Being inside a box is very much like being inside of a room with no doors or windows. It can be restrictive to varying degrees, depending upon its dimensions, because it has defined limits. You can’t walk 12 feet inside a 10-foot room, for instance; barring of course superpowers granted by a radioactive spider bite. But limits can be multifaceted as well and can be both comforting and irritating. We might not be able to take that 12-foot stroll, but we also don’t need to concern ourselves with what happens even 11 feet beyond our starting point.

It is undeniable that boxes have their uses, both those of the physical and the philosophical varieties. Ideally, once something is inside a box it is safe and protected. And conversely once we “box” something up, it can be stored somewhere out of our way until we need or want it again — like all those avocado and harvest gold decorations from the 1970s and ’80s. So, you see the dual (at least) nature of putting something in a box; we will probably never hang those patterned curtains over our windows again, but it makes us feel better to know that we could. And hopefully, should we ever choose to do so, we will be able to find matching shag carpet.

Most human beings follow the same “boxing” procedures with difficult and sometimes scary concepts and situations that are beyond our direct control. Sometimes we find it more comforting to simply “box” these concepts and situations up in what we think are tidy little compartments and set them aside rather than go through the difficulty of dealing with them. But this is less of a resolution than it is a delaying tactic, and the end result is almost never what we intended. Sort of like forgetting to unplug that lava lamp before wrapping it up in newspaper and putting it in the same box with Grandma’s vintage perfume bottles. We know that will end well.

Unfortunately, this “boxing” procedure is how many of us have chosen to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We quickly (-ish) locked down as a response to the threat; but as time wore on with no clear and definitive resolution in sight, we all became so worried that the stress and strain began to have a reverse effect and desensitized us to a point. Unless we were on the front lines and saw the devastation with our own eyes or felt the pain of loss directly, we began to give into the temptation of simply shunting our fear and worries aside so we could breathe. And if we take off our masks and throw them away, it even becomes easier to breathe, and to tell ourselves that it is all over. But, of course, it’s not.

Many of us are still inside the box — and as I wrote in a previous column, the box was built by Shrodinger. Simply hoping or wishing that the pandemic is over won’t make it a reality. We can’t just box up the threat of COVID-19 and store it safely away in our attics next to old magazines, lamps and clothes we no longer wear. It is something that needs to be addressed on a daily basis until treatments are developed and hopefully a vaccine is found. We need to be vigilant for our own health and the health of others. We can’t give ourselves the luxury of forgetting what we have learned. And we always need to learn more and learn it as quickly as possible.

It was for those reasons and more that I chose to take the antibody blood test. I need to know what I have to work with, because I need that knowledge to keep working against a virus that works seven days a week, 365 days a year, and doesn’t take vacations — ever. I could have simply assumed my state of health, but then I would have been working with imperfect knowledge at best. But in order to be effective in my efforts, I needed my knowledge to be as accurate as possible. Well, now I know. And as they say (if you watched your Saturday cartoons) knowing is half the battle.

I got a call from the doctor’s office late Monday evening with my test results. We’ll dispense with the drumroll, and I will just say the results were negative. Just like 7-Up, never had it; but unlike 7-Up, that doesn’t mean I never will. All those results ensure is that as of around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, there was no sign whatsoever of COVID-19 in my system. But that information is extremely valuable. How is it valuable? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Now, I am outside the box — sorry, Shrodinger, no guesswork or theories involved. Now I know that I need to keep up with the social distancing practices, with masks and hand sanitizers as applicable. I know that I have been extremely lucky up until Thursday, but I can’t depend upon that luck to always work in my favor. I could still contract COVID-19, and could still pass it along to my family, friends or strangers. And perhaps more importantly, I know not to rely on a subconscious assumption that I have already developed an unproven immunity. Apparently being sick earlier in the year was just garden-variety crud and not something more serious.

Still, life outside the box has its benefits. I don’t have to guess where I stand, and hopefully this will prevent or reduce my likelihood of stumbling as the state and country begin to open up again. And on a broader scale, my test results will help health organizations to build a network of knowledge that will help them better combat COVID-19 in the future. All around, it’s a win-win situation. And I like to — want to — win this one, along with as many of my fellow humans as possible. Whatever it takes.

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