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Satellite Image ©2021 Maxar Technologies via AP / In this satellite image provided by Maxar Technologies, an air tanker, bottom right, flights near active fire lines of the Caldor Fire, burning east of Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.

These days, everyone I talk to sounds anxious and miserable. My first reaction is sympathy and empathy, the way my mother taught me. My second reaction is relief, since misery loves company. And when I feel a bit of guilt for that, I say to myself, "How can we not be?" Every time I turn on the news, there's another calamity. It feels as if our world is imploding, and none of us will escape unscathed.

First there's a sense of world disintegration with the mess in Afghanistan. Seeing thousands of people trying to cram into the airport to leave: scary. Watching people clinging to planes to get out: horrifying. Hearing the fears of women for the future: words escape me.

And how about our ailing planet and the recent UN Intergovernmental Panel's report that climate change is intensifying and accelerating? This former island girl broke out into a sweat over the first rainfall ever at Greenland's ice sheet, shedding water and raising sea levels. According to the report, these changes to our oceans are already "irreversible for centuries to millennia."

Our mood doesn't improve watching the mammoth destruction of Haiti's earthquake and hearing reports of almost 2,000 deaths. There's a growing nervousness about our physical world. If you follow the wild fires in California that make the state look like a smoky Hell, you know what I mean. That's especially true when you saw the smoke drift into Tennessee and hover over Signal Mountain.

We sometimes get relief by turning off the news, but the anxiety is embedded deep within, especially over COVID and its delta variant. Maybe that's why people are driving like nerve-wracked nut jobs. They speed, swerve and cut you off; impatience, annoyance and anger are the new normal for some drivers. And forget the yield signs. Some people just don't see the signs. Their minds are elsewhere.

I think of myself as a calm, rational human being, but I'm fearful like everyone else. It really got to me when our mayor tested positive for COVID. He was vaccinated but concerned about allergy-like symptoms, so he got tested. If you suffer from hay fever like me, you know that this time of year begins "allergy alley." Go outside and you sneeze. Stay outside and you wheeze. So I panicked.

My husband called around for a COVID self-test kit only to find that most places were out of stock.

The test shows that I'm fine. But I still adhere to the "better safe than sorry" philosophy. Apparently, Abbott Laboratories, which manufactures rapid self-tests, doesn't have the same philosophy. Abbott figured it's better to save a buck than plan for a surge. They threw out their stock, ceased manufacturing and laid off workers. I pray for a dose of reality at Abbott, and all organizations hesitating over COVID.

Maybe the Hamilton County' Health Department heard my plea, because the next day it announced free self-testing. The takeaway? Be pro-active and make realistic plans, sooner rather later. Planning is life-saving, whether for COVID, Afghanistan, or the environment. And it's a nerve calmer, too, a big plus in our road-rage world.

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.

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