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Emails to my Therapist

Do The Best You Can?

Dear Nicholas, The advice to “Do the best you can” is usually reassuring to hear–means: doesn’t have to be perfect, just give it a good shot. However, when it’s important, doing my best takes on a different urgency. And here’s the problem: how do we ever know if we’ve done the best we can?

do the best you can

A Tricky Question

How do I know if I’ve done my best at sanitizing the driver’s seat area after I’ve been to the grocery store? I could always keep on spraying and wiping. Does the fact that at the bank drive-through the pneumatic tube sat momentarily in my lap mean I should quickly throw my jeans in the wash?

So Far, So Good

I’m happy to report that, in spite of my difficulties with obsessive-compulsive disorder, I’m doing pretty well at dealing psychologically with the viral menace. And so are those of my relatives who wrestle with the same ailment.

My Theory

This apparent health is a surprise and I have a theory about how it’s possible. I think it’s the fact that everybody in the world is having to be hyper-careful, and the need for this vigilance and the behaviors involved are public knowledge. Carefulness, checking, and fear of contaminating are now a good idea; they are not wacky or furtive or suffered in isolation. Doing this stuff does not mean I’m weird.

do the best you can

I’ve been public about this difficulty of mine for a long time. And that has helped. For one thing, it has given me company in dealing with the problem. Now the entire world taking on a similar hyper-vigilance is definitely companionable. (I’m also hugely lucky that during lockdown weeks I can work at home. I haven’t lost a job.)

But “Do The Best You Can”?

Again I ask: how would I ever know when I’ve done my best? In so many areas of life, including sanitizing, it’s not measurably possible, at least outside of an operating room or a lab.

And for once the choices are at the life-and-death level of importance: Husband Bob, who has had heart troubles, must not get this virus.

What Is The Right Best Protection?


do the best you can

(Not Husband Bob, BTW)

What I think is needed is guidelines, even if I make them up myself: spray a suspicious surface twice, no more and no less. That sounds suspiciously like a ritual: on a continuum with the guy who had to use eighteen napkins at every meal. However, a reasonable ritual is not such a bad idea.



A Reasonable Ritual

I will employ a carefully chosen guideline if I need it. So far, though, I seem to be roughly the same amount of slightly weird as everyone else.

Ever wishing you good health,


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  • April 8, 2020 at 7:58 pm Reply

    I’m glad your OCD is not more of a problem with Covid – personal decisions about sufficient guidelines for safety is sensible, for sure. Therapists newly doing lots of teletherapy need to decide how to handle our own Covid anxieties while getting used to and managing the technical and human differences from in-person psychotherapy. Many are feeling quite a lot more tired than usual, not a surprise. I’ve not liked at all the interference with my practice and habits, the damn electronic technology I’m not good at, & the differences in what I can see and hear – but distance-therapy’s way better’n nothing.
    I remind myself that any major new-ness takes a while to get OK with, that it’s temporary, and really necessary. So far clients feel it’s worthwhile, and I’ve been encouraged that adding new clients by video to weekly therapy groups has worked well enough so far – we’ll see over the long haul.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 8, 2020 at 8:12 pm Reply

      I’m pleased for you and your folks, Bob, that you have it working so well. Staying on the computer for so many hours, though, take some getting used to. I remember how badly it tired me out at first.

  • Roy Skinner
    April 8, 2020 at 8:39 pm Reply

    Peggy, I really enjoyed reading this. I sure hope you can stay away from the microbes. You are trying very hard to look out for your husband. Hang in there. I hope you both well.

    • Peggy Payne
      April 8, 2020 at 8:43 pm Reply

      We’re both well, Roy. Thank you. And I hope the microbes stay clear of you.

  • kenju
    April 8, 2020 at 10:17 pm Reply

    I understand how you feel. I have to work hard to keep my husband safe too; as a man who spent 5 months in the hospital last year – his immune system is likely shot. I have discovered something about myself…..I do not do well without receiving hugs from my kids and grandkids!
    One of them visited today, and we sat in the garage at a distance of 6+ feet, and all I wanted to do was hug her. I hope that can be accomplished soon!

    • Peggy Payne
      April 8, 2020 at 11:35 pm Reply

      I don’t see how you two got through five months in the hospital, kenju. I’ve found a week pretty hard. I do wish you kids’ and grandkids’ hugs soon!

  • Nancy Councill Disney, former Hanes Honey
    April 9, 2020 at 4:18 pm Reply

    Love your thoughts and stories Peggy! Thanks for sharing, we all have been on new territory lately. Miss my kids and the grandchildren!

    • Peggy Payne
      April 9, 2020 at 4:35 pm Reply

      And just imagine how it would be without the dozen high-tech ways to communicate. I’m about to meet with my writing group by Zoom. But I know it’s sure not the same with grandchildren. Thanks, Nancy. I appreciate your thoughts.

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