Lately I have been reminded of the best-selling novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, whose title I give a nod to here, where two lovers are distanced much of their lives, but social distancing isn’t the only similarity between Love in the Time of Cholera and what we are all living through right now. With an outbreak of any disease, there’s always panic and fear. Right now we’re scared, worried about the future, worried about loved ones, and trying to adjust to massive amounts of uncertainty.
You have probably asked yourself the following questions over the past week or so: Should I go to the grocery store? Should I visit my parents? Should I let my bangs grow out? Should I just let my hair go gray? Should I take all of those clothes off the exercise bike and start using it? Should I watch a documentary on Netflix? Should I bake cookies? Should I have another bowl of ice cream? Of course these questions range from serious to silly, but I think that is how our minds fluctuate during a crisis. We go from completely stressed-out and worried to how can I make the best of this? We’re both anxious and bored. Many of my friends are home 24/7 now with their kids; they oscillate between trying to keep them occupied and trying to get work done from home. It’s a very stressful time!
How are we getting through each day? Well, some of us are sharing funny memes on social media. Some of us are meditating and exercising. Others are binge watching shows and drinking. I’m not advocating any one of these methods; we’re just all doing what we can right now. I’m hoping that everyone is safe and feeling OK and, when possible, feeling productive. I’ve held a few virtual organizing sessions and workshops through Zoom and FaceTime; they’ve worked, and my clients have been productive during this uncertain time, so that made me happy. But I get it that sometimes we just need to binge watch Seinfeld or laugh as Wanda Sykes talks about Esther. Trust me, and Google “Wanda Sykes Esther.” You’ll thank me later. It’s hysterical.
Our lives have changed drastically after learning of the COVID-19 virus that has spread, and continues to spread as I type these words. We’ve learned new phrases like “social distancing” and “personal protective equipment” or just “PPE” as they are now saying on the news. We are briefed daily by the president and folks like Drs. Birx and Fauci. We cannot have a conversation with anyone now without talking about data and the numbers of virus cases around the world. We’re washing our hands more than ever before. We avoid walking within six feet of other people when we are outside or at the pharmacy or supermarket. We’ve been given guidance and orders from governors and mayors about staying home and avoiding crowds. We’ve watched as people hoard toilet paper, wondering where folks’ minds go during all of this.
On a positive note, however, I’ve noticed actions by individuals that have made me smile. People in Italy sing on their balconies, famous chefs offer virtual cooking classes, friends host networking happy hours through Zoom or FaceTime, famous songwriters sing and play piano online for fans, and supermarkets designate set hours in the mornings so that folks over 60 years old can shop with less risk of catching the virus from an asymptomatic younger person. I’ve also sensed an overall greater feeling of support and helpfulness from many people, despite our physical separation. Neighbors are calling to check on other neighbors, friends and family are asking if help is needed during this time, and people are realizing that what we thought was important just four weeks ago is now not so much so. We’ve gained perspective. We’ve softened and slowed down. We are grateful for what we do have.
Wouldn’t it be nice if, after this is all over, whenever that is, the kindnesses that we’ve seen, heard, and felt continued? What if every night we heard singing from balconies? What if we checked in on our loved ones more? What if we continued to be grateful even after this is all over? And what if we appreciated those whose jobs really mattered right now like all of the amazing hospital workers who are working 20+ hours daily without breaks to save the fragile among us? Or the minimum-wage workers who are frantically stocking grocery store shelves so that we can feed our families and have what we need to survive? These workers are not with their own families right now. And there are so many more who are doing their best to get us through this sad and stressful time. My heart breaks as I watch news clips of tired, defeated doctors in Italy as thousands die daily in their care.
To anyone reading this right now, I hope that you are well and that you are making the most of this time at home with your family or with your pet or with a roommate, or whatever your situation. And if you are one of the workers whose job is vital right now, I hope you are able to stay strong; moreover, I hope that you know how very much appreciated you are. You are in our thoughts. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now. I just hope that at some point you will be able to take a restorative breath, hug your loved ones, and fully process the value that you bring to the world.