I’ve been called a maverick. Every psychological test I’ve taken yields results that say people with my personality type thrive with options and yearn for independence. We do best when we have freedom to be creative and innovative. True.

For odd reasons, I’ve adopted the zebra as my power animal. It turns out that even though the zebra very much resembles the horse, all attempts to domesticate the zebra have failed. I relate. According to Gretchen Rubin’s book, “The Four Tendencies,” I have the tendency of Rebel. Correct. Mounting evidence for the truth of my seemingly in-born nature shows in books I buy. Pilar Gerasimo’s “The Healthy Deviant” tops the list. When given suggestions (for just about anything), my first response screams, “I’m not doin’ that.” Count calories? Nah. Schedule which rooms to clean on which days? Never. Follow the suggestions of spiritual courses and books? No, I’ll be an unenlightened sinner.

Falmouth author Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. She can be reached at [email protected] or at www.susanlebelyoung.com.

Sometimes we benefit by wandering off the beaten path. After all, it’s not healthy to match the norm of a couch potato: we don’t grow wiser if we watch as much TV as the “normal” American. But protesting simply to protest can backfire. Health officials say don’t eat so much sugar? We start baking and devouring pans of rich gooey brownies. Then our reactivity hurts us. Increase exercise by no more than 20% each week? We pedal our bike half an hour today, two hours tomorrow. We sometimes harm our own bodies and break our own spirits if we swing in polar opposition to authority.

Yet now, in the midst of COVID-19, if we cling to personal freedom and ignore CDC guidelines, we endanger not only ourselves, but also others, lots and lots of others. This is no time for “I live my life and you live yours.”

This is a time to scrub hands even if we never clean up before cooking or eating. This is a time to stay near home, on close-by paths, even if we’d rather hike with our outdoor club. This is a time to walk at least 6 feet apart without our usual high fives. This is a time to eat fruits and vegetables to bolster our immune system, even if we crave comfort foods. (Who doesn’t? On my last trip for groceries, I noticed the flour, chocolate, wine and beer shelves had emptied). This is a time to connect through Zoom, FaceTime, email, snail mail and phone with those we’d rather hug.

In global pandemics, we must push against our resistances, our “I’m not following anyone else’s rules.”

Our inner rebel might tantrum, “Oh yeah? You can’t make me. You’re not the boss of me.”

Right. Our best selves must lead as boss now. For those of us who grew up in the consciousness-raising 1960s and 1970s, we thrive on messages of self-empowerment, of listening to our strong selves and claiming who we are. We were conscientious objectors. We do it our way.

This is not the ’60s, nor the ’70s. Now is different. Way different. This is a time to surrender ego, to let go of “I, me and mine.” This is a time to tame our rugged individualism, our powerful inner naysayers and zebras. This is a time to do what’s best for our shared solidarity and mutual well-being. This is a time to slow the spread and flatten the curve.

Rather than obeying our well-worn habitual “I’ll do what I want,” today demands a higher obedience. Complying now is about life or death for all of us.

Really. Truly. Please.

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