Fighting pandemic without TP requires mental toughness

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Friday April 24, 2020

A FEW weeks ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit America and I was out trying to find toilet paper instead of vitamins, I reached out to some Navy SEALs for their advice. I put that advice into an article and received an amazing response. But now, as the “stay at home” wears on, I have more questions. So, this time I asked a Marine, a Green Beret and an Army veteran.

First, Mark “Oz” Geist, a retired Marine, law enforcement officer and American hero. Oz fought for 13 hours in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. Badly outnumbered, Oz and the small Annex Security Team never gave up and saved 25 American lives. Oz reminded me that “things have changed and we can’t undo this. So use this time to evaluate everything you are doing.”

In times of adversity, it’s easier to see what is really important in your life. I know that some things that I was dealing with prior to this pandemic suddenly aren’t so important.

“Choose whether to have a positive outlook on things. Being negative is easier, especially if you spend all your time absorbing the fear mongering that the media puts out,” he said. Oz wants us to set an example for our kids to be resilient and not panic stricken.

Speaking of American heroes, I called retired General Don Bolduc. Over the course of a 36-year career in the Army, Bolduc rose through the ranks from private to brigadier general. He is one of the Green Berets sent into Afghanistan right after 9/11, who fought with Hamid Karzai on horseback. Bolduc reminded me that “contrary to what is being said, these are not tough times. We have experienced tougher times. We have a challenge and we have to solve it together. And we will overcome it together!”

Bolduc pointed out the generations of Americans that came before us that battled two world wars, the Great Depression, fought in Korea, Vietnam and the War on Terror. It really isn’t so tough to fight this pandemic from home in our sweatpants and slippers. Here is hoping my regular work clothes still fit when we go back to the office.

Then I contacted another American hero, retired Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Pitts. Ryan was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barak Obama for his extraordinary acts of heroism during the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan in 2008. Pitts explained that some of my anxiety comes from the unknowns. Like the unknown of when this will all be over.

Often we can’t wrap our minds around what we are about to take on. Ryan said that taking on a big task is like trying to eat an elephant. How do you do that? “Well you just eat it one bite at a time.” Focus on today and take it one day at a time.

And don’t lose sight of the big picture. “The idea here is to work together to win against the virus. The tactics to win are so simple. Wash your hands. Cover your face. Practice social distancing. Don’t cough on people. Help each other,” he said.

My favorite piece of advice from Pitts was “when this is all over, we are all going to miss some things about this.” He told me to picture in my mind that this is now over. Then looking back, what would I do differently?

Instead of worrying about toilet paper, I am going to take it one day at a time, stay vigilant, optimistic and gain strength from focusing on everyone else around me. Thank you Oz, Bolduc and Pitts for your service, sacrifice and great advice!

Phil Taub is a corporate lawyer at Nixon Peabody LLP and co-founded a charity with his wife to support Veterans called Swim With A Mission. They bring a large group of Navy SEALs to NH every year in July to raise money for Veterans.

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