Are you one of those people who have stayed upbeat and resilient during this unprecedented time in history?
I live in a place that’s easy to be in quarantine. It’s easy to get organic veggies because I live surrounded by farms.
It’s safe in my house, I can order groceries online. I can go for a walk, I have a garden.
I am privileged.
And yet, on some days I’m fighting the urge to scream because I can’t really go anywhere. Or hug my grandchildren. Or I get bored with being home.
These are champagne problems.
Two people I know are positive and upbeat despite living in very tough circumstances.
Theirs are not champagne problems.
Right now Andrew is stuck on a tiny, nearly deserted island about halfway between Hawaii and Australia.
Andrew’s shipping business is located in Vanuatu, another island nation in the South Pacific.
His business involves moving construction materials and heavy machinery throughout the Pacific.
While he was in Fiji for a family gathering, the crew on his barge blew out an engine by Tuvalu, a small island nation in the South Pacific with a population of 150 people.
Andrew and his wife Stephanie, with their three children.
So on March 14th Andrew left Fiji and the to fly to Tuvalu with the needed engine part, to make repairs.
The plan was for him to be there for three days before he flew back to Vanuatu to his family.
In the meantime, all flights were canceled in and out of both these island nations as fears of a COVID-19 pandemic quickly forced nationwide border closures and lockdowns.
The good news, and perhaps as a result of their swift responses, is that Vanuatu and Tuvalu are two of the very rare places in the world without the virus.
Here’s the bad news.
Andrew is still on this 12 square mile island in Tuvalu.
He and his crew will be there indefinitely.
That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world – to be in a place where there’s no corona – except that Andrew’s wife and three children live in Port-Vila, Vanuatu.
After returning from our family get-together in Fiji, Stephanie, Andrew’s wife, and children were in quarantine for two weeks after Vanuatu closed its borders.
As of this writing, there are still no planes flying in or out of these two tiny nations.
Bev is Stephanie's mom.
Bev and her husband Byron had decided to move to Vanuatu from their home in Halifax, Canada, to be closer to Stephanie and their grandchildren.
Late last year Bev and Byron had just sold their house and packed up for the move to Vanuatu.
But In January this year Bev broke her back in an accident and needed three months bed rest to recover.
They decided that Byron would fly on out to Vanuatu ahead of her while she waited on clearance to fly.
Just days before Bev was able to fly, Canada went into lockdown.
That was in March.
With her house sold and only a suitcase packed with summer clothes, Bev now waits with her in-laws in a retirement home.
I have never heard her complain. Not once.
I think of the extreme pain she’s endured for six months. Then have to wait with no idea when she might get to Vanuatu seems like another level of injustice and hardship.
I asked Bev: “How do you do this? How have you managed all these obstacles, the pain, the separation? How do you stay sane?”
Here’s what she said:
“Well Jo, I seriously think I am always thankful that things are not worse. I have always thought that. Even when I hit the pole and kept passing out with pain (no jokes... I really kept passing out).
The first thing I did was move my feet and I instantly felt a relief that I could move them.
When I was on my back recovering, I kept thinking at least I can get up and go to the washroom.
Now, myself and Byron are separated I think at least he is there to help Steph with the kids and I am here in case Krista or Jason (their other children in Newfoundland) need me.
I have a morning ritual. When I wake, I think of at least one thing to be thankful for. It could be my family; it could be that I am lucky enough to wake in a comfy bed… I do this before my feet hit the floor. I find it a wonderful way to start the day... thinking something positive.
At the end of the day, I lay in bed and think of a positive thing that happened during the day.”
She laughed. “Another thing that helps is that I love a good cup of coffee to start my morning.”
Bev knows the power of gratitude.
This is straight up resilience.
Besides being stuck out in Tuvalu, there are no fresh vegetables or fruit available. Coconuts, yes. Fresh fish, yes. And rice. Occasionally, a few frozen veggies… nothing else fresh.
For now this is the way Andrew and his 10-man crew live.
This is not a champagne problem.
Andrew is a former Marine so I asked him if it felt like a deployment and he joked,
“Well, kinda, except nobody’s trying to kill me, Mom.”
It’s hot and humid because Tuvalu is close to the equator. And Andrew tells me he wakes up with a daily headache.
Still, Andrew doesn’t complain.
Occasionally we text when he’s in cell phone range and once in a while we can Face Time. In these precious moments, he answers my questions about how he stays positive.
“It’s just what I have to do, Mom, I don’t have another choice.”
Andrew admits that his training as a reconnaissance Marine has helped and chooses to live by the Reconnaissance creed: Realizing it is my choice and my choice alone to be a Reconnaissance Marine.
This is the most important part that Andrew goes by.
Here is some of the Recon Creed:
I accept all challenges involved with this profession. Exceeding beyond the limitations set down by others shall be my goal, sacrificing personal comforts and dedicating myself to the completion of the reconnaissance mission shall be my life.
Physical fitness, mental attitude, and high ethics… the title Reconnaissance Marine is my honor. Conquering all obstacles, both large and small, I shall never quit.
To quit, to surrender, to give up is to fail, to be a Reconnaissance Marine is to surpass failure: to overcome, to adapt and to do whatever it takes to compete the mission.
This kind of mental toughness is impressive. And perhaps it saves him now.
Five things I see that Andrew and Bev have in common:
This is all a result of their decision to accept their situation fully.
Even in the most difficult of situations, they choose to be positive, to be grateful, to keep going.
Neither Andrew nor Bev knows when they’ll get back to their families.
Vanuatu’s borders are still closed with no indication of when they will reopen.
It could be weeks. It could be months. No one knows.
Two people who are dealing with the unknown and who keep going and choose to stay positive.
Each of them inspires me.
This is what we call resiliency.
Is there someone in your life who could use a little inspiration to get them through these difficult times? Share this story with them.