selling our Costa Rican home. 

Yes, its beautifully peaceful here, at least most of the time. Peace alternates with finding snakes on the bedside table or not able to access our bank account as once again the passwords had changed.  I also deeply miss my precious great grandchildren.

It’s your guess what happened to those plans in our new economy.

However, back to my dream state of planning, I kept packing suitcases full of necessary items for our planned new home.  I struggled to push the previous Covid-19 cloud out of my mind. The campground where our camper was waiting our return was closed. One newscast after another, blaring truths and non truths, confusing facts. The only sense that was coming out of the jumbled mess, was once again we’d have to cancel all carefully orchestrated PLANS!

We are elderly, dare I admit, with compromised health conditions. We need to be safe health wise. There was no choice, our home in Costa Rica was now our sanctuary. Nature swaddles us in comfort.

Besides how long could this go on?

Besides how long could this go on?

It is now going on two months that we have been in quarantine. We leave the house only to walk in the woods around our home. Recently the lawyer in charge of our community allowed limited pool use during our 95 degree humid days. Two families at a time can use the pool for one hour. The heat of the day melts as the cool liquid caresses our bodies, softening our fears. One day we lay laughing in the water as we watched monkeys swinging from branch to branch to munch on colorful pink flowers. It is one of the blessings of being stranded in Costa Rica.

Yes gratitude is a comforting feeling. It covers neighbors shopping for us, stores and restaurants delivering, ZOOM podcasts, texting friends world wide, certainly for our health.  Today I realized my piano lessons will not have a break. Natural beauty holds us, breezes wash through our living space as the thunder of ocean waves, compete with howler monkeys howling, filling our ears. Meditation helps me maintain peace, bouncing back after canceled plans.

Yet still in the dark quiet nights, when sleep hides in the corners, fear threatens to take over.

When will we ever return to the US?

What if one of us gets sick? When will we ever return to the US? When will I see the great grandchildren again? Be a part of my family? It could be over a year. Right now Costa Rican borders remain closed. If a rare plane leaves we would not be allowed to return to Costa Rica. The grief of so many losses (combined with gratitude no one we know has gotten the virus), brings a deep sadness, overwhelming at times.  My mind races around in circles like the proverbial cat chasing it tail.  


So the virus is the large hand bouncing me up and down, taking away all control except how I think. As I gaze out at the beauty around me, play with Abby who can always bring a laugh as she paws us as we walk by, or cries her demands to go up on the roof to let in another bat. I luxuriate in time to read my latest book, while Wes plants greens to help sustain us. My mind slows, my heart opens.

We know the world will be different when this is over. Let’s hope we will maintain some of the goodness of slowing down, relating with more empathy to each other. Then it will all be worth it.

Maybe I’ll start making fickle plans now.  Or trust in a new unplanned life awaiting us all. As Rumi told us way back in the 14th C, we never know where we will land up, plans or not.

About Judith Donovan

Judith Donovan is a retired Clinical Social Worker. She currently divides her time living in Costa Rica with visiting her children, grandchildren and five great-grandchildren in various parts of the U.S. Judith is grateful to have the time to write her memoirs plus travel experiences. She is also a dedicated meditator, and besides attending retreats, mentors those wanting to deepen the gift of meditation in their lives.

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