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We are all tired and in need of more strength to get through these crazy times.

I have lots of reasons to be tired; autoimmune issues and caregiving are definitely on the list. Over the last few weeks, my daughter had an increase of seizures due to a larger bleed in her brain. This prompted another brain MRI, and a trip into NYC to see the neurosurgeon to be sure she’s safe to watch this one at home.

Jo’s doctor and I looked at the brain scan on the computer and then at Jo. We were shaking our heads — amazed at the miracle standing before — smiling as she proudly held out a gift for her doctor.

Jo wrapped the gift in a pretty fall napkin and stuck it in a paper cup: a chicken egg from “Jo’s Chicks.” She beamed from ear to ear when the doctor said that he was going to eat it for lunch. It’s likely the most expensive egg he’s ever eaten. Our chickens need only produce 3,000 more eggs for us to break even on this pandemic endeavor at homesteading!

But that egg was worth much more as a gift and as a symbol of perseverance in the face of great trials. You see, one thing parents of kids with disabilities learn early on is how to be flexible and change course when faced with obstacles. You learn it by LOTS of trials and many errors — especially when those same kids are medically fragile.

When you love someone with a rare disease that changes quickly from chronic to emergent, there really isn’t a day that you’re not prepared for the next shoe to drop. In the last 24 years, a lot of shoes have dropped and, despite the challenge, I’ve found the strength to pick them up and keep walking, after taking some time to rest.

Those who are vulnerable to disease and/or caring for loved ones in this higher-risk demographic know the cost and the risks of COVID-19 better than the general population.

We are the ones attending medical appointments alone, limiting visits even with family and close friends and trying our best to avoid crowds — a lofty feat as thousands visit our local farm stands and vineyards at the peak of fall tourism on the North Fork of Long Island.

Some think we should just hide away in our homes while “the herd” presses on to immunity at work and at play. But we all need to work — whether at home or in society — so that we can keep living this beautiful life we been given. The decisions we think we make in a bubble really do have an effect on others, especially when we are a dealing with a highly contagious virus.

Please don’t tell me this is just a flu — just don’t. In 57 years, I have only been to one large neighborhood gathering where a high percentage of us got sick. It was a violent food poisoning. I was 10 years old and I still remember it to this day — a family of six sharing two bathrooms and buckets for days.

The flu is not as contagious as COVID-19. Even with a medically fragile kid, we didn’t think twice about hosting gatherings of families and friends — even during the flu season. Jo has never gotten the flu and I’m working hard to ensure she doesn’t get COVID either.

I get it. Pandemic fatigue is a real thing and it affects us all — especially those of us who are or who live with people who are more vulnerable to disease. We are all tired of wearing masks and we miss our family and friends. We’ve already begun planning our socially distanced Christmas and I’m thinking about how to arrange the furniture so we can finally have all our kids at home. This will be the first Christmas ever that I’m not praying for snow.

Speaking of fatigue, there’s nothing quite so tiring as a presidential election cycle — especially during a pandemic. Coupled with this era of social media is the self-proclaimed keyboard experts on news, history and the moral high ground take it upon themselves to exercise their own right to free speech while trying to silence another’s opinion.

It’s become an exhausting time for voters and for families all around.

Growing up, my parents never really discussed who they were voting for; it was a private decision and a treasured freedom. We did discuss issues — especially war, the economy and respect for life. My dad was a self-studied expert on the economy and the stock market. He followed trends and issues by reading newspapers daily and watching the nightly news. The inheritance he left his family after living a modest lifestyle were fruits of his hard work and informed choices.

Our lives were affected by war with both my father and two of my older brothers serving in WWII, Korean and the Vietnam wars respectively. We knew that elected officials and party platforms had a greater effect on our lives.

We studied civics every year in school from kindergarten till graduation and on Saturday mornings with the wildly popular cartoon series, “Schoolhouse Rock!” (Fun fact: the creator of the series is my niece’s father-in-law. It made for nostalgic entertainment at her wedding reception.)

By the time it came for me to vote, I knew how to make informed decisions based on party platforms and voting records rather than personalities. Ironically though, the first president I voted for was a former actor and a conservative, President Ronald Reagan.

Whether at home, at school or at work, we were families, friends, neighbors and co-workers who respected one another’s values and opinions. We hashed things out in conversations around the dinner table and in the cafeteria, on the school bus and at neighborhood picnics and parties, which happened all year long.

We didn’t have “social media” to influence or condemn our opinions. We read and watched the news and magazines to understand current events. We had animated faces, beautiful voices and body language to see, touch, hear and help us to respect the opinions of others with whom we lived our lives and encountered along the way.

In all these decisions, my Catholic faith has been the lens through which I discern my political choices and exercise my right to vote. There is no more basic human and God-given right than the right to life which begins in the womb and extends to natural death. I live and vote from an informed conscience and advocate for the respect of human beings at every stage and manner of life.

Pandemic fatigue combined with election season fatigue is a recipe for exhaustion. But we will get through this time and hopefully emerge as stronger people.

In addition to connecting to God in prayer and nature, I escape the fatigue by watching superhero series and movies with my daughter. We recently started watching “The Flash.” The overriding themes are: believe in the impossible and protect the vulnerable.

I vote that we change the trajectory of this dystopian society I fear we are becoming by loving one another enough to respect personal freedom and make personal decisions that protect the vulnerable.

I believe we can do both.

I am blessed to live with a real-life superhero and she amazes me every day.

I do believe in the impossible and in the God who gives strength in every fatigue.

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Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen