Haims: Social distancing is leading to loneliness and mental health concerns
The ramifications of COVID-19 are many. If the geopolitical and financial implications were not enough, the consequences of loneliness and mental health are growing exponentially.
Worry and stress over this pandemic are exacerbating mental illness, substance use disorders, and anxiety. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation article, researchers found that about 45% of U.S. adults are experiencing dramatic negative effects. With only 13% of people believing that the worst is behind us, the looming concern that the worst is yet to come must be addressed.
Often called the bible of psychiatry, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a publication that defines and classifies mental disorders to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research. Although it is published by the American Psychiatric Association, a leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S., “loneliness” and the repercussions have not been addressed in the most recent edition, the DSM-5 published in 2013. Perhaps, when a new edition is released, loneliness may be included.
When people think of the many factors that contribute to one’s health and well-being, loneliness is probably not within the top 10 or even top 20. Social isolation and loneliness have been studied extensively and research from Brigham Young University has found that the correlation to mortality to be 29% and 26% respectively. In a National Institute for Health Care Management webinar entitled The Health Impact of Loneliness: Emerging Evidence and Interventions, Kathryn Santoro, the director of programing, stated that “loneliness raises the risk of premature death as much as smoking or obesity.”
Managing one’s stress while socially isolating and/or being quarantined can be challenging. For many people, this is a paradoxical situation — the stress of not becoming exposed may cause the body’s immune system to be compromised and thus more like to become exposed.
Unfortunately, stress and loneliness may change gene expression and cause a potentially lethal overreaction of immune system cells called leukocytes. When this happens, the productions of cytokines increase causing a greater risk for a phenomenon called a cytokine storm.
Poor quality of sleep, poor concentration, and irritability are also associated with loneliness. In a recent International Journal of Behavioral Medicine article I learned that while the relation between loneliness and sleep is complex, there is evidence that “loneliness predicted subsequent sleep disturbance, which in turn predicted subsequent self-reported health.”
As our communities reopen, it will be important for all of us to be aware that loneliness and social distancing may lend itself to greater sensitivity to criticism and disagreements. It’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy — lonely people often think the worst of situations.
If you or someone you know is feeling like the victim of unstable and changing circumstances, perhaps consider enhancing social support. If you wait around for others to reach out to you, chances are, you may end up feeling rejected when people don’t. You have to make an effort to connect with neighbors, friends, and family.
If you are feeling isolated and stressed because you don’t have anybody close to rely on and talk to, consider reaching out to a psychologist. Locally, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (844-493-8255), Mind Springs Health (970-328-6969), and the Hope Center (970-306-4673) are available to assist.
Carnes: Calling out lies not the same as censorship
This entire issue of being held accountable for lying is simple, really, for those with even a limited understanding of the First Amendment to our Constitution: Fact-checking a claim, regardless of whether it is on a platform or published, is not censorship or suppression of any sort.
Twitter instead simply flags the claims, like Facebook has been doing for a while now, when content is highly questionable and deserves to be fact-checked, and just like any other social media outlet that chooses to, is exercising its First Amendment freedom of speech by doing so.
ImPOTUS, along with every other Tom, Dick and Karen in America, is free to post lies, just as Twitter is free to call out those lies. If questionable claims are out there for John or Jane Q. Public to consume, whether from the media, black people, white, gay, straight, left, right or a little curved around the edges, all deserve to be fact-checked.
Conspiracy theories and outright lies are peddled by different media outlets on both sides, but facts are facts — they do not change or have political allegiances nor care about your feelings or if they fit the narrative that helps you sleep at night.
In this case, the individual is a public servant, and must live up to his oath of office while being held to an even higher standard, as he is the presumed leader of the free world, with much greater responsibility than any of us. It’s hard to fathom an authoritarian power grab by conservatives screaming for more “Big Government” censorship, which would certainly lead to an explosion of frivolous lawsuits and a massive expansion of regulations.
And to think, all this time I thought this administration proudly prioritized deregulation, yet now it threatens to create a massive new bureaucracy to govern internet comments that it disagrees with.
When it comes to unsubstantiated claims, Twitter is allowing those claims to stand up to the scrutiny of facts, which in turn allows readers to hopefully think for themselves, and perhaps breathe a sigh of relief learning such claims are utter nonsense.
Besides, with all the little Trumpettes constantly spouting the “fake news!” mantra that they pretend to hate so much, why in the world are they upset that a social media outlet is cracking down on fake news?
A main facet of the First amendment is to protect the press and media platforms from the government, and just like attacks on the Second Amendment, is an attack on one of the core freedoms of our republic.
Either way, these threats of regulation are little more than the never-ending whines of an insecure narcissistic child, angry because he does not possess anywhere near the level of dictating control he thinks he deserves, and they have no real chance of becoming law.
In the meantime, I recommend he, along with anyone else insistent upon promoting false claims (cue the evil music), go on the dark web and claim whatever the hell you want. Just know that unsubstantiated claims that cannot be validated are known by the shorter word: lies.
And that way most of us will not waste time reading them.
Moore: Police and black folks — the swagger and disrespect must end
I’m a 65-year-old black man, and I have literally spent most of my life doing everything possible to avoid encounters with police.
My mother warned me when I was about 12 to beware of the police because even though I was a good boy, I could be killed with impunity. I’d be just another dead black boy supposedly mixed up in guns, drugs or gangs.
I wish I wasn’t afraid of the police. I have never had a cop live on my street. I’ve known only two law enforcement officers socially; one is a former FBI agent who I met a decade ago and is a great guy, and the other is a black cop who I played street basketball with in the 1980s.
The vast majority of police never fire a weapon, but the bad deeds rightly get more attention because of the suffering.
As a journalist I did some of those stories. I wrote about suburban police officers using sap gloves to beat suspects. I wrote about a white cop who shot and killed an unarmed black man, who was on his way home from a party. The police officer had numerous complaints against him and was known in the department as the “Orkin Man,” after a commercial for a pest-control company.
I’ve made it this far by being extremely careful. I’ve never hung out in bars, don’t lose my temper with authority figures, and haven’t had a fight since high school, all in an effort to avoid any dealings with the police.
Yet, I know the fear. I have been stopped at least 20 times by the police, fortunately without escalation.
Once I was stopped on an early Sunday morning as my family hurried to church. I was admittedly speeding. But you could feel the air being sucked in by my family as I pulled over and waited for the officer to approach.
I rolled down the window, careful to put both hands in plain view on the steering wheel. The officer asked me if I knew why he stopped me. I quickly offered that I was late for church and was probably over the speed limit.
He said yes sir, that was correct, took my license and registration and walked to his cruiser. When he came back, he said he was giving me a warning. Shocked, I said thank you. He leaned into my car and replied: “Despite what you think, my job is not to make your day worse.”
There have been other encounters like that. But there have been dark moments.
Returning from a concert with four black male college classmates in the 1970s, we were pulled over and ordered out of our car in the snow, some of us without our shoes or coats on, because we allegedly “fit the description” of robbery suspects. After standing in the cold for a half hour, we were let go after we checked out with no warrants.
Then, there was the time in the early 1990s when I was traveling with my family from Boston to Vermont to start vacation. We were driving along a deserted New Hampshire road around midnight when we passed a cop sitting at a closed gas station.
My wife and son were slumped down in the car asleep, but I immediately knew it was trouble when the cop car slowly rolled out behind me. After following me for a mile or so, the blue lights and siren came on. My wife jumped up in her seat and asked what was going on. I told her I didn’t know.
I was driving the speed limit, so that couldn’t be it. The officer tapped on the window and brusquely asked for my license and registration. I calmly asked him what was the problem, but he silently stalked off as my 8-year-old son came to life in the backseat.
As my blood began to boil, my wife and kid pleaded with me to stay calm. No other cars were on the road. After about 10 minutes, the officer came back and handed me my documents. My hands in plain view, I asked why he had stopped me. “You were driving too close to my vehicle,” he snapped.
I sat there for a moment fuming, letting him take off before me. I told my wife that he stopped me simply because he saw a black man and suspected I was a criminal only to be surprised to find a family.
Then, there was the time the cops showed up at my house in Golden. My wife was in the car with our two daughters, and when she buzzed herself into our gated street she noticed a police car pull in behind her.
She assumed they were heading to a neighbor’s house, but they pulled into our driveway and asked for her brother, who was living with us at the time. He is the nicest guy and has never been in trouble.
But apparently he had gotten into a verbal altercation with a white guy after he rolled through a roundabout and cut him off as they both turned into a gas station. The enraged white guy berated him, and my brother-in-law gave it back to him. As they both pumped their gas, the guy threatened to call the cops. My brother-in-law said go ahead, got into his car and headed home.
It’s mind boggling that two cops showed up at our house simply based on the word of a white guy over a minor traffic dispute. No witnesses, no physical altercation, no evidence of a crime.
After my wife in a tense exchange demanded the officers get off of our property as she held her brother in the garage, they finally left. Incredibly, he was issued a court summons, which was withdrawn after I called the police chief to object. It is the only time I have ever mentioned my position as editor during a personal complaint.
We were outraged and have no doubt that my brother-in-law would have been face down in our driveway or worse had he stepped outside of that garage. And for what?
Watching the life ebb from George Floyd on TV brought these memories flooding back. I literally said that could have been me under that officer’s knee. And very few of my white friends can honestly say they had that feeling.
That speaks volumes. Over the years, I have had many discussions with white colleagues and friends about the police, and it’s clear that we live in different worlds.
They have run from police, driven off from traffic stops, and flung clipboards handed to them across highways without any repercussions. I can’t imagine a black person getting away with that.
Maybe that’s because for many whites they know cops as fathers, brothers, cousins, friends and neighbors.
We, however, know them as a swaggering, disrespectful, and threatening presence.
The history of the police and black people dates back to the slave catchers and overseers. A lot of police officers in our country come to the job generationally with stereotypes and disdain toward black people that has been handed down from the old days.
Whether they want to admit it or not, it is part of the DNA of the profession, and it really doesn’t matter what color the person is who wears the uniform. Those attitudes are ingrained in the culture.
So to fix the problem the culture has to be changed, which is no easy feat. We have had black police chiefs, and that has not made much of a difference. To change the culture you have to send police officers who murder innocent civilians to prison, plain and simple.
Police officers who abuse their power have to be held accountable, just like in any other profession. A clerk miscounts the money, they get fired. A journalist makes big mistakes, they get dismissed. You’re sitting in the car when a companion robs a store, you go down, too.
The argument that we ask police to risk their lives and make split decisions is no excuse for them being wrong when making life-and-death decisions. They should have a higher standard to be right when using lethal force, not a lower one.
Reforming policing in America will require changing their culture, reinventing their training and unerring accountability.
I’m exhausted watching black men die at the hands of police. I hate seeing the fear in my daughters’ eyes from knowing I could die, begging for air, under the knee of a police officer.
I don’t hate cops. I fear them. But I’m about to turn 66 years old, and I’d like to exhale for a change.
Gregory L. Moore was the editor of The Denver Post from 2002 to 2016.
Armijo: How to overcome anxiety
Anxiety is a condition that many people are currently experiencing with all that is taking place in our world. Anxiety causes feelings of apprehension and worry. There is anxiety related to just about any human condition one could imagine, but this column will focus on a few for the sake of brevity.
Health-related anxiety is on many people’s minds these days with the current state of our health care system, the aging population of baby boomers, and of course the viral outbreak of COVID-19.
There is no shortage of reasons to experience anxiety due to health or aging or the current pandemic. The aging process creates plenty of health issues on its own, thus creating anxiety for the aging populations, but all of that gets exasperated when you add in a dangerous viral outbreak. However, experiencing too much anxiety will eventually lead to a victim mentality and a fear of progression in one’s life. When we give in to our anxiety we effectively become the victim.
As the victim, we are forever worried about all the outstanding viruses and disorders that most of us will never experience yet remain fearful of. The victim mentality does not allow for a comfortable life. It causes one to live from a place of fear and worry and when we live from a place of fear we usually end up with more things to fear and worry about.
Those with a victim mentality are the target audience of big pharmaceutical advertisements, shady investment brokers, and scam artists. The victim mentality increases one’s susceptibility to fear and worry and leaves them vulnerable to unscrupulous characters. Many retired individuals are experiencing anxiety around finances or their health which leaves them in the victim mentality and they are a favorite target of scam artists and snake oil salesmen.
Many in the aging population experience anxiety from witnessing the health struggles of their peers. The baby boomers sheer numbers are raising the cost of health care while increasing the need for health professionals to attend to them. As baby boomers experience a higher need for health care, many of them are leaving work and entering retirement further exasperating the anxiety they experience due to increased healthcare needs and rising healthcare costs.
The members of Generation X and millennials experience the trickle-down effect of rising health care combined with a workforce that many no longer see as secure or sustainable and experience a whole different type of anxiety. Millennials, in particular, get viewed in a negative light for not purchasing homes or cars but maybe this has much to do with the uncertainty that is happening at this time in our history and not the fact that they are lazy or entitled. Uncertainty is another big cause of anxiety.
The causes of anxiety in today’s world are much different than the causes of anxiety in past generations. We are no longer worried about being eaten by a predator. However, we are wondering how we will afford to pay back all the postponed and late payments we are incurring while waiting for the jobs to return. These fears may not be irrational but they are still not helping us to progress.
Anxiety can cause people to become stagnant in their lives. Anxiety is typically based on stress or fear and can cause people to become so overwhelmed they just stop living. They concede to their anxiety and stop trying to live the life they desire to avoid feeling any more anxiety due to failure or uncertainty they may or may not experience.
How does one overcome anxiety? The first thing is to realize that this life is yours and your alone. Stop giving energy to things that are not within your control. We waste too much energy being angry or worried due to things we cannot control. Stop comparing your situation to others, there will always be someone with better circumstances than us and there will always be those worse off than us. Stop trying to help others before you help yourself. We cannot benefit anyone until we are comfortable in our own lives, so get yourself to a good place before trying to help anyone else out.
Norton: We win when we expect more from ourselves
Have you ever wondered why sometimes we can get so frustrated and even angry at other people because they aren’t serving us fast enough, meeting our needs and demands, or just behaving in a way that we don’t agree with?
Maybe it’s our neighbor, our family, or a company representative who isn’t helping us fast enough. It could be a coworker, a customer, or even our boss. Maybe it’s the confusion and neediness of our pets and their inconvenient timing during our virtual meetings as they jump into the picture or bark or meow in the background. And maybe, it’s someone who is or isn’t social distancing the way that we are.
Here’s the harder question: When was the last time we held ourselves to that same standard? That standard that we hold everyone else on the planet accountable to comply with. For many of us, that look in the mirror is exactly what we need right now as we try and work through all the challenges we are facing today. Whether it’s within our homes, working from our homes, talking to friends and neighbors, or being a part of the community in any way, we should encourage one another to expect more from ourselves and maybe set the example for others.
Service will be slower, let’s expect that to happen. Confusion about the products we ordered and didn’t receive or when we received the wrong size or color can be controlled as we put ourselves in the headset of the customer service person on the other end of the phone or in your chat window. And as we walk together through the days, weeks, and months ahead, we will confront many moments where we will have a disagreement or a difference of opinion. And that’s OK, because as we begin to expect the best from ourselves, and make expecting the best from ourselves a habit, we really will not care how others choose to react, we only know how we will respond.
Success and winning are never measured in how we stack up against other people. Success and winning are only defined by what we did relative to what we are capable of doing and what we expect from ourselves each day, in all that we do, and in all that we say. Success and winning have a magical moment when we can look in the mirror and know the good that we did and also identified what we still need to work on in ourselves.
A good friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Denis Waitley, created a program called “The Psychology of Winning.” And in his program, Denis talks about positive self-expectancy. Here is what he says, “Positive self-expectancy is the first, most outwardly identifiable quality of a top achieving, winning human being. Positive self-expectancy is pure and simple optimism: real enthusiasm for everything you do. And optimism is expecting the most favorable result from your own actions.”
The inspiration for today’s column came from Jon, a member of our community who caught himself mirroring the bad behavior and harsh language of someone who he was interacting with during a recent disagreement. Jon said that he got caught up in the moment and felt like he reacted poorly. To quote Jon, he said, “It wasn’t until I got home and saw myself in the mirror, and I knew that I was better than that.”
I know Jon is not alone because I have found myself in the same situation. Have you? Here’s the thing, the best part is that when we start focusing our efforts on expecting more from ourselves and live daily with positive self-expectancy, we will minimize reacting poorly and maximize how we respond favorably.
How about you? Do you expect more from yourself? Do you hold others to a different standard than you hold yourself? I would love to hear all about your positive self-expectancy story at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we expect more from ourselves it really will be a better than good week.
Suszynski: Do not tread on the loaf
I have a lot to say about fairytales and I think fairytales have a lot to say to us.
Two years ago, I sat in on a panel about fairytales at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs in Tampa, Florida.
The panel was chaired by a small, elderly woman with large glasses. A young woman stood up during the questioning portion and asked about the binaries that are glaringly present in fairytales.
“Why should we be so invested in stories that tell of little boys that wear blue and little girls that are princesses and must be saved?” she asked rather angrily.
The old woman straightened up in her chair. I could tell that she was anticipating a question like this. In fact, her little frame seemed to spring forward.
“Think of fairytales as tales of wholeness. The prince is not a man, the princess is not a woman. Perhaps, the prince represents more male-centric characteristics and the princess represents traits associated with women such as sensitivity,” she said as she peered through her coke-bottle glasses.
“By the end of the story, we have a complete person.”
There is one fairytale that I have always been drawn to, titled “The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf” by Hans Christian Andersen. The tale is about a frustratingly prideful girl, Little Inger, who is ignorant of her actions. On the way to meet her mother, who she has not seen for a year, Little Inger wears her best dress and cleanest shoes to declare how “fine she had become.” She carries a loaf of bread that was gifted to her by her employer and once she comes across a stretch of mud on her journey, she throws the bread down and uses it as a steppingstone so as not to dirty her “fine new shoes.”
The weirdness of this story is the true hook. The young woman slips into a marsh of sorts: “She went down to the Marsh Woman, who brews down there. The Marsh Woman is an aunt of the elf maidens, who are very well known.”
Little Inger happens to visit the underground brewery when the devil and his great-grandmother are visiting (why Andersen chose the “great” grandmother is also beyond me). And lo and behold, “This Little Inger went to hell!”
After Inger arrives in that “endless antechamber,” she must listen to all the people she knows say nasty things about her; well, not necessarily nasty, but maybe just a little bit truthful. She is only struck by sorrow when somebody calls her “Poor Inger.”
I find it interesting to break down these moral tales. Here I am in my chair yelling at Inger that flour is in short supply, that food is more important than dirtying your shoes. But I can’t get through to Inger, I am just the reader, listening.
When Inger is alone in hell, stuck to the ground “as if fastened by a loaf of bread,” she is the one who must listen.
Sure, Cinderella or Snow White can be considered tales of wholeness. Snow White, “who was as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as ebony wood,” has a chance at being complete once she meets the prince. But how do you explain this strange story about a very pretty but awful little girl who, using her privilege, tramples a loaf of bread that “draws her as an amber bead on a slender thread” into a hellish brewery where she meets a Marsh Woman who makes “the meadows reek in the summer?”
I guess it’s sometimes easy to say that we can consider fairytales these wonderful stories of wholeness. There are times when I do feel whole. But right now, I feel quite the opposite. We must not accept that something will change as if we are Snow White, waiting in her tower for eternity. All this waiting, waiting to be whole, waiting for the prince; the waiting is wrong. If you took a bite from the poisoned red apple, figure out a way to come out of it.
Do not tread on the loaf. If you only hear your voice echoing in the antechamber with Little Inger, both of you looking up, stop waiting. Sitting idle down there, brewing, is not the right thing to do. Little Inger should have gotten filthy, to the point of being unrecognizable, crossing that marsh to her mother, carrying the loaf as if it were her own child. Instead of feeling bad for herself, instead of perking up at the mention of sympathy, then feeling angry: “They ought to have brought me up better,” Inger thought. “They should have beaten the nonsense out of me, if I had any;” Inger should have fought for her own awakening. Reading is not just reading, and Little Inger does not just exist on the page. Reading is a form of listening, and listening becomes awareness.
Curious Nature: Leave the dandelions be
With spring here, let us take a moment to learn about a plant you might not give a second glance. As humans, we may see the bright yellow flowers of the dandelion and consider them a noxious weed. Growing where many can’t, they find cracks in the sidewalk proving notoriously hard to get rid of. While we may try our hardest to eliminate the garden pest, many animals and insects rely on them to survive.
When the days turn longer and the snow starts to melt, dandelions are the first to flower. Capable of growing over a foot tall and having large jagged leaves they become a food source for many insects that are waking up from their winter slumber.
Insects such as bees, dragonflies and flies rely on the flowers as an initial food to survive until other plants bloom. Dandelions have one of the longest flowering periods of any plant, feeding many organisms during their life span. Mammals and birds are also seen grazing upon these plants. In the Rocky Mountains, many deer and elk graze upon these plants and if you took a trip to Yellowstone National Park, you may witness a grizzly bear gorging on their flowers.
Dandelions are widespread because of their seed dispersal mechanism. Each flower can produce 150-200 seeds. Once done blooming they create the iconic white puffball that is filled with seeds. Each seed is attached to a fluffy “parachute” that uses wind to move great distances. The seed can travel hundreds of miles away and as a result of this highly effective dispersal mechanism. Dandelions are able to colonize vast stretches of land.
Once the seed lands, it starts growing a long root called a taproot. This root can reach depths of up to 3 feet, allowing it to gather nutrients and water other plants are unable to reach. Once the taproot is established, it can be very hard to remove a dandelion because the plant can regrow even if the flowers and leaves are removed.
Dandelions commonly germinate in areas where the ground has been disturbed. Areas such as your lawn or garden are perfect habitats. They may not be your intended plant of choice, but dandelions can have positive impacts on the ecology of the environment. Their roots help to aerate the soil allowing other plants to grow.
While not native to North America, dandelions were brought overseas by early settlers and can now be found in all 50 states. They originated in Europe and Asia and have been documented being used medicinally.
Historically, tea brewed from the leaves were used to calm an aching stomach, prevent liver disease and reduce fever. In addition to acting as medicine, dandelions have also been used as a food source. The entire plant is edible, from the taproot to the flower.
If you are looking at expanding your palate, try a dandelion salad. If looking to harvest dandelions, look for young plants, which are generally less bitter than older plants.
Harvesting anything from nature should only happen if you are 100% confident in the identification of the plant and know the plant has not been exposed to pesticides. Even if you don’t plan on throwing them in your salad, when spring arrives and the dandelions start blooming, consider leaving them alone. You never know who might be relying on them.
Karen Woodworth is a Nnaturalist at Walking Mountains who enjoys prancing around the dandelion fields.
Ivie: Ask a question, save a life
Almost daily I get asked: “Has the suicide rate changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?” In the early weeks there was no research or data to show that the suicide rate would increase or decrease because of the circumstances related to the pandemic itself.
However, a couple of weeks ago the Well Being Trust released an article stating we could lose 75,000 people to deaths of despair as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As I read this article I could not help but think that there has to be more to this. You see the article released was only a small portion of the actual research and report. I decided to dig a little deeper and what I found set me on a path to this column.
In Eagle County we have had more deaths of despair — someone dying by suicide or substance abuse — than we have of the COVID-19 virus in the last five weeks. That may sound shocking, but I am here to tell you that if we don’t start taking action to decrease the deaths of despair, as we did to flatten the curve, we will continue to lose valued community members. I find it important to note here that suicide is complicated and there is never “one thing” that leads someone to suicide. There are usually multiple circumstances that contribute to their death. So what do we do?
As we move to the second phase on the county’s Transition Trail Map, find ways to connect with one another in person while following the recommended guidelines. Human connection is vital to our existence. Continue to connect virtually with those who choose to stay at home and still need connection.
Make sure you know how to look out for your loved ones. Just like we have learned to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 and refer friends to medical care, we need to learn the signs of suicide. We need to learn how to ask, “are you thinking of suicide?” and refer someone to support. SpeakUp ReachOut offers multiple free, online courses. It takes about one hour to learn the steps to save a life.
Quite simply, pay attention to your family, friends, and coworkers. This pandemic has brought a host of new challenges to us all. We are trying to navigate a new way and we will need each other’s support to be successful. We need to give ourselves and each other some grace. We all have different circumstances in our lives that drive our decisions as we move forward. Don’t judge and don’t assume. Let people know you care and continue to check in with them.
Having grown up in Eagle County, I have seen firsthand what this community can do when we rally together to support a loved one or a cause. Don’t let this be any different. Help us reduce the deaths of despair. Ask a question and save a life.
Experiencing a crisis? Please call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.
Sky blue eyes twinkling with mischief and love, a massive smile bookended by cavernous dimples, peals of maniacal laughter echoing through my aural canal, these are the gifts that Michael left behind when he spun off this mortal coil. He grew physically over the lifetime that I knew him, but these essential characteristics remained unchanged.
When I regarded Michael as a man, I could still easily identify the boy that he had once been. The light of youth always kissed him and, given his premature demise, will shine forever in my heart.
Born 14 months before me, and with our fathers as long-time ski jumping pals, Michael was a consistent presence throughout my life. From the lunacy of our boyhood, to the quests of our teen years, to a stint living together as ski bums in college, through to our quasi-adulthood and my own parenthood, Michael’s love and friendship were ever abiding.
The marks that Michael left upon me were not only figurative. Potential energy did not remain stored within him; he was a purely kinetic being. Never a wallflower, I was nonetheless the more reserved of the duo, magnetically pulled into innumerable shenanigans, with the scars to prove it. Michael always inspired me to be a more outsized, more mythical version of the self I had envisioned.
Not content to play tag like normal kids, we used to launch fireworks at each other as we ripped through the woods that were our natural habitat. Whether on skis or on bikes or over water, Michael never hesitated to hit a jump, drop a cliff, launch himself off anything, and I was there, an inch behind, scared out of my wits but still airborne or plummeting to an unforgiving ground. His athletic prowess far exceeded mine, as did his disregard for personal safety. A ride in his WRX as it wound through mountain passes was a cardiac adventure.
Michael’s death is a shock, but perhaps not a surprise. He was always living on borrowed time. I was but an adolescent when I first feared that I had lost him. A champion BMX racer, he had an intense accident that put my entire family in vigil. Since that time, his predisposition to push down the throttle was exacerbated. For most people, this would be a concern, but the clarity of his zest for life was a fundamental attribute of his existence and a joy to behold.
In recent years, Michael had rounded out the sheer force of his personality with an attention to the mysteries and promises of the spiritual world. Not a man prone to mellowing, he dove with all his considerable might into readings and practices that allowed him to see bigger pictures and his place within them. He was a seeker, not only of adrenaline, but of beauty and wisdom. I had not seen him in the flesh in about a year, to my now eternal dismay, but he frequently checked in from some scenic alpine vista or azure sea, usually with a stunning woman in close proximity.
Michael would be an excellent fictional character, save for the potential criticism that his antics and mannerisms seem too unreal. While I recognize the sanctity and uniqueness of each person on Earth, it is no exaggeration to say that Michael was the most singular person that I could ever hope to know. The void that his passing leaves in my life will never be filled.
I mourn and honor Michael as I lived with him: by pushing deep into the backcountry, by appreciating the obvious and the subtle in this gorgeous world, by connecting deeply with friends and strangers alike. He will forever be a part of me, that internal voice motivating me to go a little faster, to hug a little tighter, to dream a little bigger.
Ask a Broker: With the Vail Valley opening back up, will it help my listing?
Question: My home was just listed on the market. As the Vail Valley begins to open and enter a new phase in its COVID-19 recovery, what does this mean for me and the potential buyer?
Answer: This week Eagle County moved into the “blue” phase of the Transition Trail Map updating the county’s recent public health order regarding COVID-19.
The biggest impact to real estate is that, with this new phase, non-Eagle County residents are now permitted to see properties with their broker. Everyone must still work within the stipulations in the public health order, and potential buyers will be asked by their broker to wear a face covering and maintain social distancing while looking at real estate. Homes listed for sale have sanitizing guidelines as well.
Every brokerage firm is slightly different, and Slifer Smith & Frampton has guidelines they ask their buying and selling clients to follow, from disinfecting homes between showings to not having buyers use the bathrooms. As brokers, we have been briefed on how to keep everyone safe and healthy, so don’t hesitate to ask your broker any specific questions and they will happily guide you.
While open houses are not currently permitted, the real estate industry has developed some savvy ways for buyers to shop online from anywhere in the world. For instance, matterport photography gives you a realistic feel for walking through a home and can give you measurements of walls to better understand the spaces. We are also seeing Facebook Live open houses that allow homes to be promoted on a platform where buyers can ask real-time questions and get a better feel of a home and its features.
The great news is that sales are happening. People are listing and contracts are being signed. Summer is an amazing time to be in the mountains and like usual, we are seeing requests for rentals where people are looking to spend a week or the entire summer in the Vail Valley. Larger events that have historically occurred in the summer have been canceled but open space and clean mountain air are always wide open.
Cara Connolly is a local luxury real estate and rental expert associate broker at Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Connect with Cara on any and everything Vail Valley via calling 970-401-4071, email email@example.com or find more information at www.beavercreekhomes.com.