It’s hard to know what to write in a time like this, a time when most of us have thoughts of COVID-19 on the brain and little else, when we’re overwhelmed with how we’re going to socially distance ourselves, work our jobs, pay our rent or mortgage (let alone our utilities), what we’re going to do with all this time on our hands stuck in close quarters with our housemates, and if that tickle in our throats is the warning sign for something more serious.
Or we’re just disgusted by the hysteria of it all and wondering when the silliness will be over so we can get back to normal life.
I’ll admit, I was part of the second camp for a while. Having worked in the media, I know how it works. News media want to not only inform the public of what’s going on, they want to make sure they’re the first source people go to for that information. I remember scrambling in the midst of a disaster to publish information as fast as possible, and always feeling behind as more information rolled out. Like when our town was hit by devastating wildfires. We’d have twenty or more articles of information, firsthand accounts, fire maps, photo galleries, more information, even more information….and then more information after that.
So when the pandemic hysteria began, I rolled my eyes and figured all of this would go the way of Ebola (which was serious in Africa, but here, I did not know one single person who contracted the virus), and soon we’d be back to life as usual, coronavirus behind us.
Friends, I don’t see that happening.
I have friends in places like Italy and France who are warning the rest of the world to take this seriously because things are bad. Celebrities who have traveled the world and seen things the rest of us haven’t seen are warning their fans to stay inside and stop taking this as a joke.
Regular folks who have contracted the virus are posting their experience to social media, and the details are frightening — especially with how quickly it spread between friends.
You guys, TOM HANKS AND RITA WILSON got coronavirus.
The CDC is officially calling this a pandemic, and counties that surround mine have mandated shelter in place. According to officials, our orders are imminent by midnight tonight.
My boss has set me up to work from home, starting tomorrow. I don’t take for granted how lucky I am to have this choice, either. People in the food, travel, or entertainment industry are suddenly without work or pay. People in the healthcare industry are working overtime and exposing themselves minute by minute to the virus. Independent contractors are being forced out of work because people have other things to worry about and don’t need their services.
Yesterday I came to work, one of the few in our skeletal staff as the rest of the office worked out of the house. We’d rearranged desks and upped our sanitary disciplines to help ward off any bad germs and bacteria. Our door was locked to the public, and it felt strange to greet people from far away or through glass doors with hypersensitivity — trying not to treat people as infections, but feeling like we are anyway. At the end of the day as I drove home, the road was almost clear of traffic. The parking lots were empty, including the normally packed one at the train station. While I drove, I worried about the days ahead, what all this would mean for humanity beyond the virus, particularly the economic nosedive.
And then I noticed a hawk in the sky, the same hawk I’d seen camped out for weeks on our street, chasing away the crows that keep tormenting it. It swooped up and then dove down, scattering crows with each graceful arc.
I noticed the shape of the clouds on the horizon, the way they pillowed out like cotton against a brilliantly blue sky, and I was reminded how they were pink just this morning as if painted by cherubs with the rosy glow of sunlight.
I saw leaves floating from a nearby tree, scattering in spirals with the passing breeze.
I listened to the song funneling from my iPhone to my radio, one I’d been humming along to without even noticing.
I thought of a friend who was setting up a Facebook Live that evening so we could all visit with each other virtually, and another gathering I had planned with friends would now be conducted over Zoom this weekend.
I noticed my health, even with a lingering cold, and how it could be so much worse, but right now, it’s not.
I saw that despite coronavirus, the world continues to turn. The day turns to night, and then day again. The flowers are starting to bloom, and the grass could use a mow. The mail is faithfully still showing up in my mailbox. The birds continue to sing. My husband still rolls over and faces me with a good morning smile. The books on my shelves still need reading, and the manuscript I’m working on still needs writing — and I’ve been blessed with time to do both. I have toilet paper in my cabinets and food in the fridge. When I flip the light switch, the dark turns to light.
Despite coronavirus, life is still good.
I’m not saying that worries are unfounded. These are hard, scary, and unsettling times. But here’s the thing — worrying about them, especially when so much of it is out of our control, doesn’t make anything better. It won’t stop the virus from spreading, and it won’t stop the economic trickledown of this national shutdown. Unless you are personally involved in making these things better, your worry is using up precious energy you can’t afford to lose right now.
So here’s what I suggest in the interim:
Limit Your Intake of Information
I don’t suggest you stop watching or reading the news, but maybe limit your social media and news consumption to a few times a day, and keeping the TV off. Turn off notifications from your phone so you’re free of the digital leash. Maybe even delete your most stressful apps from your phone so that you’re only using them purposely when you boot up your computer.
Use Peaceful Distractions
Go for a walk if you feel safe to do so. Do yoga in your living room. Read a book. Meditate. Listen to soft music. Light some candles. Take a bath. Escape the stress a few times a day with peaceful distractions to help give you rest.
Plan A Virtual Meetup With Friends
Since you can’t hang out in each other’s living rooms or go out for a night on a town, plan virtual visits through video apps like Zoom. Or you can create a Facebook group and keep in touch that way. Or you can, I don’t know, call each other on the phone and have a nice one-on-one conversation. There’s no reason to be alone during this, and we need our friends more than ever.
Be Kind to Everyone, But Also Be Sensitive to Other People’s Stress
Today I had to call a health official to verify employment of an applicant, and I got my ass handed to me through the phone because we’re in a crisis, and this is not important. And all I could do was apologize and try not to take it personally because I can’t even imagine what her workload is like, and she’s right (even though I still have a job to do). We’re all in new territory here, and this is stressful for everyone. Take a deep breath, and offer grace above anything else.
I know it’s not easy, especially with the influx of information and updates coming at us from all sides, and the unavoidable worries about how this virus will affect us, plus the uncertainty of it all as we navigate these foreign waters. But try to recognize all the good things around you, because they’re still there.
Here’s hoping you and your loved ones stay healthy, both physically and mentally. We’re all in this together.