On the phone while walking the dogs, my mom and I chatted about, what else? The virus. We were remarking on things we’d been seeing, hearing on the news, and from friends. Between poop pickups and her calling her dog, we had one of many of our “solving the world’s problems” chats.
“I wish more people would take this seriously and stay home,” she said. We both lamented the spring breakers in Florida (not to mention Miami’s local authorities) and community members still acting as though life is just normal, continuing on with routines and activities. We considered the words of local government officials. We recounted the measures we are both taking. Those with compromised immune systems as well as people over 60 are most at risk. Both of my parents fall into this category, as well as some other complicating factors for my father.
After we said our goodbyes, I kept thinking about some of the things we’d discussed. Our respective counties have the highest number of cases in Washington outside of Seattle. It’s not as if this is some far away issue that “others” are having to deal with. It’s local. A friend of my husband just passed. No one thinks it can happen to them, until it does. But it got me to thinking about what this quarantine has brought out in us.
All of us.
For one, greed with a capital G. One look at grocery store shelves show just how much people are hoarding. Toilet paper is not going to prevent the spread of a virus, people! There is also not a food shortage. Leave some for the next guy.
I’ve heard it said that “people are 1 missed paycheck away from being homeless.” (Yes, people live paycheck to paycheck. Yes there are financial issues and health care costs, and childcare costs, mental health issues, job losses or other reasons that contribute to a dire situation. Those very real scenarios are not what I’m discussing here. ) What I’m talking about is the continual mindset of living for the now. This is more than just finances. Yes, people should be saving for that rainy day. That’s life – the rain is going to come. Put a little away. But it also goes for basics, like eating. There are so many people that simply do not know how to cook, it’s frightening. I have heard people complain that they are petrified about how to feed their family if the restaurants do not offer take out. WHAT?! No, I’m not saying everyone should be a chef and love cooking, but knowing how shop for, plan and prepare a meal is a literal survival skill. We have to eat.
Our current culture chases and worships busy. It’s a badge of honor to just not have any time because our calendars are filled with busy. Appointments, celebrations, work, extra curricular activities, playdates, get togethers, holidays, school functions, church, Go, go, go until we fall into bed staring into our phones stuck to our palms, distracting us into unconsciousness. This time of social distancing and isolation is bringing up stuff that we’ve spent time and money avoiding: being with ourselves. We either busy it out or numb it up. Drinking, smoking, shopping, gambling, working to excess, spending too much time on social media or in front of screens. Busy and numb to avoid the quiet; to avoid the whatever it is that we cannot stand to sit with.
Try it. Seriously. Try just sitting and praying, meditating or simply being quiet for 5 minutes. It’s harder than it sounds. Thoughts will distract you and you’ll have urge after urge to get up and go do something. Check the phone. Wonder what’s streaming. Look at social media. Wonder what the kids are doing. Hear a noise. Make a list. Anything. Even laundry. Something to avoid just being. We have the hardest time sitting in the uncomfortable and staying there. Taking away the obligation of busy is revealing our inability to just be.
For sure the anxiety is at a high. You can feel it in the tight lipped smiles of others as you walk by, respecting the 6 foot social distance. Our kids are picking up on our tightness. They are cooped up and anxious, as they overhear news reports. (My daughter is currently a stage 5 cling on, barely letting me leave the room. I get it.) Every time you turn the corner in the grocery and see yet another bare shelf it ratchets up the anxiety and anger another notch. Anger is being lashed out on retail employees and others who have zero control of supply. Fear and anxiety are as contagious as the virus itself (if not more so). People are still downplaying the situation citing that “it’s only the flu” or “it’ll pass, the media is making a bigger deal out of this than it should”. Downplaying escalating cases and deaths world wide scream fear. Fear seeks to minimize and downplay any danger because it is a situation over which we have very little control. Fear and anxiety are certainly real.
Yet….through all of this, it’s revealing other things, too.
We are being shown that sometimes less is more. I have seen more people out in their backyards playing with their kids, walking their dogs, going for runs and walks, riding bikes and just being together.
Covid19 is giving us a gift of community. Yes, at a social distance, but community nonetheless. I smiled as I walked the dogs, looking for shamrocks hung in windows of our neighbors’ homes for St. Patrick’s Day. The latest effort has been to “Chalk the Walk” and spread a little joy for others to find as families (separately) take a stroll around the neighborhood.
We are wired for connection and this separation is hard for all of us. If anything, this experience is teaching us that we need one another. Perhaps more than we thought. People are offering to grab things for others at the store and leaving it on their doorstep to avoid contact. People are asking for the proverbial cup of sugar and others are delivering. We need each other, and we are showing up.
A friend of mine posted a request for songs that fit current events. Suggestions in every genre came in. I was inspired to create my own playlist as a “music as therapy” session. I laughed with friends’ suggestions (and my own, honestly) that were dark and inappropriate, but still hilarious. Humor in dark times. We need that. Like Dolly Parton says in Steel Magnolias, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”
We are given this precious gift of time. The days feel long. “I need a snack” and “I’m bored” are being heard in equal measure. My kids are sleeping hard because they are getting more activity. We are making a conscious effort to ensure it. We make time for what we prioritize. Take away all the excess busy, and we have a whole bunch of time to do the things we say we’ll do “someday”.
Someday has arrived.