Not Gonna Freak Out

It was only a matter of time. I woke up with a stuffy nose. I have been sneezing all morning and using mountains of Kleenex. My poor reddened schnoz looks like it belongs on the face of Jimmy Durante.

I keep reminding myself, “Don’t freak out, don’t freak out, it’s just a sniffle [ACHOO!], I’m gonna be fine. I’m gonna be [ACHOO!] dandy.”

I mean, come on, it’s just runny nasal passages, which is harmless, right? I’ve had hundreds of sniffles in my lifetime. No, millions. In fact I pretty much spent ages 1 through 25 with a drippy nose and a full diaper. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that for eight months I’ve been reading internet news and watching network headlines about COVID, that’s the big deal. On many of these news channels they display odometer-style counters on the screen which represent death tolls. And you don’t forget things like mortality rates when you get a sniffle, believe me.

The irony here is that I’ve never been remotely concerned about catching a cold before. After all, the common cold only lasts two weeks, although thanks to modern medications the duration has been cut down to 14 days. This nose issue could be mere allergies for all I know.

But it’s not allergies or common colds that concern me. What I’m worried about is, what if this sniffle isn’t a cold? What if it’s…?

I cannot bear to think about it.


“Be reasonable,” I’m saying to myself while wiping sneeze spray from my keyboard. After all, people in my family have survived COVID. Several of my friends have recovered from it. I even interviewed an 80-year-old lady who survived it.

So I’m trying to relax. But this is a pandemic, you don’t sneeze until your eyeballs dislodge then simply shrug it off.

There is a lot of fear swimming around in the universe right now. LOTS of fear. It makes me wonder how our great-great-grandparents survived this kind of bone-snapping fear, because heaven knows they certainly had it much worse than we do. And yet somehow they managed to keep on living. They kept having families and kept making memories. I’ve never admired my ancestors more than I do during this horrible year.

My grandparents were born just before the Spanish flu epidemic. They lost family members to infectious diseases like consumption, polio, and malaria. Not to mention wars that were so bad they had to start numbering them. When I think of all they endured, it seems pathetic to be worried about snotty sinuses.



Take the scarlet fever outbreaks of the 1800s. Scarlatina was not only horrific, it was a Victorian-era death sentence. There were no vaccines, no treatments, nobody knew what the heck it was. And even though the subject of scarlet fever is rarely discussed today except within “Little House on the Prairie” reruns, it caused devastating epidemics.

Here’s something you might not know. When Abraham Lincoln stood to deliver his Gettysburg Address he was sick as a dog. At the time he believed he was suffering from scarlet fever he’d caught from his son. But his doc soon discovered that it was much worse than the fever.

Lincoln’s doctor found menacing red lesions covering his body. It was smallpox. And during the next few days Lincoln’s condition became dire. The disease was spreading all over Washington. Lincoln wrote in his memoirs, “the White House has suddenly been turned into a smallpox hospital…”

And how about yellow fever? You want to talk scary? Let’s talk Philadelphia, 1793, nearly 50,000 died within four months in what would become one of the worst outbreaks in American history.

There were 25 major yellow fever outbreaks in the Americas during the 18th and 19th centuries. And during the New Orleans yellow fever endemic, 40,000 residents got so terrified they hopped trains and evacuated forever.

Even though today’s modern American school kid could go an entire academic career without hearing the words “yellow fever,” consider this: each year, yellow fever still infects about 200,000 people.

But nothing matches the Spanish flu of 1918, which infected one third of the globe’s population. My grandfather would have been a grade-schooler when influenza hit. The number of deaths was estimated to be 50 million worldwide. There were over 675,000 fatalities in the U.S. alone.

A few months ago I received a letter from an elderly woman in Chicago whose mother survived the Spanish flu epidemic. She wrote that her mother lost dozens of family members, and most people in her apartment building died. It got so bad that people were tying white scarves to their doors to alert the rest of the community. If the scarves remained on doorknobs long enough, the undertaker paid a visit.

How, I ask. How did they endure this anxiety?

What I’m getting at here is that this world has had misery before, and we will certainly have it again. Ours is not the first society to know the hell of uncertainty. So even though this has been the longest eight months I’ve ever known, I’m going to make a vow with myself, stuffy nose notwithstanding.

I hereby refuse to let fear of the future kill me before old age does. I refuse to become a pessimist. And even if the worst were to happen to me; even if my body should fail; even if the unthinkable were to befall me; I will do my best to be brave, and I will remember the words of Lincoln who once said:

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”



  1. Sherry - December 6, 2020 7:19 am


  2. Lisa - December 6, 2020 9:06 am

    This is the best thing I’ve read in 8 months (besides the Bible, of course)! “I hereby refuse to let fear of the future kill me before old age does.”

  3. susiemac - December 6, 2020 10:20 am

    Get better. We need you!

  4. Tim the Tarheel - December 6, 2020 10:56 am

    Isn’t it interesting how history puts current events in a better perspective?

  5. Te Burt - December 6, 2020 11:32 am

    There are herbal remedies that will prevent a cold. Been using them for 25-30 yrs. It requires recognizing when your body feels “off” or you feel puny — you just don’t feel like your cheerfully obnoxious self. I take 6 capsule (based on my body weight of 150 lbs.) Of echinacia and goldenseal as soon as I even think something is trying to jump on me. Then 2 more every 2 hrs. I take zinc, vit c & d3, and take a scalding hot shower. Saline spray up the snooze. I usually never come down with anything. In fact, I’m famous for never being sick! Herbals do 3 things, and these 2 are “blood cleansers.” Clear out bacteria, virus and fungi. Do your own research. Don’t take my word for it.

  6. lovemonteelou - December 6, 2020 11:36 am

    Thank you

  7. Debbie Corder - December 6, 2020 11:55 am

    Get yourself tested…. We are 76 and 69 years old and survived. Every case is different and we agree, we refuse to live in fear. “This too shall pass”. God bless you.

  8. Alice - December 6, 2020 12:08 pm

    Get well Sean sending you prayers for speedy recovery Gid bless you ❤️❤️🙏🙏

  9. Don McFarland - December 6, 2020 12:17 pm

    Dear Sean,
    Thank you, sincerely, for so clearly stating my own thoughts about the COVID-19 pandemic. Our youngest son and his wife, but, thank God, not their two children, are making agonizingly slow progress recovering from the virus. My wife and I stopped to see them briefly on Nov. 29 (as they chose not to be with family on Thanksgiving) and that night called to say they were feeling terrible and both running fever. We are in quarantine until Dec. 12 and praying for their recovery (which is occurring) and our health and safety from this virus. Every sneeze, cough, headache or arthritic pain has been a nagging fear that something worse was just around the corner. We are not sick, and I refuse to live in fear. I’m weary of the constant stream of numbers of positive tests, terrible deaths, and promises that all will be better shortly after the inauguration of another president.

    The truth, I believe, is in the historical perspective that you presented today – we have had diseases before and vaccine or not, will likely have them again. I have faith that God has a plan, an element of which is that we should be sensible about our hygiene and sensitive about our relationships; faithful in our duties to God and careful to understand that His plan is not on the 6 o’clock news. It’s on the lips of those who pray!

    Thank you again!

  10. Brenda - December 6, 2020 12:36 pm

    Healing prayers coming your way that you only have the common cold and will recover from it soon. 🤗

  11. lanierh2 - December 6, 2020 12:45 pm

    Amen brother!

  12. Heidi - December 6, 2020 12:49 pm

    Two of our four adult children got it and recovered quickly. Our son has asthma & we were pretty worried but with his inhaler & nebulizer he kicked it to the curb!Vitamin C, D, Zinc & Elderberry help. I know Jamie is taking great care of you & Thelma Lou and Otis by your side. Rest up friend & know our prayers are up for you!❤️

  13. Chip - December 6, 2020 12:52 pm

    You are receiving lots of information so I’ll add my dos centavos – zinc has been proven to inhibit reproduction of virus cells…I had the dreaded Covid but I took lots of zinc … 3x the recommended dosage for 5 days and fared very well – Cold-Eze is the ticket my friend and Jeremiah 29:11…

  14. Lucretia Jones - December 6, 2020 12:56 pm

    Thank you, Sean, thank you! Love you forever….

  15. Beryl - December 6, 2020 1:04 pm

    To quote Mike Dooley, Notes From The Universe, “Thoughts become things, choose the good ones.” You’ve got this, Sean.

  16. Bob Brenner - December 6, 2020 1:06 pm

    Written today on which my father was born in 1899, today if he were alive he’d be 120 years old . He survived a lot of scary things, hang in there Sean! You’ll be fine (achoo)! ❤️🤧

  17. Eliz - December 6, 2020 1:16 pm

    Thank you! Get Jaime to make you some chicken soup, some hot toddys and get well soon. We need you!

  18. Susan - December 6, 2020 1:23 pm

    Sorry to hear you’re sick, feel better soon!!

  19. E. Ann Padgett - December 6, 2020 1:27 pm

    Thanks, Sean! We needed these reminders too. Here’s hoping your sneezing was only allergies and not a cold or worse! Stay Safe and as healthy as possible in 2020.

  20. Cyn - December 6, 2020 1:40 pm

    Great reminder. Thanks. 👍🏻🙏🏻

  21. Phil (Brown Marlin) - December 6, 2020 1:41 pm

    Great one, Sean. I had a mild sore throat a few weeks ago, and like you, I thought, “I,m a goner!” As usual, it was due to post-nasal drip and went away in a couple of days. What the snot is “post-nasal drip” anyway? Is that something caused by blowing your nose on a Washington newspaper? Anyway, your lesson is well taken. Mankind has survived much worse. Hope and faith triumph over fear. What did Gabriel tell Mary, and what did the angel say to the shepherds that holy night? “FEAR NOT!”

  22. Lana Kaiser - December 6, 2020 1:47 pm

    Love this! Just found you, where have I been? I’m telling everyone about you and they already know. The other day my daughter pointed at the tv and said “Mom that’s the guy.”

  23. Jo Ann - December 6, 2020 2:00 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for another jolt & common sense reminder that we’ve been through bouts of illness before this year & come through it. Of course, during the past, we didn’t have rogue governors who shut down the economy & divided the country. We’ll come out on the other side aware of what can happen other than getting sick. The media is controlling us with scary numbers every day. We cannot live in fear. I hope you have “just” a cold & try not to drive Jamie crazy. Cuddle with your dogs & please get better soon. You are loved.

  24. Mim E. - December 6, 2020 2:08 pm

    I hope you’ll be fine, Sean.

    FYI, Lincoln was not symptomatic while he was giving his Gettysburg Address. He became ill soon after, as this article, among many others, shows:

  25. Leigh Amiot - December 6, 2020 2:15 pm

    Sean, do you have a live Christmas tree? That might be the culprit. I figured that out when my son was about 4 and noticed he had allergy symptoms each Christmas season. When it dawned on me, I put the live tree outside, left the lights on, then bought an artificial tree to go inside—no more Christmas time allergy symptoms.

  26. Connie - December 6, 2020 2:24 pm

    Thank you. Fear seems to have taken the place of common sense these days. Hope you feel better soon.

  27. Rich Owen - December 6, 2020 2:38 pm

    Today’s schoolkids can also go an entire academic career without reciting America’s Pledge of Allegiance in school. With all the brainwashing and indoctrination going on in public schools, it is no wonder that fear mongering of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by the mainstream media has people thinking that if they catch the virus they better make sure their will is updated. Take a look at statistics. Less than 1% of the world’s 7.8 BILLION people have been confirmed with the virus. AND, if you add the number of recovered cases with the number of deaths, you will see there is a more than 96% survival rate. My wife and I came off a 14-day cruise last December and believe we had been infected. BUT that was before the words “COVID-19” were even thought of. We ended up with coughs (mine worse than her) and we were both 72 years old and I have been living with congestive heart failure for the past two DECADES! Many people end up without any symptoms as in the case of Donald Trump Jr. Being part of the White House contingent, those people are constantly tested. and DT Jr. had NO SYMPTOMS! How does one survive this constant fear? First turn off the news. They only tell you what will keep you upset and afraid. Do your own research to get, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story.

  28. billllly - December 6, 2020 2:45 pm

    I was a U.S. History teacher for forty or so years. My immediate thought reading this is what a great opening it would have made for a lesson on the history of epidemics and infectious diseases in U.S. History. It almost makes me wish I was back in the classroom… almost… Well not literally, maybe.

  29. Randy - December 6, 2020 2:58 pm

    Hope you feel better soon! My maternal grandfather died in the Spanish flu epidemic and left my grandmother and their 4 kids and expecting another one. Kind of puts things in perspective in this modern age of medicine that is available.

  30. Jenny Young - December 6, 2020 3:07 pm

    This is so true….we are not surviving hell. This is nothing compared to pandemics of the past. In 1918 families had to care for the very sick. There was no welfare. Most couldn’t afford hospitals. There were no places to wash your hands. You had to carry & boil water to sanitize…no sanitizers. When people isolated they were literally isolated. They couldn’t call grandma on the phone or zoom their best friend or vent on social media.

    I guess I am a little tired of hearing how bad it is when this is nothing. We are all such wimps.
    Thanks for giving us a reminder & encouraging all of us wimps to stay positive.

  31. Marilyn - December 6, 2020 3:20 pm

    I agree with you Sean, we must think positive and not let the published numbers or “news” influence us to the degree that we are incapable of normal reactions. In jest I have said that I have had Covid -19 at least 6 times, when so far I have not had it at all. But every little ache or cough pushes my alert button. And I agree with your quote “I hereby refuse to let fear of the future kill me before old age does.” But then, I’m what many are calling old, so what have I got to lose? lol

  32. Connie G Thomas - December 6, 2020 3:46 pm


  33. Chasity davis Ritter - December 6, 2020 4:22 pm

    In sure I’ve mentioned in my comments before that I work for wmrt so therefore I’ve been essential this whole year as we sell almost everything groceries, pharmacy and sometimes even toilet paper. As we have had a couple of TP runs this year people are always asking what’s up with toilet paper why is it so important that they horde it? Your post explains exactly why…. because every time people hear someone cough or sneeze they crap their pants!!! Seriously though I think it’s partially true. We went from saying God Bless you when someone sneezes to How dare you??? God bless you always. Praying it’s just the sniffle allergies!!

  34. Norma - December 6, 2020 5:44 pm

    Sean this is Norma of the North, retired RNC of 45 years. Gargle twice a day, 30 seconds at a time(not comfortable to do I know) with Listerine. It will kill 99% of germs it comes in contact with… all germs be they Covid, flu, common cold, or Strep the cause of scarletina.Thus reducing bacterial and viral load giving your immune system a better chance of fighting off whatever it is. Vodka, wine
    , rum nor whiskey work as well although they taste better. Medically proven in clinical trials. God’s truth.

  35. Linda Moon - December 6, 2020 5:49 pm

    I prefer dancing to “Freak Out” instead of becoming freakily anxious. Sometimes it’s hard to do this, like yesterday as I talked to someone in my family who survived COVID. He’s almost 80. If the worse happens to others, it seems worse than if it happens to me because I would miss them so. Tomorrow is another day, and believe me, I’ll keep looking forward to your Daily Addresses posted to my inbox. So, don’t die from mere sneezes, Sean. I would miss you so!

  36. Patricia Gibson - December 6, 2020 5:51 pm

    Amen 🙏

  37. Patricia Gibson - December 6, 2020 5:53 pm

    Thank you

  38. Richard Cobb - December 6, 2020 7:07 pm

    Unlike COVID 19, the Spanish flu killed lots of young,healthy people. In fact, I am named for a great uncle who died of it at age eighteen. I am also suffering from allergy/sinus crud that’s a yearly thing with me. Last February I had a bad case of it and was diagnosed as having viral pneumonia. It wasn’t. Guess what it was? My wife and I have a combined age of 150 and we survived. The only long -term effect we have is breathing difficultly. Worked on that this morning with a hike along Hurricane Creek with my lab-hound mix Mr.Lucky. So being young and healthy you really should have no problems if you do get the virus. My step -daughter is your age and was largely a symptomatic. It is heartening to know that my 89 year-old brother survived well. Bottom line: the fear of Covid is more likely to seriously affect you than the virus. Good luck and keep writing!

  39. MAM - December 6, 2020 8:06 pm

    At my age, I try to stay in cahoots with God, so I’m prepared for whatever happens. It could be a car wreck, “the” virus or who knows what else. Take care of yourself, Sean. You’re young and strong. You bicycled the Appalachian Trail!

  40. shelaine2015Elaine - December 6, 2020 8:39 pm

    There is a reason why the Bible advises us to live one day at a time…Thuringia to look too far ahead lets the fear in. Thank you for refusing to surrender.

  41. Dee Thompson - December 6, 2020 9:46 pm

    I had covid in July. Coughed a lot, felt really tired, but that was it. One week of misery, no hospitalization. No fever. No loss of taste or smell. My 86 year old mom caught it and died. I didn’t die, even though I am fat. // The news media is doing a great job of scaring everyone. Makes me furious…

  42. Lynda Gayle Knight - December 6, 2020 10:31 pm

    Sean, I tested positive for COVID-19 just nine days ago. I’m blessed with a mild case at age 79. I HAVE NEVER SNEEZED ONE TIME! When you first become sick, the symptoms are far worse than any allergies or colds! You’ll know the difference ❣️

  43. meg widmer - December 6, 2020 11:58 pm

    My mother was bortn in1899 and I remember the stories she told of the way suffered from any number of devastating, life-threatening diseases back then and into the early 20th century. I agree with what you have said.we will get through this as a people, though some of us may be lost. That is the way of life……and death. I appreciated your story and the way you expressed how you felt about the present time. I am with you all the way. Take care.

  44. elizabethroosje - December 7, 2020 1:00 am

    Awww, take good care and feel better REAL soon. Yes, our world has been through a lot and I think things have been, dare I say, worse than what it is for many of us now (I get now all of us 🙁 ) God bless you. And Jamie! and all those you love! Including Mother Mary!

  45. Nancy Swider - December 7, 2020 4:11 am

    My mother-in-law’s mother died of the Spanish flu in 1917 when she was four. She remembers they cut off her mother’s braid and nailed it to the wall in the room where her mother lay on a table. She later saw her mother being carried off on a buckboard down their dusty driveway in rural Kansas. Soon her father, overwhelmed, and incapable of caring for four small children, farmed them out to anyone who would take them. Her story always puts today’s woes in perspective…my family’s healthy, happy, and intact, and if we have to wear a mask to protect ourselves and others during this horrible year, so be it. Meanwhile, you lay in a supply of tissues, put up your feet, have a cup of tea, pet your dog, and smile at your wife…this too shall pass.

  46. Sandi. - December 7, 2020 7:55 am

    Sean, by the time you might possibly read this, I pray you are feeling 100% improved. It should be against the law to get sick during the same month as Christmas!

  47. Ann - December 7, 2020 1:12 pm

    A sad but excellent history lesson that we are not unique in this pandemic…our communication keeps the fear alive and in our face each day and it’s up to us to do all we can to survive and help those around us to keep a healthy body and mind and continue to think survive and hope as those before us have done.
    God bless you ( achoo)…and feel better soon

  48. Patsy A. Boshears - December 7, 2020 1:36 pm

    However unintentional, you have inadvertently joined the ranks of the nay-sayers who are then criticized for sustaining at least a minimal degree of hope and optimism! I find it strange that biblically we are admonished to thrive in the Hope that is in Him, and yet hide in the fear of this disease. Yes, I have experienced it, and yes, I have a sister who succumbed to it. Even so, I refuse to live in fear, fully recognizing that surviving a pandemic does not necessarily equate to living!

  49. Jeanie - December 7, 2020 2:22 pm

    Astounding . How you can come up with a column every day. And a column worth reading. You’re a wonder.

  50. Christina - December 7, 2020 4:00 pm

    Yes one day at a time. Rest up and get well soon!

  51. Beverly Wynn Bua - December 8, 2020 1:38 am

    Sean .. you had a chance to save lives., just by suggesting that , while you only have an annoying cold, COVID 19’is a real & much more debilitating illness, so please wear masks as suggested by scientific evidence.
    Hope you’re feeling better soon. So many people love & take heed at the advice you give through your stories…. you actually have a power to help…. use it well..

  52. Mary C - December 8, 2020 2:25 am

    Feel better soon. Leave the fear behind. I know someone who gets upset when rain hits the forecast. If wind is included she is convinced a tornado is going to hit her house. What a waste of time! Not worth it. God tells us not to fear. That covers everything.

  53. Cynthia Russell - December 8, 2020 4:08 am

    IT’S ALLERGIES!! 1tsp. of honey a day from a local bee keeper..

  54. creativedolan - December 10, 2020 9:22 pm

    Ever since this pandemic started, I haven’t let it control my life too much. I wear my mask, wash my hands and just pray that my family and I get through this unscathed. My GG grandparents on my dad’s side lived in Philadelphia during the 1908 Typhoid fever pandemic and the 1918 spanish flu. They survived it. Whereas, My GG Grandparents on my mom’s side both died in the 1906 Typhoid fever pandemic in Philadelphia, leaving my G Grandfather an orphan to a system that treated Irish immigrants horribly. If you were an orphan, and you were fresh off the ship from Ireland, you were guaranteed to be given to a family and then put to work until you were 18. These are the stories that were passed down to me growing up. One side got through the pandemics, where the other side suffered horribly. I choose in my own life to hope for the best, and I remember daily that my ancestors had it 1,000x worse than we have it today.


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